It’s here. Judgement day. Donald Trump has been elected to the highest office in the land. Que up with everyone else you know at the tallest building you can find. This election was some grand, cosmic test for the human race—and we failed. Bad.
Following Nov. 8’s election, I’ve heard fatalistic sentiments like this repeated over and over again within my liberal circles. Given the abhorrent rhetoric of our president-elect, I understand the feeling. In many ways, I feel the same. And yet—and l understand how crazy this sounds—Trump’s victory has me hopeful for the future of this country.
Paradoxically, the very thing that makes Trump so terrifying—his unvarnished authoritarian language—is what I find so promising about the next four years. The man is so hated and feared that his election sparked mass protests across the country. People took to the streets by the thousands simply to condemn his victory. It’s a level of civil resistance I haven’t seen in my lifetime. And if channeled properly, this anti-Trump sentiment could help reverse a truly unsettling trend in this country: the rise of the surveillance state.
Three years ago, Edward Snowden revealed to the entire world the horrifying extent of American intelligence operations. Using a radical interpretation of the Patriot Act as justification, the National Security Agency was spying on its own citizens through massive and intrusive data-collection programs. It was like something out of an Orwellian wet-dream. The USA Freedom Act passed in June, 2015 ended the bulk-collection of American phone records, but many of the other data-collection programs were left intact.
We learned our constitutionally-guaranteed liberties were being grossly violated, and for the most part, we responded with indifference.
Why weren’t tens of thousands of people marching in the street until every single one of these programs was taken behind the shed and beaten to death with a sack of bricks? Where was the call for the resignation of every single one of those involved in keeping this from the public? Where was the incredible nation-wide public condemnation we are seeing right now?
Maybe we figured there was nothing to fear. “These programs are for catching criminals and terrorists, and I’m neither of those things.” But, you know what? I bet people will be afraid now. The benign, placid face of the Obama administration won’t be staring at us anymore; instead, it will be the Trump administration peering at us with its aggressively bigoted—and perplexingly orange—eyes.
Today, you’re no criminal or terrorist, but Trump has expressed a desire to expand the definition of those terms. During his campaign, he said he would force Muslims to join a registry and punish women who receive abortions. He even extolled the virtues of New York City’s “stop and frisk” policy, which had police officers targeting minority citizens for having the sheer gall not to be born white.
So, yeah, today you’re not a criminal or terrorist, but in Trump’s America, you can’t be too sure about tomorrow.
This issue will come up again, and when it does, I’m confident the American people will not respond with the stunning apathy of three years ago. The sad truth is, that likely would not be the case if Hillary Clinton had won. Real change is not freely given; it’s fought for—and nothing unites people like a common enemy. So, thank you Donald Trump. Thank you for being that enemy.