My Puerto Rican ancestors lived in a country colonized by the United States. Puerto Rico has struggled with it’s relationship with the United States since 1917 when Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act granting Puerto Ricans American Citizenship. Ever since then, the U.S. has neglected and abused Puerto Ricans in every way possible from unethical and horrifying birth control experiments to creating and sustaining a debt crisis to imprisoning Puerto Rican citizens for fighting back against oppression to continued disenfranchisement. But I live here in the United States and I’ve been taught, just as you probably have, that “America is the greatest nation on Earth”, “love it or leave it”, our military is the best in the world and that this country is a beacon of freedom and democracy. As a person of mixed heritage, I should feel very conflicted about America. The actions of the United States versus the mythology of the United States are very different things but I love my country. I love it too much to do what myself and everyone else in this country are being asked to do right now — to accept and support President Donald Trump.
America is not a great country because we landed a man on the moon. It’s not a great country because the North won the Civil War or because Lincoln abolished slavery. Neither of those things should have been necessary to begin with. America isn’t a great country because we fought against the Nazis. We should have done that anyways. There was a moral imperative to act. America is not a great country because Kennedy delivered an electrifying speech asking what you can do for your country. America is not a great country because of any of the things that you remember from the whitewashed and male-centric stories you read in our propaganda filled history books.
Our country has always been a country of the privileged and the oppressed which was only amplified by the myth of the American Dream, touted to all but accessible to few. What makes America great is the enduring spirit of the American fighter, the people who have fought long and hard to create equality out of oppression, a nearly impossible task. The tireless efforts of Americans who have fought this fight is what makes me proud. It’s what makes me know without a doubt that this country is worth fighting for. It’s what makes me love this country.
Recently a relative told me that we have to get behind Trump because she has faith in him and he’s a man of the people. I responded to her that he is not my president and I will not accept it.
To accept this man as my president and to support him would be to dishonor Martin Luther King, John Lewis, Malcolm X, Coretta Scott King, Sojourner Truth, bell hooks, and the thousands of others who have fought for racial equality. It would dishonor the lives of everyone we have lost to racial violence. Why? Because Trump has done nothing but show his utter disregard for those who have fought for civil rights.
To throw our support behind President Trump would dishonor the work of Stella Brown, Jane E. Hodgson, every single doctor who ever performed an illegal abortion for a woman in need, and every life we’ve ever lost to illegal, unsafe abortions because Trump and Pence intend to do everything they can to end abortion access.
To throw our support behind President Trump would dishonor what Marsha P. Johnson, Silvia Rivera and others did at Stonewall as well as the work of activists like Harvey Milk and Audre Lorde. It would dishonor everyone who fought so hard for the right to marry whoever you choose regardless of gender. It would dishonor the life of Matthew Shepard and every other gay person who has been murdered because of hate. It would dishonor the lives of every transperson who has been murdered because of their gender identity because Donald Trump does not respect the lives and liberties of LGBT+ citizens, intends to revoke marriage equality, and his Vice President advocates for conversion therapy.
To throw our support behind President Trump would be an insult to people like my uncle who has significant intellectual disabilities and spent most of his youth in institutions because that’s what you did with folks with intellectual disabilities then. It would dishonor the work of activists for the disabled like Laura Hershey who have fought hard for disability rights because Trump mocked a disabled man on national television and has since tried desperately to gaslight us all into forgetting that it actually happened.
To throw our support behind President Trump would be an acceptance of everything that he’s said about Latinos including that we’re rapists and criminals and not qualified to be a judge. Getting behind Trump is tacit acceptance of Trump’s insistence on using Mexican people as a vehicle to fuel the flames of xenophobia within his conservative base of supporters despite the fact that illegal immigration from Mexico is at a forty year low. Acceptance of Trump would dishonor Latino activists like Cesar Chavez and Nydia Velazquez because Trump has demonstrated he doesn’t care about Latino lives and has even gone so far to condone violence against Latinos.
To throw our support behind President Trump would be to accept Islamophobia. The scapegoating of the marginalized for all the world’s ills is a time honored tradition in this world and one that our country so easily identified in World War II but Trump has reawakened in our citizens as he’s attributed terrorism to a large group of people, rather than to the relatively few extremists who perpetrate the violence. To accept Trump is to reject our Muslim friends and neighbors.
And, last but certainly not least, to throw our support behind President Trump is to disregard every woman who has ever been sexually assaulted. Standing behind Trump is the ultimate act of rape culture. Our new president is a man who said, in no uncertain terms, that it is acceptable to assault women. When he has your support, sexual assault has your support as well.
I love America for what we have done, for what we can do, and everything we will do to fight back. I don’t love the whitewashed version of history that we all know. I love the real story. There have always been people who have fought back against their own oppression. There have been good folks, privileged folks, who have been tremendous allies. We are a nation of oppressors and of fighters and I believe that the fighters will win. But we can’t do that if we cave into the pressure for unity. Everywhere you look right now, you see messages about coming together. From conservatives telling us we need to just suck it up and accept defeat to Nicole Kidman talking about how we need to all come together behind Trump because he won. (Nicole Kidman, you can go back to Australia. Your name is not on the guest list for this conversation.)
Unity is overrated unless you’re talking about an uprising and for that, I am on board. Unity is only worthwhile if you’re on the right side of the fight. Unity for the sake of expediency, for the sake of suppression, for the sake of maintaining the status quo is complacency. It’s dangerous and it’s deeply ingrained in us. America has always told you that our democratic process is flawless; that the will of the people will prevail, that there’s no need to question or worry about the process. There are almost three million votes that should tell you that the people do not always prevail.
Michelle Obama, goddess and wise woman, recently said that that we’re having a bit of a hope crisis right now. We are. It’s hard to see our way forward here. We do need hope and we need patriotism. Not your grandfather’s patriotism. Not the bullshit patriotism when you see America through red, white, and blue glasses and you disregard all of it’s glaring problems. We need authentic patriotism because the fact is that we are not required to stand behind any one person — despite the calls for unity — but we should feel compelled to stand for what this country can and should be, the values that we believe America should have.
The brand of patriotism we need is one that rejects hate, that elevates all citizens, that inspires hope, and is a value that we can be proud to pass on to our children. Our patriotism, with eyes wide open and fully accepting of our past mistakes and the work that needs to be done, can be revolutionary. It is patriotic to reject anyone and anything that takes this country backwards including Donald Trump. Your dissent is a revolutionary and powerfully patriotic act.
I ask you to love your country; to do the right thing, to adopt a new brand of patriotism and reject President Trump. Trump got one thing right: it is not too late to make America great again. America has long been broken but not for the reasons he thinks. Trump represents everything that is wrong with America so let’s show him everything that is right with America. We are a nation of fighters. We just have to choose a side.