On Friday, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of our nation, and the winds of change have begun to blow across the country — we felt them quite literally Sunday.
But perhaps this storm isn’t just for us. In Europe, stirrings of nationalist parties and the far-right have been felt. Leaders of these movements say it is only natural Europe “wakes up” to follow America’s lead. It’s a bit disconcerting to hear legitimate fascist parties saying they want to follow in our lead. Aren’t Nazis our enemies? Have they not been the bad guys in literally every retelling of history, from “Captain America” to “Indiana Jones”? When did a country of freedom slowly turn into an inspiration for xenophobic nationalists?
We don’t know what President Trump will actually carry out now that he is in office. Perhaps all the xenophobic and misogynistic comments were just “locker room” talk. Perhaps he will mend our economy and carry out all the unproblematic parts of his promises. Perhaps he will be the change his supporters have called for, the change our country apparently needs. Perhaps. We don’t know for sure what the next four years hold, and we will make no claims about that right now.
What we do know is that right now, our country has swung to the bad side of history. At this current moment in time, most of the world is baffled by us.
We do have some support: The European far-right who believe we are leading the world into a great new era. Ever since the end of World War II, we’ve held ourselves up as a shining example of democracy — we defeated fascists for crying out loud; that was our rallying cry when we claimed ourselves as a model. And now, groups following the ideals of the very same people we prided ourselves on beating are suddenly using us as their inspiration.
The other part of our international support at the moment is Russia. We’re not going to get into “they-did-we-did” with the whole hacking business or the dossiers or whether President Trump is actually best friends with Putin or whatever the latest media frenzy is about. We will say that for a nation that for decades prided itself on two big things — defeating fascists and not being the USSR — we’ve certainly done a complete 180 in the past few months.
Is this really our fate, though? Are we doomed to be the bad guys as fascists and communists alike take inspiration from us?
On Saturday, more than one million people marched in women’s marches, protesting this new administration and its implications. These marches happened not only all over our country — the main one in Washington, D.C., of course, with other large cities hosting them, as well as protests in our very own Gainesville and just around the corner in Tallahassee — but also around the world, on all seven continents. Yes, that includes Antarctica.
Maybe the winds are changing, but that doesn’t mean we have to change course. We adjust the sails, we prepare for the storm. We don’t let the winds veer us away from the direction we’re set on.
We do the fundamental American thing and protest — just as our Founding Fathers did, just as our nation has done since its inception. We will rally together, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, cultural background or political affiliation, keeping in mind what we stand for and doing our best to make sure we don’t become the bad guys in the history books, and that the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness still hold for all of us.