If you are Reading this, the World has not Ended
My baseline prediction for a Trump presidency was that he’d be the last president. I am writing this now, so that in the future, I can look back and remember how terrified I was. If I’m still looking back, it means I was wrong.
I have never in my life wanted so badly to be proven wrong. Fortunately, that has happened many times. Lest you think that I am always wrong about the future, I’ve been right about a number of things: I predicted that Trump would win the GOP Primary. I predicted that he’d win the general as well.
If you can read the column on the right, you can see that I’m also a user of bitcoin. I’ve been using bitcoin for over 5 years now. It’s been the best performing currency for 4 of those past 5, and the worst performing currency for the other year. I guess we could say the jury’s still out on that one.
I was an early employee of Twilio and Uber. Both of those companies have gone on to, dare I say it, some success. So I have been right about a number of things.
I’ve also been wrong about a number of things. I thought that hard work was overrated (it isn’t) and that being an early stage employee of a huge company is much less of a big deal than starting your own, smaller company (not really).
I’ve derived far more joy from learning I was wrong than from knowing I was right. Learning that I have been wrong gives me a chance to improve the quality of my life. Knowing you were right only matters if you used that to better the world. You’re already getting that value. Learning that you’ve been wrong is like finding money in your pocket. You just have to swallow your pride in order to spend it.
Years ago I had a dream about a life that was only fractionally as good as the one I have now. I thought that life was never going to happen; that I’d dreamed way too big. Now, I’m married to a strong, beautiful woman. I have a happy, healthy daughter. I live in California. I’ve written a book, I can play guitar, I’m in good shape, and I don’t hate being alive. So I was wrong about thinking I’d never be happy, and I’m glad that I was wrong.
I hope I’ve been wrong about Trump. Given that, I think it’s useful to ask, “What is my wildest dream for the next four years?” If I’m going to be wrong, I want to be flat-out, completely wrong. So here’s a wild dream, in the hopes that it comes true:
We’ve made a lot of progress as human beings — towards rights and dignity for everyone. We’ve still got a ways to go. In my wildest dreams, we’ll realize that we need to decouple that progress from our politics. I hope these next four years will see more advancement of human dignity, not less. Not because the government pushes it, but because all of us realize we aren’t going to legislate each other into being more understanding, caring, and empathic. We can’t rely on the the state to push us forward. We have to do it ourselves, the state be damned.
We have always been pushing towards a better world. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about this. He said sometimes things would have to get worse before they got better. We couldn't stay on one mountain top, we had to come down, and then move on to the next one. Maybe we’re coming down from one now.
Donald Trump won’t rule america. He’ll sit in an expensive house and tell powerful folks what to do, sure. But America’s power has always been in her people — not in her government. The times when America has been truly great have been times when her people, moved by moral conviction, did what they knew was right for world. Harriet Tubman, not Andrew Jackson. Frederick Douglass, not Abraham Lincoln. Fred Rogers, not Bobby Kennedy. E Pluribus Unum has always been the source of our strength. Diversity has always been what has made us great.
The circle of personhood does not grow monotonically, but it does move outwards. It has expanded and will continue to expand, regardless of what our government does. Our human progress towards a truly just society must be untethered from and untrammeled by the vicissitudes of our noisome politics. My dream is that it happens now, and not later. Perhaps seeing justice expand under a Trump presidency, despite — not because — of his leadership, will convince us that we’ve been doing it the whole time. Not our government. Us. The move to integrate society was lead by politicians. Gay marriage — that was all us. The politicians followed.
Perhaps politicians used to be our bravest, smartest people. Now it seems they’re the ones most willing to put up with a toxic working environment, for the chance of fame or a grasp at the levers of power. We’d never dream of tying social progress solely to, say, research labs, or, god forbid, finance. Social progress comes from me finding the people whom I treat as interfaces, or problems, or verbal punching bags — and treating them as people instead. It comes from all of us doing that.
We will live in a just society one day, not because it is inevitable, but because it isn’t. Americans have always been great at standing up against great odds, and things seem awfully dark about now. I think that’s when we do best.
I bet that four years from now, we’ll look back on this and say that the country is doing better than ever. Not because Donald Trump was an amazing leader, but because it’s clear to everyone that the leader isn’t as important as we thought; what matters more is how we treat each other, day to day. We’ll decide having super powerful leaders is a recipe for disaster, and we’ll do something about that presidential kill list.
Of course, this is my dream. It seems wildly unreasonable. That’s why I’m willing to bet on it. That’s why I’m writing this now.
Why am I willing to take this bet? I figured that a Trump presidency would result in the end of the world, and I refuse to bet on the end of the world. How could I possibly collect on that?