We Can Only Blame Ourselves

Day in and day out we are inundated with news about Donald Trump. In some form or another, he’s upsetting a different group on a regular basis with his actions as President. Most recently, he decided to repeal President Obama’s policy on minors who arrived in the United States illegally against their will. Upwards of 800,000 people have applied to be DREAMers to date, and the program, while controversial, has largely been seen as positive to date. There has been outrage from both sides, some legitimate, while in other cases two faced.

There is one problem with this outrage that no one seems to acknowledge. The only blame that deserves to be placed here is at our own feet. We can shake our fist, yell into the void, or throw another post on Twitter, lamenting the fact that Donald Trump has taken another action to disgrace our nation. But the thing people seem to fail to realize, is that Donald Trump would be sitting in a room somewhere wasting away in his dwindling years on Planet Earth, if enough people had voted for someone else to be President of the United States.

This may seem like a “No duh” point to make, but based on the outcomes of our elections in recent times, I’m not sure that most people who are eligible to vote understand this concept. I’ve recently spent 3 months traveling Europe, where history of abusive governance stretches back to the birth of modern civilization. The thing is, when you have a King or a Queen ruling you and making your life miserable, you really have no recourse, as you didn’t have any say in them ruling you in the first place. They may have taken control by force, or inherited it by their birthright, but you had little say in the state of your nation.

As time went on, and free elections took root, people stopped being at the mercy of fate, and started to be able to take fate into their own hands. If an election in your country was run fairly, and without corruption, every person who lived there had a say in who made the decisions in their lives, good or bad. If your leaders are considering legislation you don’t like, you can contact them and let them know, and if enough people reach out, in all likelihood you might see the outcome you’re looking for. The opposite applies as well, but that’s part of the system. In practice, the system works.

Unfortunately, accountability seems to have fallen by the wayside, and personal responsibility has decided to go along with it. Politicians in the United States continue to vote against the interest of their constituents, and their constituents continue to vote to re-elect them, or more of their ilk. Take a look at these charts, and compare it with this chart of congress’ approval rating. Can you imagine your boss scoring the quality of your work at 20%, and retaining your job? Yet in the last 4 years congressional re-election rates have stayed above 90%, and are RISING. That means that even though people are miserable about the state of the country, and are fed up with our elected officials, they continue to let them stay in office!

Not to Godwin my own post, but one of the last places I visited in Germany was the Dachau concentration camp outside of Munich. I spent 4+ hours touring the camp, augmenting my knowledge about a short but profoundly important slice of German history, and how the Nazi’s were able to actually implement their horrific plan. The thing that is perhaps not top of mind for most people, is that Adolf Hitler was elected legitimately to office. He didn’t violently seize power, people gave it to him willingly. The people who carried out the actual acts of horrific violence and torture against the various groups targeted in the Holocaust, agreed to do it, even if it was in duress in some cases. If every single person stood up for what was right, Adolf Hitler would have had no power whatsoever, and the Final Solution would never have even begun.

Donald Trump is not a bait and switch. He didn’t campaign on a platform of love and inclusion and compassion. He didn’t promise to give healthcare to all, or welcome people of all walks of life with open arms. His character was laid bare during the election when he stood on stage and made fun of a disabled journalist, or when he spent years on a racist campaign against the legitimacy of former President Obama’s birth certificate. Every action he has taken to date should be shocking to no one, and thus, the only people we should be blaming for these actions, are the people who voted for him, those who chose not to vote, and the people who are complicit in supporting his agenda.

So the question is, what can we really do about these things, and who’s involved? There are two groups to discuss here; those who can take direct, actionable steps to enforce or prevent a particular action, and those who can stop us from having to even deal with this nonsense in the first place.

Those who can stop it in the first place, are voters, the general public, you and me and your next door neighbor. Time and again, we see that people have direct control over their own livelihood, and yet they seemingly subvert their own wellbeing in the interest of… I’m really not sure what. In the most recent election, 45% of eligible voters did not vote in the election. 45%. Not 5%, or 10%, 45. Trump flat out lost the popular vote, and won some states by only a few thousand votes. Imagine if people had taken responsibility for their own lives and actually done their civic duty? Where would we be? Remember the number I mentioned before: 97% of congress was re-elected. 97%. Who is to blame if people are unhappy with their elected officials and the state of the country? We are, and we have the power to change things. We need to stop trying to pass the responsibility and blame on to someone else, and take control of our lives once and for all.

What about those who can take direct, actionable steps right now? At the end of the day, I can’t go out and do anything to stop Trump’s decision about DACA. I simply do not have the power to do so, and neither do the majority of the rest of Americans. Those in power are our last line of defense, and the forefathers designed a system that, while not perfect, accounts for the fallibility of human beings, and institutes checks and balances on governance to prevent decisions that may harm the country and the people who reside there. Donald Trump is fully justified in his decision to rescind DACA, and he can alienate a percentage of the population and put himself and his party at risk in future elections if that’s his prerogative. But the fact is, there is a check on his decision, and that is that congress can act, and pass a law that protects the livelihood of those that were brought to our country against their will, and have by and large been upstanding citizens. There are those in power who can make Trumps life even more miserable, by making it clear that they won’t stand for these kinds of actions. We see manifestations of these kinds of acts in how Secretary Mattis responded to the transgender ban. While not an outright admonishment, it was still a clear message that this misinformed action wasn’t going to be accepted without some sort of scrutiny.

I’m not advocating here for outright treasonous acts. We have a system of government, and we need to maintain that system of government for the wellbeing of our nation. But what we can do, is hold our elected officials to a higher standard, we can demand integrity and thoughtfulness of them, and not settle for kicking the can down the road on the important issues that effect millions of people in our country. If something is wrong, someone should speak up. If an order is given that is morally or ethically wrong, those who choose to stand against it should be applauded, and not vilified. Voting down party lines should no longer be accepted, and those who outright lie and misrepresent situations should be held accountable, and not given a free pass for fear of reprisal.

Donald Trump ran on the platform of making America great again. It might sound like a platitude, but I have no doubt in my heart that America is already great, and has been great for some time. America is not perfect, it has its blemishes, but I strongly believe it has the best opportunity to be a shining beacon for the rest of the world. The responsibility for maintaining and improving upon that greatness falls on all of us, and not just a select few, to make the right decisions when it comes to the correct course for our country. Placing the blame on someone else is fundamentally disrespectful to each of us as an individual, because we are giving up control over our own destiny. We have tremendous power to make change in our country with very little effort, and it all begins by casting your vote in the voting booth.