A historical perspective helps me feel optimistic.
I remind myself that the US government is not a monarchy and not dependent on a single person or a single branch of government. Plus there are state and local jurisdictions that do incredible and innovative jobs serving their citizens with the resources they have.
I remind myself that this nation was created in the face of impossible odds, against the wishes of up to 20% of the population who wanted to remain British subjects. In the beginning, there was no army, no navy, no treasury, nothing but a piece of paper on which the elected representatives of 13 colonies declared this nation into being and pledged to sacrifice their lives in service of this vision. That’s it. Just words on a piece of paper, circulated throughout the colonies. Those words created a possibility.
These revolutionaries looked to the democracies of Ancient Greece and the Roman republic for inspiration. They incorporated elements learned from the Iroquois Confederacy and created a system that was distinct and new.
They battled the world’s biggest military superpower of the day, and succeeded in breaking away. This is a David vs Goliath story.
I remind myself this nation survived a cataclysmic civil war…killing more citizens than the combined casualties of all other US wars in 240 years of existence.
It survived the assassinations of Lincoln, of JFK, MLK, presidential candidate Robert Kennedy.
It survived the Great Depression, the mobilization and sacrifices of the entire nation’s population in WWII and helped rebuild Europe and Japan in its aftermath.
It survived McCarthyism. Survived the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Survived social upheavals: women’s right to vote, civil rights, sexual revolution, counter-culture, consciousness expansion, the rise of Christian political extremism, riots from coast to coast, drug epidemics, domestic terrorism, mass shootings, the internet, proliferation of hate groups, marriage equality, etc.
American democracy is not fragile…it is the longest lived republic in existence right now except, some would say, for the Iroquois Confederacy. We have strong civic institutions. A military totally committed to civilian rule. Separation of Church and State (despite those who cling to other notions), constitutional protections for minorities that are not subject to majority rule, marriage equality, etc.
This is not the Republic of Turkey. Not the Arab Republic of Egypt. Not the Russian Federation. Not the Democratic Republic of Congo. Not the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Not the Republic of Poland. Not the Wiemar Republic. There are no equivalent governments, cultures, or historical contexts.
And we can survive four years of a clown being president.
I hope more people will engage in the political process and in civil society. We all have gifts that can be shared in service.
These are the things I tell myself to stay optimistic.