Editor's note: This is one in a series of opinion pieces solicited by the Journal. In the immediate aftermath of Nov. 8, it became very clear that people need safe spaces to discuss their ideas and feelings, and generally process what was the ugliest and most vitriolic presidential contest in generations. To that end, we reached out to a variety of community stakeholders, people who we felt could help starts this community dialogue. The response was overwhelming, and a full list of submissions complete with links can be found at the bottom of this post. We hope you'll also join the conversation by commenting online, writing letters to the editor and talking to each other.
In my 20-year history as a voting citizen, this recent presidential election is the most vitriolic, violent and violating I have participated in.
It is easy to point out the glaring divisions and painful realities this election has surfaced in our nation and I hope to instead point out the commonalities it has highlighted.
Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump gained incredible popularity during this election. While they could not be more divergent in their policy views, they both represented non-status-quo candidates, with common messages around the need to change the way Washington operates in efficiency and policy execution. They both reached out to factions of our country that often go ignored and unappreciated, spoke to the corruption of Washington and "bought" politicians, addressed the need to encourage fair trade and invest in crumbling infrastructure like roads, bridges and tunnels. Ultimately, the Democratic Party found Bernie to be the riskier choice and promoted Hillary Clinton, leaving Trump to continue the rallying cries for the underserved.
Regardless of who was to win the right to be Commander in Chief, our nation would show the need for healing and reconciliation. It is clear that the majority of Americans feel disenfranchised, demoralized and disheartened with our current political system, as emphasized by the election of the first president to have never held a political office and the number of Americans who elected not to vote due to voter suppression or apathy. We find ourselves in an America even more frightening immediately post-election than what was present during the election cycle. Riots and demonstrations continue to take place and heat up in major cities and urban centers, incidences of racial violence are taking place in schools locally and nationwide and there are even reports of a group in Arcata handing out fliers with the names and addresses of ethnic minorities and gay people to be targeted.
So how do we move forward as a diverse people, with seemingly competing desires, erupting anger and needs to exercise power? How can our government operate in a way that is more inclusive and accountable? And how can otherwise disparate faith-based and secular entities come together to provide healing and reconciliation? These are questions that I hope all of us will take time to reflect upon and address. Fueling the fires of anarchy and disconnectedness hurts all of us, our financial stability and political capital in the world, the cohesiveness of our neighborhoods and communities and the effectiveness of our schools. Although the "American Dream" may no longer be a common one, I do hope that most Americans can agree that the core tenets that our nation was founded upon are exemplary goals to aspire to and hold President-elect Trump and all of our elected leaders accountable to.
Looking at the Declaration of Independence, I am particularly struck by the following passage: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ... That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." How can our next president ensure that all men and women are viewed and treated equally, endowed with the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? And how can each of us aspire to these ideals without violating others?
These next four years will undoubtedly be transformative ones for our nation and ones in which I hope all of us take a new-found interest in the policies and practices that affect us all, that we each engage in the democratic process thoughtfully and justly, with particular attention to how our speech and actions impact those in our local and global communities.
I will conclude this op-ed with a quote from comedian Dave Chappelle, who hosted the first Saturday Night Live after the election. Chappelle, an African American Muslim, said the following with regards to the election of our 45th president, "I'm going to give him a chance, and we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one, too."
Excellent words to live by and a helpful reminder that during these tense times, it does not hurt to laugh at every opportunity given!
Liz Smith is the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods and first vice president for the Eureka Chapter of the NAACP.
Submissions from NAACP of Eureka First Vice President Liz Smith, local attorney and U.S. Army reservist Allan Dollison, North Coast People's Alliance Steering Committee Member Tamara McFarland, Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills, Humboldt County Central Democratic Committee Chair Bob Service, local programmer and freelance writer Mitch Trachtenberg, Humboldt County Green Party Chair Dana Silvernale, Rabbi Naomi Steinberg, Humboldt State University assistant professor of history Leena Dallesheh, Friends of the Eel River Executive Director Scott Greacen and League of Women Voters Humboldt County President Rollin Richmond can be found by clicking their names.