The first is in my own country.
My favourite president of all US presidents is being swapped for someone who terrifies me to the depth of my being. The day after the election, I had to take the day off work to cry. This was after staying up all night for the results and getting horrified condolence calls from England and the middle of the Atlantic from a Navy boat, and long text convos from Germany and Iran at crazy o’clock. I woke up in a daze a few hours later and cried all day.
I didn’t even vote for Obama the first time around and I find myself 8 years later, so grateful and appreciative of the man I have called President, it makes me cry to think of his two terms being over. Despite the critics, (and I don’t even agree with everything he has done) I think he will go down as one of the greatest US presidents. I love him.
Check Pete Souza’s amazing photos of the president here:
photo credit: Pete Souza
It makes me cry very different tears to think of the man replacing him.
I am not allowed to talk about politics so I will move on quickly.
Across the ocean, an acquaintance friend had to leave The Gambia this week because of the dangers of the transfer of powers in their own presidential election.
The country is very unstable right now.
The Gambia’s “President” Yahya Jammeh (<cough> dictator <cough>) of the last twenty years has said he would “rule for a billion years.” He lost the election in November and quickly moved the goal posts telling their parliament to extend his term.
This week, the newly elected president Adama Barrow had to swear in as president outside of his own country as Senegal begins to send in troops to force the old president to leave so the people’s president can take over.
Pray for the Gambia right now. These things can get ugly.
Back on the homefront, amongst all the other things I was worried about in this election, the fact that Russia has been identified by the CIA and FBI as a manipulator of the emotions and opinions of our population through targetted online rhetoric and hacking is more than concerning. It is devastating. Don’t think emotional espionage and manipulation isn’t worse than other kinds.
But then I think of our history of involvement in other nations. The US is not guiltless. We have had a hand in overturning other country’s elected leaders, so maybe as one of my Latino friends says, “we are getting our justice.”
It is still disturbing.
In the US, we like to think we are safe from all of that corruption and a foolproof system.
We are not.
I worry about the dignity and safety of women, the rights and protection of immigrants and refugees, the fueling of radical Islam by a man that wants to alienate American citizens through targeted profiling, how many of my dearest non-white friends don’t feel safe or welcome anymore even if they were born here, our stewardship of the environment, education, health care, human rights, Israel and Palestine, and foreign policy in general.
However, President Obama in his last address reminded us that a “peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy.”
Flash over to The Gambia this week. How many nations around the world have elections and don’t know if the sitting leader will actually leave without a military coup or help from other nations? This is the way of elections for a significant part of the African continent very sadly.
No, I will take Obama’s gracious stepping down because his limit of two terms is up and a new leader has been elected any day over the election dysfunction of so many other countries.
It is good that we can transition peaceably.
It is a mark of distinction for the United States.
Protests are scheduled around the country this weekend.
Wait a second. What about a peaceful transition?
Can we protest and still believe that a transition of power peaceably is possible? Isn’t this a contradiction in terms?
I have watched the social media world critique those who protest harshly that “the election is over” and “people should shut up about it.”
However, I think the silencing of dissent is wrong.
I think if we do, we are doing a disservice to what it means to be American.
A healthy American election will mean that those leading the country will transition power peaceably. The president will step down. The military will not get involved. We will not need to have the sitting president forcibly removed by the UN or Canada so the results to an election can be carried out.
However, the first amendment of the Bill of Rights states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Speech, the press, the right to petition about grievances with government and the right to peaceably assemble are ours.
These are more American than apple pie. They have quite possibly existed longer than we have been eating apple pie. (I think Apple pie is actually from Europe).
We don’t want to be like The Gambia. We want our leaders to move on and let the election process move on peaceably.
However, we also do not want to ever prohibit or discourage peaceful marches and protests. Petitions nationally or to government officials about the concerns that we have not had a legitimate election if there has been foreign interference and of course that we are concerned for the appointments that have been made and the character and fairness and qualifications of the one who is to represent all of us are good petitions and complaints. They are not good that we need to do them but they are good that we are able to do them. We want the press to be free to question authority without being jailed or dismissed. These are all of what make us America.
We need those or we become another country where speech is suppressed and where dictators rule.
So play with me a game of “would you rather?”
Would you rather we get the leader the majority wants and a terrible exchange of power happens or we have a weekend free of protests?
I choose neither.
I choose peaceful transitions and protests abounding.
A president that won fairly by a minority and a good president willfully stepping down all the while a weekend of protests and complaints around the nation continue is what makes us distinct and makes us American. It is what makes this country an oddity.
It is the system working and our freedoms being lived out.
We can debate the Electoral College another time.