Donald Trump is the president, for better or worse. There are perhaps innumerable things that can be said about him.
In Bakersfield, and in many other parts of the country, you’ll probably hear some good things, even if it’s only qualified praise. “I wish he didn’t tweet, but he’ll be tough enough to fight for American interests.” “I’m glad he’s calling out those NFL spoiled brats! They have no respect for all who have served our country!” “Yes, Trump shouldn’t have said that about McCain, but the Republicans did campaign on repealing Obamacare for eight years.”
There are always trade-offs. Even if you don’t realize it, you give to get. There are always unintended consequences, too. But this latter triviality has especially burdened the minds of Americans who abhor Donald Trump. “What did our country do to itself in order to Make America Great Again?”
Some fear that our unique American project has been fatally wounded; that we have no hope of reuniting the country; that we have no past in which we can find the principles to be fulfilled in the future; that we were doomed at conception; that we were destined to elect Donald Trump.
All of that may be true, but not all truths are knowable. And the truth of the above set of propositions is certainly unknowable from where we stand today. So what’s the point of asking such questions? What’s to be gained from the disposition of defeat?
We need to refocus our attention to what is possible, to what can be done. For, as the philosopher Karl Popper said, “We may become the makers of our fate when we have ceased to pose as its prophets.” Our main issue cannot be the posture of a bunch of football players minutes before they begin running around on a grassy field for a couple of hours. We need to take aim with a mind guided by prudence, and with a sense of what is really worthy of dispute. We need to see why someone would never vote for Donald Trump; we need to see why someone did vote for him.
We need, above all, to think hard about those features that unite us as American citizens. If we would come to know what they are, we would unite by expressing through that common material a uniquely American civic virtue. For those common features are not the stain of an eternal sin which is better left ignored; they are the seeds which contain the promise to achieve national pride.
If we have the courage to engage with people who think differently, if we have the courage to live dangerously, we can create a better country than the one we inhabit today.
Russell Ming is a senior philosophy student at Cal State University Bakersfield.