Back in the 2012 election season, there was a roadside sign we would pass on the three-hour drive to my mother-in-law’s house. It read:
“Wake up America, He’s running OUR country!”
It was a rather large sign, and it was apparently a reference to President Barack Obama. It sat in a place now occupied by a sign touting (President-elect) Donald Trump.
I remember the tone of political discourse back then. A lot of people were happy to see Barack Obama residing in The White House, but a lot of people saw his presidency as a sign of America’s plunge into the abyss. For many of those folks, Barack Obama represented an indelible stain on our nation. And many of those people had a hard time tamping down their utter distaste for the man who had been elected to the highest office in our land.
In response to the often irrational and disrespectful protests that persisted over the past two presidential terms, many other Americans expressed disgust. We are a democratic republic after all. Part of our system depends on respect for the electoral process and its result. Which means respect for those who hold office once the electoral dust settles.
Those of us who were disgusted by the disrespect and irrational ranting about Mr. Obama’s position were right to be disgusted. The electoral process had been carried out according to the U.S. Constitution, and those who objected to a lawful change of power were actually doing much more than expressing opinions. They were essentially disrespecting our system of governance.
But as immature as their behavior has been, their angst was real on some level. It was an angst predicated on the idea that “that guy” is running “their” country. And I’m sure the owners of that sign now feel as if they’re well on their way to reclaiming their country. After all, many of them view Donald Trump as their President in a way they were unwilling to view Barack Obama.
In this way, the irony of the past few weeks has been sobering, because the shoe appears to be on the other foot now.
Millions of people have a very real angst about what a Trump Presidency might be like. He was not their choice, and now he is set to take control of their country.
Our country — that’s the one. Try to remember that through the angst, or through the sense of triumph, you’ve been feeling these past few weeks. Because for all of us who call this nation home, it’s our country, and the person who takes the oath of office next January will be our President — regardless of how we voted.
It will be extremely sad if any significant part of our country follows the poor example of the anti-Obama movement by decrying the legitimacy of our next President, especially if they’re still following that example in another three and a half years.
The saddest part will be if we allow our nation to be divided by our angst.
The thing about angst is, while it may be real, it’s still only angst. Angst should only ever be a supporting player, never the leader. Because angst focuses on the downside at the expense of the upside. And if you genuinely believe there are dangerous things ahead, then it’s even more important to see your options clearly, not through a lens smudged by anxiety and fear.
So instead of fixating on doom and failure, try seeing the possibilities that still lie ahead. Because angst is a horrible compass by which to steer your life, much less our country.