The doors of Oberlin’s Peace Community Church were open Friday during the inauguration. Curious, I slipped into a back pew just moments after President Donald Trump took the oath of office.
One by one, I watched the worried filter in to seek solace in the stained glass glow. They remained perfectly still, looking shell-shocked.
Not a word was spoken.
You may support Trump; your teeth may bare at the sound of his name. We are as divided a county as we are a country. Remember that Hillary Clinton won in Lorain County by a razor-thin 131 votes, by far a smaller margin than she won the national popular vote.
And this week the top five polls in the nation show a majority of Americans disapprove of Trump. Of them, Gallup sports the largest positive rating at just 44 percent; the average is 41 percent. By contrast, President Barack Obama took office in 2009 with an 84 percent approval rating.
Viewing Trump with skepticism and even concern is not un-American. If it is, the majority is un-American, it would seem, even some who voted for the Republican ticket.
There is cause for concern; it’s largely about unpredictability. It’s impossible to predict what Trump plans to do from moment to moment, maybe even for Trump himself. We know what he’s said he plans to do but we don’t know whether he plans to stay on script or ad-lib.
Those who voted for him want to prove Trump will be effective, that he will bang down doors and make change. Those who did not vote for Trump are scared he will be effective, that he will bang down doors and make change.
And if you are Trump’s biggest fan, you desperately need to understand why the later case matters.
Trump and his cabinet nominees have made it clear that many have good cause to worry. Many who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, people of color, women, Muslims, immigrants, and young people feel they have had targets painted on their backs.
Those who fear the Trump presidency are not “precious snowflakes,” as they’ve been painted by many of his supporters. They are upset that their access to affordable health care very likely will be stripped away. They are alarmed at brazen gatherings of white hoods in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the inauguration. They are angered that the majority party talks openly about dictating how women govern their own reproductive systems. They are afraid of Trump’s designs on safety nets such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They are worried about threats to free public education and the teachers charged with showing our children the way. They are the working poor, distressed by tax plans that experts say will pad millionaires’ pockets on the back of the lower and middle classes.
These are issues that should raise red flags for conservatives every bit as much as they do for liberals.
If Donald Trump is to be our president, he must not only live up to our expectations but assuage our fears. This may be much to ask of a man who revels in confrontation, who rails at Saturday Night Live each time he is lampooned, who started off the year by tweeting about his “many enemies,” and who loves to brand his political opponents as “losers.”
Still, it is my hope that he rises to the expectations of the office instead of living below them.
I hope he takes to heart the words of President John Adams: “If national pride is ever justifiable or excusable it is when it springs, not from power or riches, grandeur or glory, but from conviction of national innocence, information, and benevolence.”
Or those of President George Washington: “Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse.”