2017 has been a year of many surprises — some good, many bad but all leading us down a path of unusual discovery. The environment we are living in has become more politically polarized, but so has our character as a nation. We are blunter with one another than we used to be, less kind than we could be.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for those who patriotically dissent, who stand up for true American values and refuse to be divided by hatred or bigotry.
The 2016 presidential election was unlike any in recent history. Donald J. Trump became president of the nation in a stunner. Once elected, he built a Cabinet of millionaires and billionaires to oversee the very agencies many had spent their careers undermining. His closest advisers include his immediate next of kin, white nationalists and xenophobes who immediately proceeded to implement the campaign’s anti-immigrant agenda.
First, they banned Muslims, then they refused refugees, then they banned DREAMers and most recently, sought to end Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to this country as environmental evacuees over the last three decades. Our nation’s proud immigrant story has been upended. Yet, millions of activists throughout the country have stood up for Lady Liberty’s truth.
Led by the ACLU, the National Women’s Law Center, MALDEF, Mi Familia Vota and by leaders such as Judge Ann M. Donnelly, Judge James Robart, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Rep. Raul Grijalva, Rep. Luis Gutierrez and so many others — the list is too long to list them all. Each one of those named and unnamed has stood for justice, the law and the American Dream. For these leaders I am grateful.
In 2017, many people came forward who experienced sexual abuse and harassment at work, in the church, at their schools, in their families and communities. Systems of power make it challenging to hold people accountable, and survivors who speak out often face negative consequences. Yet starting with the Women’s March on the day after the inauguration, women and men stood up to call out abuse — refusing to be silenced. They refused to accept losing the gains they had made as women, women of color, as immigrant women, as LGBTQ women. They refused to return quietly to an era of patriarchy or surrender to misogyny without a fight.
The beauty and power of their statement — the unity around common cause for many culminating in the ultimate decision to run for office transformed weakness into power. They would not be stopped. One need only look at the number of women who ran for office this year and won — black women, brown women, Asian women, transgender women and white women. And for that I am incredibly grateful.
And now, we are in a fight for the soul of our democracy. We stand on a precipice where we must resist its possible destruction at every level. People in power are trying seriously to undercut every institution that represents democracy, freedom, equality and inclusivity.
The country is a tweet or executive order away from permanent damage to its government, infrastructure, health care, public education system and to its national security, not to mention nuclear war. Our economy does not work for working people, and the gap between the rich and everyone else grows daily. Climate change regularly causes disasters placing our communities in constant danger. Our country is fighting wars without end and without victory, costing lives and hurting families. Our roads and bridges are crumbling, and our voting rights are at serious risk. We must not and cannot accept the status quo. We are awakening.
So I am grateful to those willing to push back against the powerful with the ability to hurt the many to give only to the few and enrich themselves in the process. I am grateful for the dissenters who stand on behalf of the symbol behind the institutions: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Kings, the Rev. Dr. William Barbers, the Rosa Parks, the Dolores Huertas, the Colin Kaepernicks and all of the others who have joined with them and stood up in protest.
In Sister Joan Chittister’s words, “It is the few who hold out against the total dissolution of the highest ideals of any institution.” To those dissenters, I am grateful and I stand with you on our common journey to build a stronger and brighter America — because she is already great.