If you pardon a little software engineering humor, I once had a colleague who had a sign, “be the diff you want to see in the code.” It was, of course, a nod “be the change you want to see in the world,” attributed (probably wrongly) to Ghandi and which I seemed to hear a lot of during the early Obama years (Obama did say, “You must create the change that you want to see“).
But you know what? I think we—democrats, liberals, centrists, people who voted for him—mostly just expected Obama to be the change we wanted to see in the world. We could go about our business knowing there was someone in charge who would, more or less, make the choices we wanted.
Today there’s going to be a new president. I’m not as alarmed as parts of my social media network. People have lived under all sorts of governments, often with leaders they didn’t chose and don’t like. For us Jews, especially, we’re pretty much defined by a history of surviving under less-than-ideal regimes. Yes, there was one that killed six million, but most didn’t, and the American Jewish community is second only to the Babylonian Exile at adapting itself. I didn’t vote for Trump, but he’s not Hitler.
But that doesn’t mean everything is going to be good for everyone. So I think, in this new world, a lot more is going to be up to us, to make sure we are doing things that make a difference: lobbying our government, helping people in need, standing up for those who are put down. Not just business as usual.
To start with, I’m going to be at the Boston Women’s March for America tomorrow. While I’ll admit it’s not completely coincidental it’s the day after inauguration (as much as anything, it’s that someone has organized a relatively safe protest on a day with no work or school, and while you could give me reasons not to go you can always find a reason for inaction), I’m not protesting the election results. Trump is legally the president. It doesn’t have to fair, but I don’t know that there is an absolute arbiter of “legitimate” or “qualified” beyond the electors and officials who have signed off. And this is actually my point: as much as we’d like a leader who makes us feel like everything is going to be okay (and for some, that leader is Trump), we have to make that world ourselves.