In a post-Trump America, we still have responsibilities

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Steve Dulaney celebrates after President Joe Biden was sworn in during 59th Presidential Inauguration, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

As I’m sure the entire country is well aware, last week Joe Biden was sworn into office as America’s 46th president, thus effectively ending Donald Trump’s four year term. For my fellow John Mulaney fans, we did it! The horse is finally out of the hospital! To many, this is a cause for celebration and even a sigh of relief. However, I want to caution people against rejoicing to the point of ignorance. Instead of letting down our guard and forgetting about politics altogether, now is the time to work harder. Just because Trump is no longer president does not mean that all of America’s political issues are solved.

It’s fine to be glad that Biden was inaugurated without incident, especially without any violence like the U.S. Capitol riot that occurred on January 6th. And there are many reasons to be relieved simply because Trump is officially out of office. His administration’s response to COVID-19 failed miserably. Social media platforms have had to restrict his accounts and affiliated topics over fears of inciting violence or conspiracies. He built his lacking political career on racism, xenophobia, and misogyny. He pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord and issued the cross-border permit allowing the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. He was impeached. Twice.

President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual swearing in ceremony of political appointees from the State Dining Room of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Thus, Biden’s inauguration is hopefully a harbinger of brighter days in America. In fact, President Biden has already signed executive orders attempting to tackle COVID-19, undoing Trump’s xenophobic immigration restrictions, recommitting the U.S. to the Paris climate agreement, and revoking the Keystone XL Pipeline’s construction permit. These changes are a step in the right direction, looking into America’s future. Nevertheless, while we need to continue moving forward as the Biden administration has begun to do, we need to additionally move on from the Trump presidency, recognizing the past as it happened.

When I say we need to move on, I mean that we need to remember the past four years as we would any presidency. We need to recognize that, as Americans, we allowed it to happen. This seems harsh, but it’s true. If you voted in the 2016 election, you either voted for Trump, or for someone else. Of course Trump supporters allowed his presidency to happen, but he did not win the popular vote — Hillary Clinton did. And you may say that this means that it wasn’t American voters that elected Donald Trump, but instead the electoral college. However, Americans continue to uphold the electoral college (a system that allows a candidate without a majority of the vote to win office) as the process for our presidential elections. There are other processes out there; we could choose to vote for officials that want to implement a new system. And if you didn’t vote at all, you didn’t even attempt to make your voice heard within the flawed system we currently have. Thus, to some degree, America’s entire voting-age population is responsible for the results of the 2016 election. This is important to acknowledge in moving on.

Tannis Kowalchuk, front, with Jess Beverage, and John Roth of the Farm Arts Collective from Damascus, Pa., dance while wearing homemade mailboxes as part of a Delivering Democracy performance on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square in Scranton, Pa., on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (Jake Danna Stevens/The Times-Tribune via AP)

Essentially, moving on requires recognition of how we got to where we are. Personally, I would love to live in a blissful world, where I could ignorantly choose to forget January 20th, 2017 to January 20th, 2021. And with it, I would forget four years of bigotry coming straight from the White House. But pretending the Trump presidency never happened is irresponsible.

Also in the interest of avoiding ignorance, it’s worth acknowledging that many of Trump’s personal failings, including racism, sexism, and classism, are inherent failings of America; these issues are foundational to our society. For example, the Civil War ended over 150 years ago, but we’re still dealing with the repercussions of building “the land of the free” on slavery. If anything, Trump brought these contradictions to light for us to finally deal with them head on.

With all that said, things are not all doom and gloom in America. As mentioned above, the Biden administration is charging ahead and beginning to tackle our most pressing issues. Trump’s impending impeachment trial is also a good way to reach some level of accountability for the last four years. But it’s easy to slip into complacency with the illusion of some progress being made. Remaining politically aware and politically active is vital. After all, if we don’t remember and learn from our history, we’re doomed to repeat it.

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