Like many of you, I am shocked at the rise of Donald Trump to the Presidency. But as much as he is #NotMyPresident, we have to realize that Trump is a mirror pointed back at us, whether we voted for him or not. If Hillary had won, we’d be celebrating like we did when Obama won, and with good reason. But the problems that led to Trump would still be there. Sadly, in too many ways, America is not already great. That is no more true today than it was the day before the election. The shock so many of us feel at Trump’s election reflects our ignorance of the depth of bigotry, dysfunction, exploitation and despair that structure American society.
It’s a cop-out to blame deplorables for Trump and not realize that we are all part of a society that relies on the oppression of the weakest for the relative comfort of others. It’s easy to feel morally superior to people who express individual attitudes of racism, sexism, Islamophobia and homophobia without realizing that those problems are fundamentally structural, not individual. Progressive attitudes can coexist with oppressive practices. We too easily accept what we are told are the “realistic” limits of changing the structures of oppression. We too quickly nod at the idea that a fundamentally different society is pie in the sky. No longer can the centrist status quo be accepted as the most we will demand.
This is not a call for guilt, purity or perfection in our fight against Trump — we need all hands on deck working in solidarity. But it is a call to realize that as dangerous as he is, Trump is not the problem. The problem is an economic and social system that creates the conditions that gave us Trump. Perhaps better than a mirror, then, Trump is a wake-up call. Let’s get to work, here on campus, in our communities, and across the country.
Daniel Husman is a lecturer for College Writing Programs.