scorecardresearch
JENEÉ OSTERHELDT | COMMENTARY

If making America great again means no resistance, we’re screwed

President Trump this week tried to sell us a story of togetherness that involves ending investigations and resistance. But we cannot overlook the many ways Trump encouraged Americans to fall in line for the greater good.
President Trump this week tried to sell us a story of togetherness that involves ending investigations and resistance. But we cannot overlook the many ways Trump encouraged Americans to fall in line for the greater good.(Doug Mills/The New York Times via Associated Press/Pool)

He asked us to choose greatness. Again.

President Trump this week tried to sell us a story of togetherness that involves ending investigations and resistance.

The fact-checkers unraveled Trump’s State of the Union address. Stacey Abrams delivered the real deal rebuttal we needed.

But we cannot overlook the many ways Trump encouraged Americans to fall in line for the greater good.

“We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good,” he said Tuesday night during the State of the Union.

This coming from a man who is a thumb thug, using his Twitter fingers to tear down anyone who disagrees with him. This coming from a man who declared the media the enemy of the people.

Advertisement



I don’t believe in revenge the way Liam Neeson does. I don’t need to walk around hunting white people to make them pay for systemic supremacy the way Neeson wanted to kill any black man to avenge his friend, a survivor of rape.

But resistance is essential to making America the free country we want it to become.

“Exactly one century after Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before,” Trump said, as if a crotch-grabbing sexist could take credit for the slow but sure progress of women.

The persistent seeking of change and representation and resistance of the patriarchy is how we have 102 women in the House right now. Resistance is how we will achieve equal pay.

Resistance is how we will fight for the reproductive rights Trump doesn’t want women to have.

Resistance is why Alice Johnson is no longer serving life without parole for a nonviolent first offense. Long before Kim Kardashian rallied for Johnson, there were criminal justice reform activists like Topeka Sam working to raise awareness of the injustice and get her pardoned. Sam helped bring Johnson’s story to Mic, leading to the viral video that caught Kardashian’s attention.

Advertisement



Johnson is one woman finally given clemency after serving two decades of a lifetime sentence. But there are thousands just like her, in prison for life, for nonviolent offenses. According to the ACLU, most of them are black.

Without people fighting the system and demanding better from our government, Trump couldn’t brag about the First Step Act, which takes progressive baby steps toward reforming the criminal justice system and easing punitive federal prison sentences.

Tokenizing a few people of color and shouting out the women of Congress doesn’t change the truth.

Trump paints an America where we can only come together by submission to his authority and his xenophobic, anti-LGBTQ+, racist, sexist, and all-around-oppressive vision of greatness.

“If there is going to be peace and legislation,” he said, “there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way!”

Except it does. It always has. The Civil Rights Movement was very much a war and an interrogation of America.

We cannot have peace without freedom. We cannot have freedom without fighting for our rights, fighting for equity, and fighting for the truth. Without investigation, we do not find the truth, we do not learn, we do not hold those in power accountable.

Advertisement



Without investigation, we do not uncover the fact that Elizabeth Warren was always playing dress-up with Native American identity and Virginia lawmakers love blackface and feign ignorance to avoid their racism.

Without investigation, we simply fail as a democracy. That’s how that works.

“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have,” James Baldwin said.

We cannot afford to play dumb and pretend bridging divisions and healing comes down to Trump’s ultimatums of “greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction.”

The Pelosi Clap says it all: We’re not here for the medley of platitudes, lies, and half-truths Trump sold during the State of the Union.

He asked us to “choose greatness.” The answer is no.

Reject greatness that builds walls and aims to strip the humanity of others by labeling them aliens. Reject greatness that enables MAGA-hat-wearing zealots to go on hate-crime sprees. Reject greatness that doesn’t believe in press freedom. Reject greatness that doesn’t believe in protesting police brutality. Reject greatness that strips away reproductive rights and turns away transgender soldiers.

Instead, choose a greatness that requires rigorous investigation and a resilient spirit. Choose a greatness that fights for freedom not hierarchy. Choose a greatness that recognizes grace, reconciliation, and unity will never come as easy as handing an ignorant, powerful man your will.

Advertisement



Togetherness that requires your submission is not a united country. It’s an abusive relationship.


Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at jenee.osterheldt@globe.com and @sincerelyjenee.