"We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope" - Martin Luther King, Jr.
It has now been over a week since Trump became the President-Elect of the United States of America.
For many, both within America and around the world, it is surreal that a man who has campaigned on a rhetoric of hatred, bigotry, misogyny and xenophobic discrimination is now the President of a country which has prided itself on being the 'leader of the free world'.
After all, this is the United States of America : A country whose declaration of independence claims that "all men are created equal" with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; A country whose constitution begins with a preamble of establishing justice and "domestic tranquility" for all; A country whose mantra, embodied in the pledge of allegiance recited by kindergartners and new citizens alike, claims to be "one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all".
America, the land of hope and dreams. America, the democratic superpower. America, the great.
For a dark moment last week, the American dream crashed and burned for many living within the country or observing from abroad. How could Americans have chosen such a man, so vengeful, so vulgar...to become their President? How could so many Americans justify the countless incidents of bigotry, intolerance and sexism embodied in this presidential candidate and seemingly so contrary to every American value and universal norm of human decency?
And for those who thought Trump the Candidate would be different from Trump the President, we only have to look to his recent cabinet choices to understand that no, this was not a farce or a temporary act of fame-induced insanity. Trump is considering a White Nationalist as his chief strategist and a prominent Trump advisor has suggested that the internment of Japanese Americans was the precedent for a national registry for Americans from 'terrorist nations' i.e. Muslim Americans.
There has also been an alarming spike in hate incidents; more than 400 reported since Trump became President Elect. Some of these heart-wrenching incidents are the physical manifestations of the hate-filled rhetoric which drove Trump's campaign - the very manifestations many civil rights groups feared from the moment Trump began his campaign.
These are dark times in America. Disappointing times. Unthinkable rhetoric. Inexcusable actions. It's hard to believe that this is really 2016.
But despite the despair, disbelief and disappointment - I remember America 12 years ago. When an unknown Illinois Senator touched the heart of America and captivated viewers from around the world. When Barack Obama first took center stage and spoke to us about the audacity of hope. As he claimed 12 years ago, there is no liberal America or conservative America - there is only the United States of America. There is a fundamental belief, from the very inception of this nation, that I am my brother's keeper; that I am my sister's keeper; that "all men are created equal". And as he reminded us then, his words still ring true today: "the audacity of hope...[is that] in the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days ahead".
Despite the hate-filled rhetoric, the increasing number of hate incidents, the growing polarization of Blue America vs. Red America - we must reclaim the audacity of hope and move beyond the deeply divided politics of this nation. As I have argued before, there is no legal argument, no community protest, no level of eloquence, no political authority that can make our world a better place. There is only our humanity and what each of us chooses to do with it. Let us choose civility over divisiveness, compassion over tolerance and love over hatred. Let us not lost faith in the humanity, decency, the goodness that still exists within each of us.
This does not mean that we will stand idle while injustice occurs around us. No, the audacity of hope is not only clinging to our humanity and shared values but - fighting for them. There will be rights-based organizations monitoring, documenting and fighting to ensure that a Trump presidency abides by the constitution and universal norms of human rights. As individuals, our responsibility is to ensure that we denounce acts of hatred and, as stated in the very foundational documents of this great nation, fight for the equality, liberty and justice for all who live here in the United States of America.
The audacity of hope in a post-Trump world is the belief that no matter who the President-Elect may be, the American values, which have shaped this nation, will remain intact for generations to come.