Three Lessons Going Forward From the Trump Era

After four years of brazen supremacy and demagoguery in the White House, any change feels like progress, any inclusion feels like a victory. And may it be so.  

But the challenge before us is one of complacency. It can feel easy to pat ourselves on the back with every step forward; harder, though, is pressing forward with urgency, knowing how far we still have to go and knowing how many are still suffering through the process.  

Returning to normalcy after the regressive Trump years will be a feat in and of itself, particularly after white nationalists attacked the U.S. Capitol this month. But we cannot make it our goal, nor can we stake our satisfaction in its achievement. For too many people, and for far too long, normal just hasn’t been good enough.  

I am a turbaned and bearded Sikh man living in modern America, so believe me when I say that,  while racist hate spiked under Trump’s leadership, it certainly didn’t begin with him. Dealing with prejudice has been a part of my daily existence since childhood. I learned from a young age how to deal with the stares and comments I get walking through the streets of my own home country.  

People often ask how I manage to endure that.  

It’s a tough question to answer because I’m never quite sure what to say. “It’s just normal at this point, I guess.” 

Nope. Returning to normal just isn’t good enough. We have to demand more, for ourselves and for our children.  

I believe that with darkness comes light, and with pain comes relief. Although the past four years have been extremely difficult, we have learned some lessons collectively that we must cherish going forward. Here are just a few of them.  

1.     We are all connected.  

The first teaching I received from my parents, and the first teaching I transmitted to my daughters, was the Sikh concept of ik oankar, that there is a universal force that connects us all. Each evening, I sing Sohila with my daughters, in which Guru Nanak announces that the same divine light lives within all beings.  

I know this to be true intellectually, but it can be easy to forget about our interconnectedness while living in a world so caught up with boundaries and distinctions. In the pandemic, we were all reminded of how deeply our individual well-being is bound up with one another, and how these interconnections go beyond national borders and across racial and religious differences. It’s a powerful lesson to embody, and I am hopeful it is one we carry with us going forward as we think about what a just and equitable society would look like.  

2.     We are stronger together.  

In the face of extreme polarization, it can feel easy to obsess over what divides us: politics, worldviews, identities. I think all of us have fallen into that trap this past year. What we forget in these moments, though, is that as strong as these divisive forces can be, those that come with unity are even stronger. In a year where we witnessed people of all racial backgrounds show up for racial justice protests the world over, and in a moment where we are seeing people of all class backgrounds support farmers protesting for equitable treatment in India, we see the force of our collective power when consolidated together.  

This rings especially true in a year of isolation, where in spite of being more connected than ever before, we actually feel more disconnected from the world around us. We learned this year the value of authentic relationships, of what it means to show up for one another, and how doing so helps us connect with our own selves, leading us to feel more personally fulfilled and connected.  

3.     We all have a role to play. 

It can be easy to witness these massive movements and think to ourselves that our contributions will make little impact. It can be easy to ask ourselves what difference we can make. But when we have a firsthand view at how these movements are operationalized and brought to bear, it’s clear that every contribution helps to mobilize, and that there is no single role that defines a movement. Whether we are writing, protesting, advocating, donating or teaching, we can each contribute in our own ways to the causes that speak to us.  

This realization is empowering. It moves us from inaction to action, from wondering to moving. And I think what we’ve learned this year is that it’s not just the world that benefits from our efforts for justice. We benefit too. We feel more engaged. We feel more connected. We feel more meaning. And perhaps more than anything else, we are transformed by the work itself, deepening the roots of justice and equity in our hearts and souls.

Simran Jeet Singh is a writer, teacher, scholar, activist, and a senior diversity & inclusion advisor with YSC Consulting.  


If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

To explore what American clergy are doing to support the vaccine effort, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld interviewed a series of faith leaders about their tradition's views on public health & vaccination & asked what they are doing in the vaccination effort.
His message was clear: For the future to have a chance at all, parts of the past had to be left behind, and all of us have to convene around common symbols.
A survey released by PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) found that the American public sentiment, across most religious groups, is much closer to the policies the Biden administration is proposing than those put in place by Trump.
The Conversation U.S. asked six education experts how teachers—and parents—can help young people comprehend, analyze, and process what happened on January 6.
"It was an appropriately spiritual beginning to a faith-infused day and what is shaping up to be an unapologetically religious presidential term for Biden, the second Catholic president in U.S. history."
Large majorities of today’s young adults understandably lack confidence in institutions and are inclined toward distrust of others. Yet they exhibit a knack for recasting challenges as adventures and they set out to conquer them.
My cousin and I are Christian, Cuban women imploring for conversation in an effort to present different perspectives, in order to develop our own identities in a society that only seems to value polarization and tribalism.
As a Christian who is also a minister, I live between the Great Commission (sharing the Gospel) and the Greatest Commandment (loving God and my neighbor).
Five Bridgebuilding field leaders--Rev. Jen Bailey, Kalia Abiade, Mandisa Thomas, Simran Jeet Singh, and Branden Polk--came together to discuss the decisive need for action, not empty commitments to change, and how we can impart these principles.
"This moment thus necessitates moral clarity and courage concerning the trajectory of this nation. Too many have followed the path of cynicism and opportunism away from any shared commitment to a common good."
"Both the suffering and the pursuit of justice stand true at the same time. We must hold and be responsive to both."
It is new every year. Watching my students move from multifaith to interfaith. Daring to tear down walls and build bridges to faith traditions and spiritual expressions different from their own.
It is reasonable to believe that King would support holding people accountable for crimes committed, but King also held a higher hope for at least some of those who were part of the mob.
Having recently completed a monograph on the rhetoric of divine wrath, a year ago I led an honors seminar on the way in which an angry deity is presented in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It was the most successful course I’ve ever taught.
The four officially wrapped up their fellowship on Sunday (Jan. 10) with a virtual graduation where they shared the lessons they learned from one another during the tumultuous year.
...But if you follow the evidence from the very start and all throughout, President Trump has thrived in generating chaos and stirring up doubt. Was this a premeditated effort that was designed to create some larger future momentum?
A Biden transition official noted there was significant energy at the meeting created by Biden's promise to overturn President Donald Trump's travel ban, which advocates characterize as a "Muslim ban."
The presence of anti-Semitic symbols and sentiment at the Capitol riot raised alarms among Jewish Americans and experts who track discrimination and see it as part of an ongoing, disturbing trend.
And so this Administration gives me hope that we can rebuild. Or, to use the President-elect’s own transition team slogan, that we can “build back better.”
In too many cases, religious beliefs and commitments have been overshadowed, and even dominated by political and racial cleavages.
To achieve full religious diversity, equity, and inclusion, it is important for the new Presidential administration to establish more interfaith dialogue and opportunities to work together.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.