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.  

 

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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.