“Donald Trump isn’t my president,” said a former colleague, expressing an opinion I have heard often in recent weeks.
He is my president, I replied.
The man looked at me in shock, assuming there was only one reason I would say such a thing.
I did not vote for Trump, I explained, but he won the election. That means he’s my president … and he’s your president.
“No, he’s not,” the man barked. “He doesn’t represent me.”
He then listed a number of actions and statements Trump has made with which he disagrees.
And I said that each of those actions and statements now represents all of us as citizens of the United States.
“Not me!” the man shouted. “I did not vote for him and I refuse to accept responsibility for anything that moron does.”
My guess is that sentiment represents just about everyone in America today. Everyone does not disagree with Trump of course. But Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, take no responsibility for anything a president does while in office if they have a different point of view.
Their United States citizenship is conditional.
I don’t think it’s necessary to agree with every action the government takes. I think it’s all right to criticize the actions of the president, or the Congress, if you disagree and doing so may even be your patriotic duty.
But that doesn’t mean you can deny responsibility for the things our country does as a result of the president’s decisions.
For example, as a citizen of this country, I accept some responsibility for the calamity in Syria that has destroyed the lives of millions of people and sent many of them fleeing to other parts of the world.
President George W. Bush declared war on Iraq, which gave rise to the Islamic State, which eventually spread to Syria causing confusion when people there launched a civil uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
President Barack Obama drew a red line in the sand when Assad began murdering men, women and children, claiming that if Assad used chemical weapons the United States would intervene militarily. Assad did use such weapons. We did not intervene.
Assad, with assistance from the Russian air force, then began bombing civilian populations in Syria with impunity. It is estimated that more than 13.5 million Syrians require humanitarian assistance today, 4.8 million are refugees and about 1 million have ended up in Western Europe creating massive domestic problems in Western Europe.
I feel responsible since our country was at least partially to blame.
“I’m not taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong in the world, or everything our government screws up,” said my former colleague.
And that’s the way it was with the Great Recession, the mess that became Obamacare, our nation’s decision to torture prisoners of war and the mass surveillance program of U.S. citizens by our government.
Who was responsible for all of that?
As far as the majority of Americans are concerned, it might as well have been a foreign government. It’s not their fault, that’s for sure.
If a president orders our troops into battle, it’s our responsibility to make sure the cause is just. If the president orders the invasion of a foreign country, it is our duty to make sure the reasons are valid. If a president issues an order to halt immigration, or approves secret trials, that’s on all of us.
“The government is us and we are the government, you and I,” said Teddy Roosevelt.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis put it another way, “In a democracy, the most important political office is that of the private citizen,” he said.
Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States. What he says and does represents all of us.
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