It’s done. We have a new president now, a president of all of us.
You don’t have to like it. A lot of us remain painfully dismayed and more than a little dubious. But you do have to stay tuned.
Since Election Day, those who now count as the opposition have fallen into a few general camps of response.
There are those who endure, who keep voicing confidence in what — although it has been driven through some rough terrain and plowed through the mud — remains our time-tested system of governance. They seek solace in the rough parallels offered by history and conclude that we can handle what the future holds. They hope for the best.
There’s a noisier camp that can’t forget all that’s worrisome about our new president: the inexperience, the immaturity, the weasel-in-the-chicken-house lineup of advisers and appointees. They’re cynical in their expectation that doom awaits us all, that in an upheaval of spite and pique, our nation has suffered a self-inflicted injury from which it can’t recover. They expect the worst.
Both, perhaps, were vaguely unsettled by the dismal description of our native land offered up in the new president’s inaugural address. All that business about crime, joblessness, ruined infrastructure, perilous borders and “carnage” made the U.S. sound less like our planet’s sole superpower than, say, Kazakhstan or Sierra Leone. Surely it can’t be that bad?
Which, perhaps, explains the third category of new order opponents: the opt-outs. Those include Americans who have retreated into a self-protective shell of indifference, who turned the TV off when the inauguration came on. They’re the legislators who boycotted what is traditionally an all-hands-on-deck observance.
They’re represented, as well, by a Facebook acquaintance who recently announced he will no longer be a consumer of information. He’s so disheartened, he wrote, that he will no longer read newspapers, follow political events, engage in social media.
“I won’t expose myself to this toxic news environment anymore,” he wrote. “Signing off.”
It was awful and bitter, kind of like that old cartoon that shows a miserable sad sack of a man immersed up to his shoulders in a toilet bowl, preparing to pull the flush handle. The legend: “Goodbye, cruel world.”
Personally, I pivot between the best hopers (usually) and the doom shouters (occasionally). It’s my wholehearted belief that our nation has behaved unwisely, and there are challenging times ahead.
That’s not the same as the end of the world as we know it.
But I also recognize the powerful lure of the tune-outers. There’s a seductive appeal in withdrawing, in pulling the plug, in upsetting the chessboard and walking away.
On more than a few occasions in the last few months, I have spun little daydreams about running away, or living in the woods, or jumping in the car and driving someplace I have never been, such as Wyoming. When the going gets tough, the tough may get going, but some of us just want to hide.
But we can’t. Giving up and dropping out says you don’t care, and of course you care.
People who don’t care — from either side of the political abyss — would not have voted, would not have paid attention to the campaign, would not trouble themselves about justice or policy or the direction our nation is taking.
Nobody is obligated to take to the streets in protest if they don’t want to — and the ones who do need to behave themselves. Nor do they have to agree with — or even particularly like — the people currently in charge of our state and nation.
You don’t have to be an activist, or an organizer, or a political theorist, or a smart-aleck journalist like me.
But you do have to pay attention. In order for it to be a democracy, you have to participate, even when things don’t go your way.
Tuning out may be tempting, but it’s not a realistic option.
Jacquielynn Floyd is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. Readers may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.