Anger Can Be a Gift

By Cathey Ambush

I’ve moved past the heartbreak and fear of what a Trump presidency means for the country or the world. Now it’s just anger. And anger can be a gift. I can channel it into thoughtful activism, into standing up and defending the values I believe in.

But every time I hear someone say, “It’ll be okay” or “Stop overreacting” or “Give him a chance,” every time I see a shrug or reconciliatory move, I’m right back at anger again.

Because things are not okay, and this laissez-faire, dismissive attitude is insulting. I’m not a sad puppy that needs to be comforted. Dishonest harmony doesn’t work here. To suggest so tells me people are either willfully ignorant or just don’t care about my concerns. Or both. And that’s not okay either.

It means nothing to me that Trump called for unity in his acceptance speech. His words ring hollow. I owe him nothing, and he doesn’t deserve my trust. 

That’s not me being unsupportive or a sore loser. That’s me holding him accountable for his hateful rampage and not letting him get away with it. That’s me preserving an ounce of self-dignity and demanding more from a leader.

Give him a chance? He’s had thousands of chances over the last year and half, and he’s blown them all.

He only had to do one thing during his campaign: prove why he’s the man for the job, why I should trust him, why I should put my faith in him as a leader. And he couldn’t do it.

He doesn’t get to say his rhetoric was merely campaign devices or that he learned his lesson now. He had plenty of warnings beforehand that his ideology was horrible and offensive; he simply didn’t care.

After months and months of chances, he doesn’t get a do-over. He’s not a child, regardless of how much we want to believe it. He’s a 70-year-old bigot who is clueless about the real issues we face. He is just as out-of-touch as Washington.

Trust isn’t automatic, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s the bedrock of leadership, and it’s earned. It’s sacred. It’s personal. I’ve busted my ass over decades to earn it both personally and professionally, and I can only hope I did a good job. But never, in a thousand lifetimes, would I have uttered the things that Trump said while he was presumably trying to earn my trust. 

He had more chances than a person reasonably deserves, and he failed to earn my trust because the truth is he didn’t feel he had to. I have no place in his vision of the future.

He and his supporters seem to believe he’s entitled to my trust now. That I should just be a good sport and give him another chance. 

Well, I’m the culmination of generations who have worked too damn hard for it to come down to this.

I’m the culmination of single-parent grandmothers who slaved away in rat-shit factories in a third-world country for a miserable pittance just to give their children a better life.

I’m the culmination of a mother and father who escaped religious oppression and military coups against enormous odds to come to America for a safer life. 

I’m the culmination of parents who risked “migra” raids and deportation so they could work grueling, unforgiving jobs until their emotional and physical breaking points.

I’m the culmination of parents who endured harassment, racial profiling, and public contempt to give their two children an opportunity to someday earn their degrees, serve their country, become professionals, and achieve more than the previous generations.

Let’s make it even more personal. I know how degrading it feels to be mocked, jeered at, or spat on because of my skin color. I know how maddening it is to be labeled insolent simply because I spoke my mind or defended myself in a male-dominated industry.

I know there are millions like me in the POC, Muslim, LGBTQ communities, with the same stories and struggles, with generations of ancestors behind them who also endured and worked too damn hard for it to come down to this. For hopes and dreams and prosperity to backslide into the darkness because of intolerance and xenophobia.

Did they endure it all just so I could hand over my trust overnight? No.

Not to a man who built his movement on lies and the denigration of people. 

Not to a man who hustled small-business owners and mastered the art of tax shelters. 

Not to a man who has failed spectacularly to unify people or demonstrate an ounce of inclusivity. 

Not to a man who hasn’t earned it.

A year-and-half examination into his character—a time where he could’ve exhibited his best and most redeeming qualities—and he gave us the kind of mean-spiritedness I wouldn’t condone from my own child.

He and his supporters and the casual observers telling me to chill out don’t get to be surprised by this. They don’t get to be puzzled by the disgust of the people targeted by his racist discourse. They don’t get to be irritated by the protests of individuals who feel threatened or the individuals who support them. They don’t get to wonder where this came from and then chuck it off as whiny liberalism.

The resistance isn’t based on imagination, rumors, or unfounded conjecture. It’s based on his own vile words. On documented speeches and debates and town halls. On his own self-created, twisted brand of electioneering. He single-handedly incited these reactions and now we’re supposed to give him a pass?

Enough with the reproachful exasperation and the convenient excuse that we’re sore losers. It has nothing to do with losing an election. I know it’s easier to sweep away with an explanation like that. But let’s call it what it really is: ignorance and not giving a damn.

If I tell you he has threatened and insulted me and the people I care about, and you tell me to get over it and stop whining, then okay—you just don’t give a damn. Own it. 

I do give a damn. I give a damn enough to say something about it and do something about it.

We’re voicing our resolve against his hate-mongering and what he represents. We’re addressing the elephant in the room that others shamefully want to ignore. It’s not whining; it’s a right.

The country traces its roots to peaceful protest. It has a long history of protesters that have effected change while people on the sidelines would have preferred they shut up. 

Silence is its own protest as well—for the status quo.

I demand more from leaders who want my trust. In past political arenas, I’ve compromised my expectations because that’s what you do sometimes. But something as fundamental as humanity and decency and treating people with basic respect? There will never be a compromise for that.