I Fear Tyranny

By Sam Harshbarger (Age 16, Cranbury, NJ)

I went to bed the night of November 8th at 10:00 PM, feeling sick to my stomach. I had premonitions of the tragedy unfolding, with Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio already likely in Trump’s fold. I winced at every ‘key state alert’.

I woke at 4:30 November 8th. I checked the result. Words cannot describe the pain I felt, not for myself but for my country.

Far-right populism is ascendant. As Paul Krugman wrote for The New York Times, ‘Unfortunately, we’re not just talking about four bad years. Tuesday’s fallout will last for decades, maybe generations.’ Such a terrible mistake, with such huge ramifications, is impossible to fathom or process in its immediate aftermath. 

That being said, I, being cisgendered, heterosexual, white, and male, will be among those least threatened by a Trump administration. I fear a reversal of Roe v. Wade, not for myself but for the fundamental right of women to choose. I fear trade protectionism and a regressive tax code, not for myself but for the working class that will in the end be hit the worst. I fear for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, not for myself but for the twenty million Americans who have received health care insurance through it. 

Most of all, I fear tyranny, not for myself but for our shared principles of justice, liberty, and equality under the law. We can’t afford to be complacent in such times as these. We must rally—all of us who have the courage to stand by our democracy, to preserve and protect our vibrant republic, founded and maintained in the battle for an ever more perfect union, through what may be among its darkest hours. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in his Social Contract, ‘Liberty can be gained, but never regained.’ Let us not be so foolish to let freedom slip out of our hands.

This doesn’t mean fighting neighbor against neighbor—it means reuniting this country through our shared values. A deepening of the divide between rural and urban, rich and poor, religious and secular, Northern, Southern, Western, black, white, Hispanic, and Asian-American will only serve to doom reconciliation in our polarized society. As President Barack Obama stated in his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, ‘We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.’ We cannot submit our democracy to the fate of Rome or Athens—liberal states that reached their climaxes and fell. We Americans have a deep sense of destiny in regards to the future of our country, that although we may deviate from our mission, we will always find our course. Let us do everything we can to conserve that last unifying vestige of our civic religion through the coming four years.