By Ken Trainor
On Memorial Day, patriotism was in evidence all over Oak Park and River Forest. Not just the traditional display — i.e., star-spangled banners, jutting out at a 45-degree angle from many a house. But this year a new kind of patriotism joined the mix: lawn signs that sprouted after the "virtual election" of Donald Trump.
On Elizabeth Court, for instance, a sign testifies, "In this house we believe: Black Lives Matter, Women's Rights are Human Rights, No Human is Illegal, Science is Real, Love is Love, No Matter Your Faith or Ability, Kindness is Everything."
Such testimonials are part of the Trump Resistance Movement, which, judging by the quantity, has myriad members in both villages.
On the 700 block of Wisconsin, I find "Hate Has No Home Here" signs, blue on one side, red on the other, written in a number of languages. At the bottom of the sign is a heart with an American flag imbedded. Eight of these line the east side of the block; nine on the west side echo the sentiment.
In the 600 block of Clinton, a "Hate Has No Home Here" sign features four oak leaves with a green bar above and a blue bar below, a modified version of the Chicago flag, with "We Believe Integration Matters! We Support the Oak Park Regional Housing Center" underneath.
Another reads, "Love Your Neighbor: Your Differently Abled, Black, White, Brown, Immigrant, LGBTQ, Religiously Diverse, Fully Human Neighbor." Nearby is a sign that says simply, "On the Side of Love," an older Unitarian/Universalist-inspired messaging effort.
On the 300 block of South Grove, a sign in white letters on a pink background proclaims, "I Stand with Planned Parenthood." Nearby, one in three languages (English, Spanish and Arabic) and three colors, states un-categorically, "No Matter Where You Are From, We're Glad You're Our Neighbor."
And on the 100 block of South Home is a variation of the sign I saw on Elizabeth Court. "Here We Believe: Love is Love, No Human is Illegal, Black Lives Matter, Science is Real, Women's Rights are Human Rights, Water is Life, Kindness is Everything." (Visit herewebelieve.org, if you want to learn more.)
This is the new patriotism, stating plainly and firmly what this country stands for. It's good for kids to grow up around people who have the courage of their convictions and whose beliefs are welcoming, inclusive and affirming, which is what America is all about. It's a patriotism that doesn't just honor our military might. It honors the courage to live in an open society.
Last week I met a friend who said he was glad Hillary Clinton didn't get elected. He wasn't particularly a fan of Trump either, but added, "We have to come to terms with this guy."
He's right, as long as "coming to terms" doesn't mean "acceptance" because that will never happen — largely because of Trump himself. Every day, fresh outrages disgust anyone who genuinely believes in "Truth, Justice and the American Way" (i.e. inclusiveness), so coming to terms with Trump has to mean something different from mere, meek resignation.
But we also need to get beyond our daily recitation of the proofs of his unfitness, which isn't easy because his incompetence is breathtaking and daily reinforced by foolish statements and mean-spirited actions. His antics simultaneously entertain and repel, like watching a good horror film. If it weren't so tragic, it would be funny. If it weren't so funny, it would be depressing.
Continually obsessing about his unfitness, however, isn't good for our mental health.
Which is why we need to recognize "The Gift of Trump."
Trump is a symptom. The "system" (political and economic) has been disintegrating for decades. It crashed dramatically in 2008, just before Barack Obama was elected, but he was a president, and a person, of high quality who managed to hold things together, preventing another Great Depression. But we're still in an age of global transition. The old world is ending, to be replaced eventually by a newer, hopefully better world.
Thanks, ironically, to Trump, a new patriotism is emerging. Lawn signs are one manifestation. Awakened awareness and increased activism are also heartening. We are rediscovering what it means to be proud of what America stands for, and though it's not at all what our sad-sack president had in mind, we will indeed make America great again. Thanks for the slogan, Donald.
But as you struggle to come to terms with the gift of Trump, consider another sign I spotted on Memorial Day on the 800 block of Clinton, which read, "Porch Rules: Feel the Breeze, Listen to the Birds, Converse, Have a Drink, Relax and Unwind."
Never forget that the best way to resist the insanity of Trump is to remain sane yourself.
Answer Book 2019
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