Thick skin key for Trump years

Jeffrey Mitchell Matthews, Guest Columnist

I understand that many of you are pissed-off, afraid and/or worried by the election of Donald Trump, and rightfully so. This is the first time the political shit has really hit the fan in your young lives. I remember freaking out when Reagan was elected as president (against my vote) in 1980, the same year I started to come out as gay. By 1986, when I tested HIV+, Reagan was still in office, yet he still hadn’t even mentioned the word AIDS publicly, although tens of thousands had already died.
By that point, in my mid-20’s, I had moved to another country, since I felt so unwelcome in a still very anti-gay America. I thought to myself, if I’m going to feel like a foreigner, I might as well be one, and ended up living in London and Helsinki as an expatriate. Unlike many of you, I’ve always known what it felt like to be a triangle in a world of circles. Even as a child, I knew I was queer long before I knew I was gay.
To understand and resist this government, now more than ever, you need to be able to read well, reason clearly, and think critically. Learn how to decipher facts from bullshit on the internet and cultivate an attention span that’s longer than three minutes. Learn how and when to respectfully and intelligently confront uncivil behavior, and know when and how to compromise. Stop believing that all opinions are equal, and learn how your government works!
Most of you are completely turned off by “politics” because all you’ve ever known is the ugly demonization and lack of civility and intelligent discourse that is the new normal in politics. It hasn’t always been this way, and it doesn’t need to stay this way. But remember that evil powerful people want you to be stupid and unengaged. That’s how demagogues step forward and capitalize on seething resentments, fears and racism, using blatant appeals to humanity’s worst instincts.
This is how Donald Trump was elected. And he appears to be intent on destroying many of the American values I cherish: Honoring and respecting all people, regardless of race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, economic class, gender identity, or religion, and treating everyone with dignity and equality under the law; the right to peaceably assemble; a free and unfettered press; the right to be free from governmental imposition of theological views; the freedom to make personal health care decisions without government interference; the preservation of a civil, secular, unmilitarized society.
To those of you who voted for Trump because you’re hurting economically, or feeling out-of-place in your own country, or feel like somehow, for some reason, you’re not getting your fair share . . . I’m sorry, but I don’t think Trump going to do anything to help you out. Eventually, you’ll recognize this. But know that he can do much damage to the American values and civil liberties I mentioned above, many of which I know you also cherish. I hope you’ll join us in the fight to protect these freedoms when the time comes.
And to those of you who didn’t vote for Trump, forget about “Safe Spaces.” America has just become a much less safe space for most of you. Grow a thick skin and learn how to create your own safe space. Join organizations that share your political values and goals, and donate your time and energy. Call your political representatives regularly on the phone. Engage in non-violent, non-destructive civil protests.  Become watchdogs of our civil liberties in the face of the unprecedented national threat of a Trump presidency.