Friday, November 11, 2016

The Peaceful Transition of Power

Dear America,

For those of us on the other side of the pond, your outrage and desolation, your disbelief and bewilderment at the result of your presidential election is mystifying.

Let me explain. I'm Lebanese by birth, Canadian by nationality and Armenian by ethnicity. I grew up at the tail end of the 60s in a predominantly white neighborhood (in my school there was an Arab, a Jew and me, a dark-haired Armenian whose parents were immigrants, desperately poor and uneducated), formed a consciousness during the 70s, somehow navigated the 80s (with awful perms and inexcusable shoulder pads), saw huge ruptures in empires in the 90s and moved to a post-Soviet country in the 2000s. I've been around.

Half of your country voted for a man with no political experience, lots of money and a divisive voice he felt he had the right to throw around indiscriminately. His populist rhetoric appealed to the lowest common denominator, but it clearly resonated with millions of people. That is a reality you need to face and accept.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party threw its weight behind a candidate that represented different things to different people. Her election would have been historic because for the first time, you would have had a woman as president - one with a strong, albeit controversial, political legacy. But she also seemed to represent so much of what has worn you down - the prestige, privilege, money and influence of the 1 percent, the godforsaken Establishment that preferred to bail out overpaid entitled bank executives on Wall Street rather than address the deep national divide, the festering racism and bigotry, the lack of social protection...

I suspect you're going to say, but hang on a minute, she won the popular vote and the Electoral College is inherently flawed and that's why we find ourselves at this impasse.

Yes, she won the popular vote but she didn't win people's hearts - she just promised more of the same. The Electoral College I will admit is a mystery to me but it's what your forefathers came up with, either accept the results or begin a serious national discussion on how to fix it, improve it or completely do away with it.

What you fail to see in your current state of distress is that you live in a country that everyone wants to come to. Despite the proclamations of some that they would leave if the blonde guy got into the Oval Office, despite the fact that Canada's Immigration and Citizenship website crashed in the hours following the results and despite the fact that many, myself included, made fun of the situation (although it is clearly not funny), most of you don't realize how blessed you are. While you live in a country that has flaws and hasn't always kept its promise of the American Dream, it's where millions of immigrants have flocked to and although they struggled, they have contributed to the rich fabric of civic life.

To return to those of us on this side of the pond...we have not see one single presidential election in Armenia that didn't disintegrate into protests, clashes, riots, and tragically deaths. Every election cycle in this country and most in this region and elsewhere in the world, causes such instability and social discord that it takes us four years to overcome them until we need to brace ourselves for the next cycle. We don't have the luxury of 240 years of democracy, of strong institutions that can weather political upheavals and unanticipated election results and yet we continue to struggle.

While you protest in cities across the country, claiming that Trump is not your president, you fail to see the beauty of a system that allows the peaceful transition of power, something most of the world can only hope for and dream about. The gift of your democracy can be found in that transition.

Every nation needs time to grieve its losses, experience sorrow and fear for the future. Just ask us, we know the score and though our democracy is in its infancy and still terribly fragile, we wake up every day and press ahead. We're even used to being told how to do it. Now, it's time for you to get on with the task of rehabilitating your divided nation.

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