I learned how to spell antidisestablishmentarianism in the sixth grade. I was so proud of myself. I can still spell it today although it is nowhere near the longest word in the dictionary anymore.
Of course I had no clue what it meant and I still have to unpack all the prefixes and suffixes when I think about this odd word all these years later. This word has come back to my vocabulary because Election 2016 has turned out to be a very odd turn in our nation’s history and it demands some new vocabulary.
Some of my friends who voted for Trump say they were voting against the establishment. For a variety of reasons, they are anti-establishment, all for the undoing of the Establishment.
Dissing the Establishment.
I can understand that. I really can. Throughout our history, America has used its institutionalized power to decimate the native peoples, to enslave and dehumanize Black people, to interfere with foreign governments and promulgate nearly endless wars.
The American Establishment has never been a pure shining city on a hill, no matter our shining ideals and alabaster dreams.
But what I see in this so-called backlash vote, in reality, is a vote against the undoing of the Establishment. No matter the intention, the practical matter is that this so-called “populist revolution” is anti-dis-establishment.
This vote was for the established, entrenched Republican power brokers.
This vote was for the established Republican agenda to expand the power of private corporations into Social Security, health care and education.
This vote now expands the unbridled power of the Republican government into the bedrooms and private lives of Americans.
I get that disestablishment probably serves us well whenever our institutions become out of touch with the lives of the people they are supposed to serve. Rocking the boats of our institutions can be an useful shaking up of the system that may reorient us in helpful and healthy ways.
But that is not what has happened in this 2016 election.
Instead of disestablishing the undemocratic influence of corporate power within our government, we have reaffirmed oligarchy – the power of a privileged few drowning out the voices of the many.
Instead of disestablishing the unequal distribution of wealth in America, we have reaffirmed plutocracy.
Instead of disestablishing and dismantling the racism that pervades our institutions, we have reaffirmed and reignited America’s original sin.
Instead of disestablishing patriarchy, we have reaffirmed the unbalanced privilege of white, elitist males.
None of us knows for sure what kind of president Donald Trump will be – he is a cipher. But we do know what he has said about our neighbors, what he has promised to do to them. We do know what kind of people he is appointing to help him craft and enact his policies. We can have a pretty good idea what kind of president he will be if we just take him at his word.
But we do know for certain what kind of governing the Republicans will do. They have a proven track record. And now they have free rein.
So here is the battleground. Here is where we #StayWoke. Where we write our letters and call our representatives, and march in protest; where we never stop being the squeaky wheels of democracy.
And here is the other battleground: my neighborhood and yours.
Here is where we collaborate with our diverse partners to make sure our neighbors stay safe. Here is where we come together in order to decrease violence and fear and hopelessness within our local communities. Here is where we join hands across all our divides in order to craft solutions that can disestablish inequity and injustice. Here is where we sit down over a cup of coffee and establish relationships of trust.
Is any of this easy? No.
Is any of this risky? Of course.
Is it worth our effort? Yes. A thousand times: Yes.
When it comes to American ideals of liberty and justice for all…
When we’re talking about American promises that all of us are equal with rights guaranteed by our Constitution…
When we look at the ways America has grown and evolved and established protections for the more vulnerable among us…
Then I am absolutely against disestablishing any of these promises.
Then in this way, I guess am an antidisestablishmentarian.
Who’s with me?
Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She is national secretary for Coffee Party USA and contributes regularly to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page.
Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.