Don't get me wrong. That voters in the United States, weary after a brutal economic downturn, elected as president a billionaire — one who shipped jobs overseas, used undocumented laborers and dodged taxes — is profoundly depressing, for sure.
But let's not get it twisted. America is great, as is. It's built to endure. Despite what President-elect Donald Trump says, the nation's strength is its egalitarian ideas, its (mostly) just laws and its diverse groups of people, who, notwithstanding the very real tensions between them, are woven into a material as strong as Kevlar.
I recently got into a brief Twitter debate with a young man who said 2016 has to be “the worst year in almost a century” as a result of Trump's election. At the risk of engaging in so much schadenfreude, I'd like to point out that in the last 100 years, the United States has weathered much worse than a fear-mongering, willfully ignorant, xenophobic, misogynistic “outsider” in the White House.
9/11 was recent enough that we all remember it, so I don't have to go into details, except to say that it was the first time many millennials and Generation Xers felt that sick, uncertain feeling in their guts, an insecurity about American stability, which that prior generations had experienced. Trump's election has given many of the same folks a vast uncertainty but not the type that makes you question whether terrorists might fly passenger jets into your skyscrapers (or unleash gas in your subways or anthrax in your schools).
The assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s left a hole in America's heart and called into question the very momentum of the civil rights and progressive movements at the time of their infancy. I wasn't there, but I can imagine the sense of hopelessness when a sitting president or a Nobel Peace Prize winner is forever, violently silenced. God forbid it ever happens again. That's not what we experienced yesterday.
My grandparents lived through the Great Depression and World War II. Those events scarred my nana, as we called her, until her last days. Americans went hungry and rioted for food during the Great Depression. Decades later, my grandmother still couldn't see food uneaten without commenting that we should be more grateful to have it. She wasn't a hoarder by today's standards, but she couldn't let an item as insignificant as a rubber band or a hairpin be thrown away, a compulsion dating back to wartime rationing.
And remember what sparked that war: a vicious, unprovoked attack on an American military base, which killed 2,300 Americans and deeply imperiled the United States' sense of security. Angelenos thought they were next, and a generation of Southern Californians grew up with postwar bomb shelters and air-raid sirens. As a national scare, Trump doesn't compare.
Sure, Trump is a woman-demeaning racist with a temperament shorter than his fingers and access to the country's nuclear codes. He's the anti-American when held against the progressive ideals of people who view reproductive rights, protection of the environment and racial integration as essential.
But don't say this is the worst America has seen in a century. That's an insult to this nation's hard-won battle scars. In the grand scheme of things, a Trump presidency is a threat and a menace but not a depression, a war or an act of terrorism. Let's just hope it doesn't deteriorate into one.