I wrote this narrative/op-ed on Jan. 20, 2017–the day President Donald Trump was inaugurated. I submitted it to a couple of publications, but it was never accepted fast enough to be timely. I hate to see it go to waste, and therefore decided to publish it here. I thought some of you might enjoy the read or perhaps find it insightful.
How Entering the Obama Era from Israel Helps Me Come to Terms with Trump
Written by Shari Lopatin on Jan. 20, 2017
Eight years ago today, I sat crammed into a tiny Tel Aviv hotel lobby with 30 Jews who were strangers days before, and together, we watched Barack Obama become the President of the United States of America.
When we boarded our El Al flight to Israel about a week prior for our Birthright trip, we’d left our country still swimming in the Bush era. I was the only Jew from Arizona and felt nervous at first, knowing not a name in our group. But after riding camels through the desert and sleeping in Bedouin tents scattered throughout the Negev together, we’d become like family, and I watched alongside these newfound friends 6,700 miles away as our country’s tides changed on Jan. 20, 2009.
I come from a state that leans conservative and Christian. I’d never been surrounded by others who believed as I do, or voted as I do, or survived anti-Semitism like I had. It not only felt safe to cheer as I watched Obama take his oath of office, but electric and freeing, like the adrenaline of a raging river or, as one of my travelmates said, “winning the World Series.”
For us, this was our first political victory. When I’d cast my virgin ballot at age 18, the year was 2000 and George W. Bush had won. Then, 9/11 rocked our nation and although I’d supported our involvement in Afghanistan, I’d protested Iraq from the beginning. Somewhere deep in my bones, I knew this war would change the future of the U.S. and the world.
The taste of triumph, I’ve learned, has a sweet but perilous flavor. I was young and hopeful when Barack Obama took office, and over the coming years, I flourished. The Affordable Care Act—known to many as Obamacare—granted me freedom to leave a full-time job and afford an individual health plan while I started a business. The tax credit for first-time homebuyers in 2009 allowed me the financial flexibility to buy my first house.
Under Obama, I became Middle Class America. I prospered. And I’m dang thankful for it.
But as I said, the taste of triumph has a sweet, yet perilous flavor. I grew used to winning, and in my elation, became numb to the fury developing in the underbelly of our country. Not everyone moved forward like I did, and in their anger, many turned to a man who manipulates emotion to gain power.
Today, that man stands in the spot Obama did as I watched from a boxed television set in Israel, and I find myself feeling alone again. In my despair, I close my eyes and like a wind funnel sucking me through time, I fall into that scrunched Tel Aviv hotel lobby eight years ago, surrounded by rejuvenation and faith and acceptance.
That moment, though fleeting, will survive through eternity in all of us, and I tell myself—even as we enter an era of uncertainty and darkness—Yes We Can.
Shari Lopatin is a writer, journalist and storyteller with more than 10 years in media and communication. She writes both fiction and non-fiction and prefers to concentrate on the micro and macro effects of social issues.