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There aren’t a lot of good things that have come out of the Trump era. But here’s one: Our values have been clarified.

I used to be generally in favor of a lot of the stuff organizations like the ACLU did. But I mostly just observed and judged each issue individually. Then came the travel ban and I swiped my credit card faster than Gene Wilder drew his pistol in Blazing Saddles.

My family has always habitually absorbed, discussed, and shared the news, but we rarely became part of the news; and we always tried to shelter our kids from it. By the time of the Women’s March, my wife and daughter already had on their walking shoes (and pink knitcaps) — and one way or another, they haven’t stopped marching since.

I’ve always viewed DC as a place where no one could be trusted and, even though I’m good friends with a few of them, when I thought of politicians, I pretty much thought, “aah, they’re all the same.” They’re not all the same, folks. Only some of them are trying to strip health care from millions of Americans for no other reason than a bizarre desire to win at any cost (even if that means winning against ordinary Americans).

Upon reaching the free article limit on a news site, the old me would simply clear my browser cache and read on. The new me subscribes to all of them. I never thought this position would be challenged in my lifetime, but I am one hundred percent on the side of the free press. And I’m willing to put my money (and my PayPal credentials) where my mouth is.

As a parent, I didn't particularly want to be confronted with daily teachable moments courtesy of the occupant of the Oval Office, but it’s actually felt really good to explain which values I think are important and why.

I’ve become a Humanities major who takes pride in standing up for science.

It’s not that my values have changed. It’s that they’ve been woke the fuck up. What was always in the background is now front of mind. What was the theme has become the plot.

Core ideals like truth, justice, fairness, decency, and humility have been challenged. That surprised, and even shocked, us. But it also clarified what we stand for. I don’t want to live in a bubble, but if I do, then I want it to be the bubble that believes in evolution, thinks of diversity as a strength, and still sees truth as a virtue (even on Twitter).

Maybe the real lesson of this moment is that we progressives went a little soft in the face of what seemed like momentum gained and battles won. We’ve spent the last six months, Tweet by unholy Tweet, being reminded that there’s a long way to go and nothing will come easy.

America is a really great place. But America is not a given. It’s up to us to decide whether the sad era of Trumpism is a distastrous national course change, or merely a speed-bump along the path to a better republic.

I write NextDraft, a quick and entertaining look at the day’s most fascinating news.

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