Demonstrators in Portland, Oregon; November 9, 2016.
Demonstrators in Portland, Oregon; November 9, 2016. Doug Brown

Last night thousands took to Portland’s streets, in addition to the thousands more across the country, to protest our electoral system’s selection of Donald Trump as president-elect. All of the frustration and disgust is an instinctual, reflexive response for those who didn’t vote for him; the past 18 months were tough, and the brutal ending on Tuesday night was even tougher. But as the crowds grew in Portland and elsewhere last night and the media grew more attentive, the importance of these voices of dissent became glaringly obvious.

Every protestor, every sign, every able body that is physically demonstrating its disapproval of Trump’s 60 million votes is being watched across the globe. On Tuesday, the world witnessed America elect a candidate who stood for sexual assault, xenophobia, racism, and isolationism. On Wednesday, the world saw thousands of Americans reject those values.

I imagine many—if not most—protestors are, perhaps on a gut, non-analytical level, wishing that there was some way to overturn the election results. “Not my president!” many are saying; and, more precisely, “Fuck Trump!" That’s an emotional, knee-jerk response, and is a perfectly acceptable retort as we recover from this week’s shock. But as much as I hate to say it, changing the results of the election is probably just wishful thinking.

That’s not why these protests are so crucial. That’s not why these protests, as temporarily inconvenient as they are for a handful of citizens going about their day-to-day lives, are the most important thing Americans can be doing right now. These protests matter because they show the world, both our allies and our enemies, that America, despite who it’s just elected to the presidency, can be a country of compassion and progressivism, that its inhabitants are not all cut from the same bigoted cloth, that those impassioned thousands who took to their feet last night—and who will continue to do so today, and perhaps in the days after—reject the hatred and the cowardice that buttressed Donald Trump’s voting coalition and pushed him into the presidency. They matter because the rest of the world needs to be dissuaded of the horrible idea that all Americans are just like the 60 million who voted against black lives, against women's rights, against the nation's growing minority populations, against a rejection of nationalism and despotism, and against the ideals of global unity that are the only way society can properly move forward in the digital age. That’s why these protests must continue, as peacefully but as loudly as possible, and why the media coverage of them must not let up.

The world is watching.

Related: Portland's Resistance & Solidarity Calendar

Some of the thousands of demonstrators that took to Portland streets last night.
Some of the thousands of demonstrators that took to Portland streets last night. Doug Brown