From the beginning of the Trump administration, many Americans have looked on in disbelief at what the country has become. But the truth is America's problems go back a lot further than two years and it might be time to admit that.
As a Presidential candidate, Donald Trump was little more than a joke to any seasoned political player: the unpolished New York real estate mogul and reality TV star who wanted to put "America first."
But for many Americans who felt forgotten for the last half century, Trump looked like the man they had been waiting for, and suddenly a wildcard candidate was elected to highest office in the land.
To the other half of America, the election of Donald Trump was a devastating blow, not only to our future, but to our identity as a country. People predicted the worst and, in many cases, were proven right.
Over the next two years America would watch as the country was transformed by each new unthinkable act, and they just kept piling up: the President's call to ban transgender people from serving in the military, his continuous war against the free press, the attempted ban on Muslims entering the country, the Charlottesville car attack, the call to end DACA, the separation of migrant families, the gassing of immigrants at the boarder, and mass shooting after mass shooting.
After every tragedy, many could only look on in shock. This wasn't America. This is not who we are.
But these assertions of American identity did not begin with President Trump. As early as 2007, then Senator Barack Obama used the phrase when talking about the war in Iraq, and later in 2014, when reacting to a CIA torture report. In fact, the phrase was often a part of the President's rhetoric. Each time America failed to live up to itself? It wasn't us. It was not who we are.
The phrase has been echoed repeatedly as an assertion of our more noble ideals and a call to do better, but many no longer see it that way. Instead of aspiring to do better, all we are doing is erasing shameful truths about the past and absolving ourselves of responsibility.
Marginalized people have had enough and are calling out the hypocrisy.
When confronted with history, it's impossible to deny the darker moments of the American identity.
Our achievements as a country are irrevocably tied to the sins of our past, but aspiring to be greater is just as much a part of the American identity as the times we have failed to do so. Instead of denying who we are, we can work towards being better by embracing who we want to be.