Demonstrators around the country hit the streets on Nov. 9 to protest the election of President-elect Donald Trump. Protests were reported in major cities including New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. (Victoria Walker,Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
Columnist

What was lost in the election last week?

Decency. Humanity. Morality. All the way around.

From protesters destroying property in Portland, Ore., to racists destroying a sense of safety in Silver Spring, Md., too many people are undermining the foundation of our country in the aftermath of a polarizing election. And our first order of business is to fix it. Because this is about democracy, really.

Donald Trump is going to be our president. And saying #notmypresident is the same as saying #notmyconstitution or #notmycountry or #notmyAmerica.

It is our America. All of us.

Yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. A majority of Americans who voted last week voted for her. (A totally shameful 43 percent of y’all stayed home — you better not have been at those protests if you did.)

But the same Constitution that gives protesters the right to peaceful assembly also created the electoral college that gave Trump the White House.

This is what democracy looks like.

And smashing windows in cities, burning flags on college campuses or staging walkouts at high schools won’t change that.

And shouldn’t change that. I get it. It feels good to rage against all that Trump stands for and to show the world we all don’t agree with him. But all it does is provide Dave Chappelle solid gold material for his “Saturday Night Live” monologue.

Decent Americans have somehow lost their ability to control all the wrong impulses.

Sore losers protesting the democratic process are just as useless as hate-filled winners sneaking around towns painting swastikas and racist graffiti. I want to say that the only difference between the two is that one is ridiculous while the other is dangerous. But that’s not totally true, either.

The “Whites Only” graffiti scrawled on an Episcopal church in Silver Spring and the swastikas drawn in a Bethesda middle school bathroom are references to real and bloody horrors in history.

So was the swastika used to deface a church in Indiana and the “#Whitesonly” written on a door in Minnesota. The connective tissue between all the hated? The word “Trump,” which accompanied most of the vandalism. Indiana even got “Heil Trump” on the outside of one church.

There were the fifth-graders in Ventura, Calif., chanting “Build a Wall!” and walls in Durham, N.C. defaced with “Black Lives Don’t Matter and Neither Does Your Vote.” Confederate flags fluttered at a Veterans Day parade in Petaluma, Calif.

Women in hijabs reported having them yanked off in public, and a disturbing note to a Muslim elementary school teacher in Georgia told her to go hang herself with her headscarf. A student at the University of Michigan was told she would be set on fire if she didn’t remove her hijab.

These are the deplorable acts that are intended to terrify religious and racial minorities. They must be condemned and not with a dispassionate, timid “Stop it,” which is what Trump said during a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday night. And Trump’s decision to appoint his campaign chairman Stephen K. Bannon — denounced by critics as a proponent of racist, anti-Semitic and misogynistic views — as his White House chief strategist was absolutely chilling.

Even so, it doesn’t justify protesting the outcome of the election itself, which is the beating heart of American democracy. When young people respond by burning flags and walking out of class, they might be making themselves feel better.

But remember when President Obama was elected in 2008 and 2012, and it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns? When black families found burning crosses on their lawns, protesters carried signs with nooses and racist caricatures, and mobs burned him in effigy?

They were protesting his victory. They probably made themselves feel better in their fellowship of hatred, but they did nothing to change the Obama family’s address for eight years.

That brings us to the part where protesting the simple fact of our democratic process is dangerous, too.

Like the protesters who fought for civil rights or to give women the right to vote or to push us out of war, protest something you can change.

Protest Trump’s actions and policies. Pressure members of Congress. Work like mad to get rid of the electoral college if you’ve had it with the system. Support candidates in the 2018 elections who can make real change. You students walking out of class need to hold on to that rage and carry it into adulthood, fight complacency and fight for the system you want. That is what democracy looks like.

Trump in the Oval Office? That is what democracy looks like, too.

Twitter: @petulad