Well, as it turns out, I’m a bit naïve. And apparently so is the media-no one warned me about this election’s possible results.
Photo credit: Nigel Perry
For as long as it appeared Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump would eventually square off, I’ve been calling it a win for Clinton. Yeah, naïve, probably. Yet I am not the only one; many of us are caught off-guard. Not all headlines, but many, seem to say similar things: “it’s a shocking victory” or “surprise win for Trump.”
I’m thankful for Mrs. Clinton’s graceful concession speech, and I’m doing my best to be optimistic about the potential upside of Mr. Trump’s transition to the White House. It’s just really difficult for me right now as a Christian, as a citizen, and as a dad to see much potential after listening to the debates and hearing about the rallies.
Over the past several months I’ve dedicated my fair share of time tracking polls, blogs, the Twitter feed, and chatting with others about the eventual outcome. Since the results are in, I am searching for us all to thoughtfully move forward. I’m absolutely rankled by Trump’s hateful speech, his recorded bus conversation degrading women, minorities, Muslims, and the host of other woes toward about every demographic I can think of.
As a white middle-class guy, I’m sad and disappointed, and I can only imagine the response of women, minorities, LGBTQ folks, anyone less privileged than myself. With a net worth of 3.7 billion, we now have the richest president-elect ever waiting to take office on January 20th, and he arrives in office with promises of helping the everyman. Maybe he will indeed make America great [again], though I am personally unsure of the era to which he refers and for whom he intends to make the nation great.
To be fair, I do think Hillary has some egregious issues and untruths that polluted her reputation. And her inability to apologize sincerely did not help her leading up to the election. But I, like quite a few Americans, saw her problems as less significant than Trump’s. It’s a good thing we are allowed to disagree here in America.
All of that said, and now that you’re either bored or incensed, I want to offer some thoughts that will hopefully unite and focus us as we move into a new political era.
Here are my thoughts for moving forward:
1. Listen well
My friend Chris said this yesterday on his Facebook feed:
As I see the results coming in, it’s clear to me that I do not understand the experiences, values, needs and ideals of the majority of my country(wo)men. I have failed to listen deeply enough to stories whose hopeful ending appears on the horizon. Time to open my ears and take better care of those with whom I disagree.
Wow, Chris. You nailed it. He and I have similar reflections of the events, and wherever we fall on the political spectrum, we all have at least 60 million people who see things quite differently than we do, since that’s about how many people voted per side. In reality, the numbers are much higher and the political gap much greater than that seemingly large number. With each side feeling quite strongly about their own position, it’s that much more important to listen.
Progressives, listen to how Trump voters substantiate their vote. Conservatives, consider why a great many people are concerned about the president elect.
Listening doesn’t mean agreeing, but it does build empathy. Here’s a brief quote from an anonymous someone with whom I personally disagree:
Feeling pretty conflicted this morning. Extremely happy that Hillary lost, but pretty disappointed at the same time that Trump won. The left has gone so far left, that I could never vote for a Democrat at this point. However, now the right has shifted to a place where they no longer represent me. I woke up this morning with an easier life and a president that caters to me as a late 20s white male, but, did my wife, daughter, minorities, etc wake up with that same feeling? Like I said, I’m feeling very torn on this election…
I personally take plenty of issues with, well, nearly everything Donald Trump stands for, but the hardest thing is understanding how other people have arrived at a different conclusion. But again, it builds empathy and allows for dialogue.
As a Christian, here is something I’m bound to, from the 1st century writer, James [who many scholars understand to be the brother of Jesus]:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20
As a Christian, I need to get better at listening.
First, what I’m not talking about. I’m not talking about God-bless-America kinds of prayers. Clearly God is interested not only in blessing America, but in caring for all the people of the world, and nation-states are our invention. I would have to burst anyone’s bubble, but God is not American. Too often we conflate appreciation and support for our country with a sort of civic religion that subverts uniquely Christian concepts to praise soldiers that are serving the nation state. You’ve heard it before. “Their blood has made a way for us.” “Greater love has no one than this, than that a person would lay down their life for a friend; and these soldiers have done that…”
It is wonderful to be thankful for safety and grateful to soldiers for doing such difficult work, but let’s not conflate serving our country and serving God; those two things are often dramatically different, and they’re one of the factors dividing America internally.
When I say pray, I mean pray for people. Pray for people who are different than you. Pray for courage and strength for people who feel nervous and scared. Pray for renewed vision for people who are smug about election results and uncaring about how others may see the news. Pray for the peace and unity of all people, and certainly not just Americans. Pray for minority groups, whether you’re a significant part of one or not. If you are, pray for other marginalized people who share different concerns. If you’re white and male like me, pray that you can come to understand perspectives from other groups, then seek to live in solidarity with them, to give up power as Jesus gave up his power.
3. Move Slowly, and Move Toward Those Who Hurt
I received timely wisdom on writing about the election and all its trauma. A friend encouraged pastors and other folks who want to write about recent events to pause and take some time before firing off a blog post or article.
I’m trying to take that advice. As I do, I look out the window, and thousands of high school students are pouring through the streets of downtown San Francisco in protest of the president-elect. It’s impossible to argue with their passion; they can’t even vote, as one of my colleagues noted, and they’re trying to live in solidarity with people groups who are struggling with what Trump represents. Surely there are other parts of the nation experiencing a far different response to the news, and that is part of the equation as well.
Wherever we find ourselves, my prayer is that we move slowly.
But we also have the opportunity in this season to move toward those who hurt.
I was speaking with one of my neighbors and her friend [they’re both 10 or 11] just before the election, and he was telling me that a young African American boy was crying at school that day. He was worried about the election and what it might mean for his family.
There were no words for that; no one can argue with a feeling.
I remember fumbling with my response, trying to be as optimistic as I could. Looking back, I realize I should have simply listened and sat with my 10 and 11 year old neighbors. I should have moved toward the hurt instead of trying to offer trite optimism. Oh, the things we learn as we look back.
Maybe you read about the young black child who cried about Trump being president and you think, “oh good grief, that’s preposterous.” Well, he was crying, and maybe he has some pretty good reasons to be crying. Maybe his sadness can be a reminder of how someone from a different demographic responds quite differently to the same results.
In the footsteps of Jesus, who moved toward pain in every step of his ministry and who advocates and prays to the Father on behalf of the hurting people of the world, may we too move toward those around us who hurt.
And, despite my many failures and foibles during this election cycle…
…may these changes start within me.