Since Tuesday’s results, I’ve been listening.
Thoughts and words have been forming, some as responses, some as expressions of my own feelings, but mostly because when big things happen my natural response is to write it out. So this is what we have; a mixture of response to the conversations at hand and a reciprocation of all the listening to tell my truth in the wake of the election results.
I awakened after about 3 hours of sleep Tuesday night at 11:22pm. My phone’s browser had been intentionally left open to the NY Times live results. I hesitated before checking; what would seeing results mean for the rest of my night? But I couldn’t resist. When I saw Trump had a 95% chance of winning, perhaps had already been officially declared the winner, I honestly can’t remember through the shock of it, I set my phone down. Got up and went to the bathroom, mechanically, and then returned to bed.
Sleep did not return. It was too chaotic inside my mind. How did this happen? How did the former host of a crappy reality TV show make it this far? What was wrong? How does this happen?
Then anger swept in. Deep, dark anger. Anger I have seen resonating from both sides of this story as I watch and listen online, and I understand it. Because my chest was beating with rage, physically constricting and expanding while I clinched my eyes shut and could see only red.
I was enraged because this wasn’t right. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I wanted that glass ceiling to be shattered, I wanted our nation to uphold a standard for this highest elected office, I wanted men who brag about assaulting women, who disempower minorities, who live in self-centered worlds of hubris to be shown they cannot win, that’s not who America is anymore. I wanted men who speak loudly without saying anything intelligent at all to be shown they can’t talk over the experts any more, that it’s time to LISTEN. To listen to the refugee who has gone through the vetting process, to listen to the children of illegal immigrants, to listen to the African American man who has been targeted unfairly, to listen to the transgender woman who just wants a safe place to use the restroom, to listen to the woman who was assaulted regardless of the surrounding circumstances.
I was angry that even proclaimed Christians would vote for this man because of Supreme Court justices and pulling political strings instead of because of the aforementioned citizens who are the very people that Jesus would CLEARLY, Biblically be spending his time loving and living life with day to day. I was angry that fear and hate are so powerful, and then I realized how much hate I was holding onto, too…which I will come back to momentarily.
I should have avoided Facebook this week, but like a masochist, I haven’t. I have a lot of friends whose anger mirrors my own in motive and ventilation. I have a lot of friends whose anger is targeted at the media for calling them uneducated for voting for Trump. I have a lot of friends whose anger is targeted towards me and others for being sad and angry and afraid at these results.
I see people posting accounts, many of them personal, of the hate crimes literally performed under the name of Trump* in the days following the election and directly underneath I see a post saying to “Get over the results” or “Rural white people have valid concerns, too” and it doesn’t make sense to me.
(* I recognize that crimes in the name of Trump are not facilitated by the president-elect, but whether it’s a relationship of causation or correlation, it is significant).
When you are mad in the wake of your candidate winning, or even mad at those who are responding to it negatively, that doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve been listening to try to understand. I’ve been reading your personal posts and the articles you share and I don’t get your anger. Are you trying to control our feelings? Or are you trying to defend your choice? Or is it that you are so determined to prove every account of hate crimes wrong that you feel it your duty to say something that either separates you from “those” Trump voters or from “those people” who are probably making it up because “liberal media”?
Why are YOU mad?
Tuesday night, somewhere around midnight or 1am, as I continued to wrestle with my emotions and to accept the results, I was feeling very lost. My anger was too seething to ignore as just a phase, it showed me how angry I’d been at Trump and his voters for a long time. As I often do in moments of internal, emotional chaos, I grabbed my phone and opened my Bible app. I opened a plan I’d been reading about creating margin/rest in life and the scripture was Matthew 26:36-46.
This is the night before Jesus’ capture and crucifixion, the night he took his disciples to the garden to pray: “He plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, ‘This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.'” And he proceeds to ask God to change the plan, but resolutely holds to follow through if that’s what God wants.
I felt the solidarity wash over me; the Jesus I know feels deeply and is crushed by injustice, too.
The verses go on, with Jesus returning to his people twice to see if they’re praying with him, but they just keep sleeping.
There are two reactions I’ve had to this, two realizations.
One is about MY anger. One is about YOURS.
The one who I believe was agonizing over the sacrifice he was about to make agonized because he knew how many would not accept it. Would ignore it. Would abuse others in His name or their own. This sacrifice that was intended to bring in a peace beyond understanding would so often be ignored, spat upon, and misused.
And while I could sit in that place, in the tortured moments of the garden, that’s not where Jesus stayed and so I won’t stay there, either. He went on to do it. To forgive everyone. Around 1am after the election, I was struck like a lightning bolt that regardless of what happened, I was being asked to forgive Trump and it hit as hard as when I knew I needed to forgive my sexual assaulter. This man has not asked for forgiveness for what he has done, belittled, stolen, promised, threatened, ignored, or abused. But forgiveness is so much more about what it can do for the one doing the forgiving, I know that because of the atrocities I’ve had to forgive (and thanks to this election, I’ve had to re-forgive and re-forgive again because those dark moments were so often brought rushing back thanks to “locker room talk”). In this election, I have recognized that Hillary, the candidate I proudly voted and rooted for, required forgiveness, too. And I was swift to provide it, due in part to her actual apologizing and owning of her actions. But I was always frustrated that the Right would not forgive her. In this moment, I saw that we all needed to forgive a lot more people than we’d probably realized.
This was when the real weeping started. I did not want to forgive Trump, not at all. I wanted to hold on to my hate, but in that passage I read I think you can see that forgiving is not the same thing as condoning. Forgiving does not take the place of righteous anger in the face of injustice. Forgiveness does not still the fight to right wrongs, in fact I think it purifies it and gives it focus. So in that moment I started what will probably be a daily forgiveness, but I’ve lived in this space before.
It took a few days of listening to realize what so disturbed me about the anger from the “winning side.” The very next day I was able to recognize, as I think many of you have, that you are right – my life doesn’t have to change that much at all from these results. I am white and middle class. I have a job with amazing benefits that I don’t have to pay for, and so does my husband. In fact, I have primary AND secondary insurance – for free. I’m a woman, so I do have that fear hovering, but it seems most of the public hate towards women these days is wrapped up in intersectionality – towards the women in jihabs, with darker skin, with different sexual identities. So to those saying “get over it,” I realize that I could choose to do so because of my privilege.
But I teach public school, in a district composed of that newly realized disparity between urban and rural students. The day after the election, before school had even started, I had to shut down a conversation between about 5 students in my classroom who were celebrating how the wall between us and “freaking Mexico” would finally be built. Keep in mind that they have classmates in that room who are Mexican. Who – likely unbeknownst to the 5 wall-builders – have parents who do not speak English. As I quieted down their hurtful though ignorant celebration, I asked each student in the room to recognize that they, too, were from immigrants unless they were Native American. Because my baby bump is of great interest to these students, and because my husband is part Mexican, I was grateful I had a personal place from where to show them who they were personally marginalizing while also reminding them that the junior high was full of students from Hispanic backgrounds, as well as other diverse backgrounds. It was sobering, and I wish I could say that was it. But I’ve had more and more students going to the counselor to report racial and sexual harassment this week than ever before. My job in the wake of this election is to show all students how to love and respect one another. To seek to understand before we seek to be understood.
To the people who say “get over it” or who even are defending the results, I want to say that the fear those you are talking to hold is real. Bad things are happening that were not before. Again – we can dispute causation and correlation but we cannot dispute the change that this entire election has brought. I don’t want to take away from you that rural life is changing, but I do want to ask you to ask yourself does that change involve violence? Are you really aware of what is happening in your nation as a whole? Do you really not understand why this result is unsettling for so many?
If you are defending the results and the rural/small town way of life, if you are defending the need for conservative (Republican) powers in place, and if you have faith – I want you to consider the same passage of scripture that convicted me – on the other side of the political fence. Because I think the message for you is different. As your fellow Christian, I am asking you to try to hear it. And to make it easier, I am going to share some lyrics from a song based on this passage for you:
All I ask is that you pray
All I ask is that you stay awake
But your dreams betray me
“Are you resting? Are you still asleep?
Wake Up, O Sleeper
Wake Up and say a prayer
Wake Up, O Sleeper
Are you my betrayer?
Wake up, O Sleeper
Wake up, O Sleeper
Are your dreams of conservative agendas consistent with why Jesus came? With how he lived? With who he values? With how he values and loves them? Are they?
And for those on either side or who are weary, another song. It won’t make everything okay. Everything is NOT okay. But it’s a bittersweet balm that vindicates our feelings and our circumstances.
Let’s all listen.