Ok. Take a deep breath. (Perhaps this is more a reminder for myself than for you, the reader, but I encourage you to do so nonetheless). It has now been a week since Donald Trump was elected to become the next president of the United States and as the flood of immediate reactions has simmered down, I find that I am finally in a place to express a few thoughts that have been stewing in my mind over the past week – not just in response to the election, but even more importantly in response to people’s reactions.
Now, before I begin, let me just say that politics has never been my favorite topic. I always disliked how worked up I would get or how divisive it felt having to choose sides on issues when the options at hand rarely accounted for nuance and personal experience. And yet, somehow, I let myself get sucked in this time. I think I justified it at first by reminding myself that I needed to be informed and wanted to engage in social issues and that I had a responsibility to take my vote seriously, etc. And yes, those are all good things, but now that the election is over, I realized that despite my best efforts, I was unable to make it through this election season unscathed by the drama, the overgeneralized opinions and the continued polarization that has increased division in this country.
Accordingly, I didn’t want to rush to social media and post my immediate thoughts and reactions. I knew my heart was not in the right place. You see, my first inclination last week was to shut down, to isolate myself and hide in my own little world, to avoid any further talk of politics lest the bitterness and cynicism overwhelm me. But I also knew that this wouldn’t help or change anything and only prolong my need to face reality. So instead, this past week, I have tried my best to take in the reactions of those around me and slowly but surely, I too processed and composed some thoughts of my own.
And so, today, here I am, wanting to share some of the many thoughts and feelings that have run their course through my heart, soul and mind. Over the past week I have witnessed the reactions of those around me and read oh so many responses on social media. And, honestly, I doubt I have anything really new to say. Many have shared their open and honest opinions and feelings, expressing deep hurt, fear, anger, surprise, frustration and sadness. And others have sought to share words of comfort and hope, words attempting to express the tension we feel as a nation and words trying to guide us forward. I have heard and read all these things from people at varying points on the spectrum and I must be honest. I am tired. And I am torn.
I am tired of this election and all that has followed. Division in our country became glaringly evident in the days following the election and yet, the more I read, the more it seems people are turning their backs and running in opposite directions. I understand there are some very strong feelings and opinions on both sides, and while I applaud the attempts at dialogue, I have honestly felt that the flood of opinions being poured out on both sides is getting us nowhere. Remaining caught up in the heat of this election, people have relentlessly continued trying to justify their own stance and shove it down each other’s throat. This is not going to change anyone’s mind. And I am tired of such dead-end dialogue. I want to witness and enter into real conversations with people in real life and hope that I can step out of my own perspective long enough to try and see the world through another’s eyes. Let us stop throwing opinions out on social media in the name of dialogue when truly all we seek is to disprove the other person. Rather, let us genuinely seek to understand one another. If there are certain things that frustrate you or that you don’t understand about another person’s perspective, then my hope is that you will take time to lovingly ask questions. But let us not forget that our perspectives are shaped by our upbringing, our life experiences (or lack of), and our environment and communities (where we live and who we surround ourselves with). So be forewarned, bridging such a drastic divide in this country is not going to be quick, easy nor comfortable. In order to better understand one another, we must be prepared to go through some uncomfortable experiences together.
And again, I must acknowledge that this is not an easy task. And I admit that while I believe that bridging the gap is paramount, I must also recognize that this is not everyone’s calling. Perhaps that is why I am torn.
I am torn because I know that there are people who have been the victims of legitimately hateful speech and/or action and who are genuinely fearful for their livelihood, well-being or even their lives. I do not wish to gloss over such abuse. I am not trying to say that you need to reach out and initiate conversations with such aggressors who would not be receptive to any such dialogue. Rather, I want to be clear that if you do find yourself in a place where you need to distance yourself for your own physical, emotional or even spiritual well-being, then please do so.
However, for those who are not direct victims of such abuse, for those seeking to come alongside the margins and speak for solidarity and resistance against such hatred, let me say this: Please be careful that your words and actions are not tainted with bitterness and cynicism. Do not let your calls to love be diminished by an underlying heart of division.
You see, the thing I have wrestled with most this past week is that I feel like I have been asked to choose between resistance and peacemaking.
Yes I want to speak out against hatred and racism and sexism, but I also want to be careful not to throw those labels around as a blanket to cover up and distance myself from anyone who slightly disagrees with me. We have to find ways to resist with love. Scratch that. We need to let love be our resistance, in word, thought and action. When we state all the things we’re against, we allow ourselves to start placing people into all of those categories and we may even find ourselves saying mean and nasty things about others – all the while claiming we are the ones speaking out against hate.
With that being said, I want to confess and lament that this election season, I let myself make decisions based on who or what I was against rather than what I am for. I confess and lament that I put too much weight in the power of politics to accomplish what I thought was right.
All of that ends today.
Today I choose both resistance and peacemaking.
Today I let go of the hope I had placed in politics because I believe that the kingdom of God grows in resistance to empire not with empire.
Today I am reminded of a Jesus who brought together zealots and tax collectors and fishermen. So, for those who radically oppose and seek the overthrow of empire and for those who have given in and compromised with empire, and also for those who maybe couldn’t care less or don’t know the difference, Jesus calls us all to be in community together, to love one another.
May we let love be our resistance.