My wits turned November 8, and I have been gathering them since.
A few days before the election, I started to suspect that I had been dismissive of Mr. Trump’s supporters: snide, sarcastic, condescending. And it suddenly occurred to me that Mr. Trump’s supporters were not all just fools: it hit me they were Americans with a legitimate grievance. I was just coming around to repent of my superciliousness when the election results came in, and completely astounded me.
Two stunning but separate things happened in the United States on November 8:
- A huge swathe of disenfranchised America asserted itself and insisted upon recognition and respect. I repent of my condescension and my scornful attitude. I dismissed anyone different from myself as simply stuck in the past, afraid of inevitable changes, afraid of an unfamiliar future, too shallow, ignorant and fearful to grasp the great and sweeping changes happeing world-wide. I repent of my narrow view and insulting demeanor. Apparently the United States has been chugging along at a pace uncomfortable for (almost) a majority of its citizens. Apparently there is a vast collection of Americans too frustrated with their situation to continue down a progressive path. I am a progressive if not a liberal, and I would prefer Mrs. Clinton had won the presidency, but I respect that the United States as a whole took a turn to the right. Whether I think this is a good thing or not is somewhat beside my point. I am an American first, then a social progressive. (The fact that I am also a Christian informs but does not define my political posture.) So I commit to listen more closely, speak more respectfully, and work and wait more patiently for the future for which I hope. And the other stunning thing that happened November 8:
- We elected Donald Trump president. I can barely wrap my head around it, still. It is a good thing I was still speechless when President Obama made his remarks on Wednesday morning November 9. The words that caught me up were these: “It is in everyone’s interest that Mr Trump have a successful presidency.” Wow. I cannot go out into the street and chant “Not my president!”, because he simply is. I can’t cry for his ouster — not yet — because that’s not what we do. What I can do is replace my Republican senator with a Democrat, and keep in touch with her and her Democratic colleague, and our Democratic representative in the House. I am concerned that some of Trump’s ideas, if implemented, will be harmful to the United States and to the world at large, so I will urge them to wield what influence they have to mitigate the damage. If something really super-crazy comes up, my wife and I may have to travel to Washington and lay down on the Mall. But until then, we have covenanted with each other to refrain from mocking and excoriating the President. (We fail several times a day.) We have covenanted to counter his general tenor of spite, hate and smallness with open-hearted generosity, kindness and welcome — extended especially to those with whom I disagree.
For me personally I have to keep the issue of a Trump presidency (from which I recoil but for which I hope the very best) separate from the issue of the tens of millions of Americans who support him (with whom I disagree but with whom I live). I’m pretty nervous about how things will go under a Trump presidency, but I must resist the inclination to simply blame everyone who voted for him. That is no path forward toward a more inclusive and unified nation.
God have mercy on America.