Sunday, November 13, 2016

It's the end of the world as we know it. And I'm horrified.

The past few days have been a shit storm.  I have so much I want to say, and rather than post endlessly on facebook, I thought I'd try to contain it all in one tidy blog post.  My goal is to speak to those who voted for Trump, and/or those who want to take the position of "what's the big deal?"  Maybe none of them will read this, but I have to try.  I think we're in a moment of time and space where we have to keep trying to help people understand.  There's a lot of really good posts out there already, and I don't know if I have anything new to add, but I still want to try. So here I go.

First, I want to respond to things I've seen repeatedly or have been said to me.

1) "Give him a chance."

We have no choice but to do this.  Trump won the electoral college.  He will take power.  We've given him chances for over a year to do the right thing - show himself to be a decent, rational human.  He has not done that.  And what is his first tweet?  A denunciation of the protests* like a whiny, spoiled brat.  "It's unfair."  IT'S THE CONSTITUTION.  It's our fundamental inalienable rights to free speech and assembly.  At least for now we have them.  I'm not interested in giving him more chances to take those away (which I do think are coming very rapidly - he is already blocking the media).

[*A note on the protests.  Let's ask: why now?  I don't believe there have ever been protests like this following an election.  Why this time?  Why this person?  It has something to do with the popular vote versus electoral college, perhaps.  But it also has to do with who this person is, and the things he has promised to do.  This is not about sore losers.  People have lost in every election and don't protest.  This is different.  This is borne out of genuine fear that less than half of those who cast votes have put a fascist dictator (as evidenced by his own words and promises) into power.  That is why people are protesting, and I'm all for it as long as they are peaceful.  I can never condone violence or vandalism and I know the protesters themselves are trying to clamp down on this.  But trust me, there is much more of this to come.  Too many of us are not willing to let this country quietly go the way of Germany in the 1930s.]

2) "He won.  Just move on."

He won the electoral college, but not the popular vote.  More people don't want him than do.  But yes, he is now president-elect.  I get that.  Claiming he won, like George W. Bush before him, is just not entirely true.  In a direct democracy (which maybe we'll finally get now) he would be heading off on the 6 month vacation he vowed to take if he lost.

'Just move on' is the worst.  This is the epitome of privilege.  So many people's lives will be decimated by this power shift.  People who say 'just move on' believe there is something to move on to.  For many people in this country, now there is not.  What do we have to look forward to?  A loss of medical insurance?  The degradation of the planet?  An exponential rise in hate crimes (already happening)?  End to marriage equality?  An end to freedom of the press?  Mass deportation?  He has promised all of this and it's right there in his 100 days plan.  No, we will not move on to that.  There is no hope in any of that.  Maybe you don't care about all of this, but many of us (nearly 61 million, more than a half million - and counting - more than those who voted for him) do.

3) "We have to respect him.  He's the president."

This year is different.  I wish so badly this was Mitt Romney or John McCain that just got elected.  I disagree with most of their policies.  But they are decent people.  They don't spread vile rhetoric and hate speech or incite their followers to violence.  They are respectable people.  Trump is not a respectable person.  He is a bully, a misogynist, a racist.  He is morally bankrupt.  I respect the office of the president.  I do not respect him.

To be clear: my baptismal vows call me to respect the dignity of every human being.  Trump is a child of God.  He has a right to exist and live his life, and be treated as such.  I stand up for that as I would for any other person.  But we are also called to not participate in perpetuating evil systems, and his words (and potential policies) will do that.  So we have to denounce them, and to the extent that he embodies them, good people - Christians - have to oppose him.

Also, I have seen people arguing that God can use deeply sinful people, and then citing Abraham, Moses, David, etc.  Absolutely.  God can use anyone God wants to.  All of those biblical figures, while sinners, also were FAITHFUL people.  They listened to God.  They repented.  Thus far, I don't see much in DT's actions to indicate a similar faith commitment on his part.  Maybe I'm wrong, I pray I am.  But we should be careful not to believe that just because a person ascends to power that that means God wants him there.  Plenty of leaders have believed themselves to be God and have done terrible, inhumane things as a result.  Part of the beauty of our governmental system is that we are supposed to have curtailed power in each branch of government so that a despotic leader can be controlled.  We shall see how this goes, but I don't feel super hopeful right now.

4) "Not everyone who voted for him is racist or sexist."

This is hard for me.  I have family and friends who voted for him.  I wish I didn't know that for a fact, but I do.  I get that people may be looking at a single issue (or several) that compelled them to vote for him.  Does that automatically make them racist/sexist/xenophobic?  When it comes to issues of power, we have to take the totality into account.  People who voted for him due to economics, or to 'drain the swamp,' or abortion also bring about all of the other outcomes: loss of healthcare, deportations, rise in hate crimes, rise in sexual harassment/assault, etc.  Those outcomes harm and kill people.  Real people.  Maybe that wasn't your intention.  But that's the result.  And the lack of denunciation of these crimes from Trump and his ilk is further proof and validation that they are either not bothered by it or, worse, support it.  Which further inscribes the truth of the racism (and all other -isms) of our society.

I've spent the days since the election professionally and personally sitting with terrified people.  People who are not ok and likely will not be ok.  People who now have to rush to get prescriptions filled and medical things attended to before the ACA is repealed (yes, they can do that and will).  People who no longer know if they can finish their studies here either because immigration will forcibly remove them or because the anti-immigrant hate is so strong that it will no longer be safe for them to be here.

[I went over to the protest on campus at the MU Thursday, briefly.  When the students started chanting, "Say it loud, say it clear: immigrants are welcome here!" I started to cry.  My great grandparents were immigrants.  Unless you are of Native American descent, you or your ancestors were also immigrants.  I can't believe this has to be stated!  In America.  And yet, this is where we are.]

This is a collective moral failure: that racism/sexism, etc. continues so strongly in our country.  That it is so strong that Trump could say the things he has said and still be elected.  Is each individual racist?  No.  However, each individual prioritized whatever their "issue" was over all of this - over the lives and safety of real people.  And they did so because in America it was 'ok' to do so.  That's problematic.  I get that saying this is uncomfortable to hear.  A family member unfriended me for saying it.  That's deeply painful to me.  But if we are truly going to "move on" then this has to change, and it won't if we continue to refuse to name it and call it out as unacceptable.

5) "We need to be united now."

I want peace.  I want compromise.  I want to work with people who have very different views than I do to solve the many and various problems we face.  I have faith in our system of government of checks and balances. Like Socrates in the Phaedo, I have chosen to live here, and so that means I must agree with the laws of the land.  If I don't agree with them then I should live elsewhere (this presupposes we have the ability to do that, but that's another post).  By staying, we accept these laws and this government.  I believe in America and our form of government, even if I'm critical of it (and it's been designed to handle such disagreement!) at times.  However, now a fascist proto-dictator has ascended with no checks and balances.  Republicans control both the House and Senate.  His agenda will likely easily pass, and yes, he does have some power to do some of it on his own (hasn't that been a primary complaint against President Obama from conservatives?).  He has unprecedented power, a deep lack of knowledge as to how to govern, and so the call to be united walks a fine line between compromise and complying with this regime.  Many of us cannot comply with fascism, even though refusing to do that comes with great risk.  It's devastating because we need compromise so badly right now, but since that entails give and take, I just don't see that happening.  Congress has blocked and impeded the government's progress in order to avoid compromising with President Obama.  So while voters claim this was a vote to 'drain the swamp,' they kept many of the same politicians in office, and DT seems to be turning to the usual Washington insiders to run things in his administration.

I love dialogue.  This was part of what drew me to philosophy - I want to be able to exchange and nurture ideas, gaining wisdom and knowledge in the process.  I try to read websites and editorials from people with whom's political positions I disagree.  I listen to radio talk shows from time to time that are dominated by views and perspectives I don't share.  I do this partly to "hear the other side," so I know what they're saying and thinking and can then respond.  But I also do it so that I can be challenged in my own thought processes.  Can I defend my ideals and values?  Can we work together for better solutions that would enhance people's quality of life and end suffering?

And yet now, I must admit, there's a major impulse in me to want to separate from those who have helped elevate this man to the most powerful position in the world.  Having spent so much time with people who are deeply hurt and scared by this outcome, recognizing that my fear for them doesn't even scratch the surface of what they feel because as a cis-hetero-white woman, I am unlikely to be targeted too viciously (although sexual harassment and assault is absolutely on the rise now thanks to the Pussy-grabber-in-chief, and while rape culture is already the norm, it is certainly now worse than before), and I won't be deported or harassed with racial slurs or accusations of being a terrorist.  So if I am emotionally spent and scared, I can imagine how much deeper it is for people who are easier targets.  It's hard for me to dig up understanding for Trump supporters in this aftermath, but I do want to keep trying.  Some are now finally seeing what they have done and expressing remorse/regret.  That's a step in the right direction.  Too many are doubling down with these horrific platitudes I've unpacked in this blog.  Still more are silent.

The New York Times has called on Trump to denounce the hate-crimes and tell his supporters to stop this.  If you voted for him but "don't hate anyone" then speak out!  Hold him and those in your community accountable for this behavior.  It will not just go away.  It's like a monster has been unleashed, and so it has to be called out, and eradicated.  All of us, regardless of how we voted, can and must be part of that.

What now?

Ok so I think it's time for prayer and action.  This is still America and for now, we still have certain rights to use to affect change.  I want to commit to a couple of things:

1) Continue to speak out.  People may not like what I have to say.  Good people cannot be silent anymore.  I may lose relationships over this choice.  I will grieve for that.  On the other hand, I will dialogue with anyone who wants to (dialogue is an attempt to reach mutual understanding, arguing is to make ourselves right - I'm interested in the former, not the latter).  I have a glimmer of hope that as this unfolds people will want to join forces to change this society from the ground up.  Hearts and minds can change.  I will pray for and work toward that end.

2) Find ways to make it known that I will not be complicit in harming people.  Wearing a safety pin is one way, perhaps.  I'm pondering potentially wearing my clergy collar in public a lot more.  I'm well aware that it doesn't carry the same weight as a man in a collar, but it might enable me to intervene and be present for people in ways that if I was in regular clothes, I wouldn't be able to.

3) When I see something I will say something.  This takes a lot of courage and risk on our parts, but as Aristotle has said, doing the right thing is almost never easy.  If it was, we would all always do it.

4) Furthermore, I will support organizations that will be most needed and most attacked in the coming era.  Whenever Republicans are in control, human needs spike because funding for services and resources get cut.  A non-profit colleague told me long ago that in those times, we just batten down the hatches and wait those terms out.  But this is different.  Funds will certainly dry up which will make needs much greater, but the threat to so many other aspects of our lives: health care, freedom of speech, education, etc, are now also on the line, so I need to be willing to help fund organizations that are equipped to do this work.  I was included in an email chain a few weeks ago among Trump supporters.  Instead of responding in anger, I made a donation to Hillary's campaign for each email received.  I think I'll make some more donations for those emails, and facebook posts, etc., this time to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.  That this is happening can leave us feeling helpless, but there are definitely things we can do, and using our funds in this way is one of them.

5) I'll continue to love.  To love God and love my neighbors (all of you) as myself.  That means loving the vulnerable and oppressed, and also loving my - and their - enemies and praying for those who are doing terrible things right now.  I will pray fervently for our elected officials and all in government, that they may seek justice in all they say and do for all people.

And hopefully I can post on here from time to time.  I think we all need to be brushing up on our Bonhoeffer and MLK, and those who are in positions of privilege (who can 'move on') need to listen and listen some more.  If we see something, we have to say something.  We knew major healing would be necessary after this election.  Maybe healing is not possible yet, but we do need to face the 'what now?' question.  Let's do that together, regardless of who you supported.

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