I watched in varying levels of shock and disbelief this last year as the campaign and then the election unfolded and rocked our nation. This week I’ve witnessed every single possible emotion, magnified and palpable, play out in excruciating slow motion on social media, among my family, among my friends, in my place of work, and in my own heart. Grief. Fear. Anger. Disbelief. Panic. Jubilation. Rage. Hope. Despair. Frustration. Pride. Hurt. Hatred. Defensiveness. Righteousness. Relief. Judgement. It’s all there, a cacophony so loud it hurts my ears, my heart and my soul. It is the first time in my life that my blood has run cold and I am fearful of the wave of intolerance and hatred that is gaining momentum in my country.
It’s always present, let’s not kid ourselves. We chalk it up to “those haters” and we choose to either stand against it or ignore it and some of us are blessed to be able to be less affected by it. This election just shone a spotlight on it. But I found myself startled this week out of my own despair and surveillance of the emotional devastation around me, by a simple post on social media. It showed the mostly red map of our country election results and read, “Trump has better coverage than Verizon. Can you hear us now?”
It made me wonder what I’d missed. While I am busy feeling terror about my daughters’ future and decades of work on behalf of women and minorities being undone, while I’m feeling offended by sanctioning of abuse that smacks of social cleansing, while I am quietly feeling hateful towards those who voted against values I believe are the difference between life and death and then gloated about it… What am I missing?
I’m having trouble witnessing all the hate happening right now in our country, neighborhoods and families and reconciling that with my belief that all people are inherently good. The only other option I have is to believe that people behave that way when they are scared. So what am I missing, that while I valiantly “fight the good fight” there is an entire part of the country whose unmet needs are so great that hate seems to be the only option and I just assume they are mean or ignorant; that people who supposedly hold the same political and human values that I do don’t trust the system we have in place to get us there and sanctioned hate to get a new system; that fully half of the country believed so little in any of it that they opted to stay home on voting day in spite of the proverbial handwriting on the wall? What am I missing?
If I hold to my own need to believe that people are inherently good and love wins, if I read Psalm 133 and take away from it that we dwell together in unity under God’s love, that the love shared from God through us is a grace of God working in us, and that in the act of giving away the love we receive we are blessed eternally with love, if I believe in the “open and affirming” claims I make out loud in my life and with my church… it tells me everything I need to know what to do next. It leaves me with both a need and a responsibility to fully explore and understand the answers to the questions: Where do I find love, comfort, unity and support, especially during times of despair? How do I recognize others’ need for love, comfort, unity and support when it looks different from mine, especially in times of despair? How do I share the love I am gifted and entrusted with in a way that can be received by all of those who need it most?