Wednesday, November 9, 2016

my heart is sick today...

My heart is sick today and my soul is tired, too:  like many Americans of my ilk - over-educated, middle class people of a progressive faith who share a commitment to social justice and bold acts of compassion - I genuinely believed that Hillary Rodham Clinton was going to eek out a victory and become our next President. Her policies continued the trajectory of Barack Obama, her temperament was open to advancing hope for our most vulnerable citizens, and becoming the first woman president of the United States was no small matter, too. That blessing, however, was not to be. Yes, Secretary Clinton narrowly won the majority of the popular vote - 59,834,486 votes to Mr. Trump's 59,618,316 - but a variety of factors conspired to award "the Donald" 279 electoral votes to Mrs. Clinton's 228.  

As is so often the case in these United States in the 21st century, the numbers carry the day. We are a nation addicted to the bottom line and clearly Mr. Trump was the numerical winner. Further, to paraphrase the medieval mystic of Germany, Meister Eckhart, "Reality is the will of God. It can always be better, but we must start with what is real." There is no point trying to change the outcome of this election in my heart with spin control. NY Times columnist, David Brooks, made this case last night on the PBS election TV program stating: "When our person wins, we are certain the people made the right choice and when our candidate loses, we insist the people were deluded and wrong." I suspect the American public theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, would concur given his 1934 Serenity Prayer: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."  Despite his whining and carping about a rigged system, Mr. Trump is now the legitimate President-Elect and nothing I can say will change that fact.

There are, however, a variety of equal truths beyond his numerical victory that warrant a word of consideration.  First, and for me at this moment most importantly, is the clash of visions for America that exist between those who celebrate Mr. Trump's victory and those who grieve it. In his blog post, "Here's Why We Grieve," John Pavlovitz put it better than most: 

We’re not angry that our candidate lost. We’re angry because our candidate’s losing means this country will be less safe, less kind, and less available to a huge segment of its population, and that’s just the truth. Those who have always felt vulnerable are now left more so. Those whose voices have been silenced will be further quieted. Those who always felt marginalized will be pushed further to the periphery. Those who feared they were seen as inferior now have confirmation in actual percentages.

Those things have essentially been campaign promises of Donald Trump, and so many of our fellow citizens have said this is what they want too.

This has never been about politics.
This is not about one candidate over the other.
It’s not about one’s ideas over another’s.
It is not blue vs. red.
It’s not her emails vs. his bad language.
It’s not her dishonesty vs. his indecency.

It’s about overt racism and hostility toward minorities.
It’s about religion being weaponized.
It’s about crassness and vulgarity and disregard for women.
It’s about a barricaded, militarized, bully nation.
It’s about an unapologetic, open-faced ugliness.

And it is not only that these things have been ratified by our nation that grieve us; all this hatred, fear, racism, bigotry, and intolerance—it’s knowing that these things have been amen-ed by our neighbors, our families, our friends, those we work with and worship alongside. That is the most horrific thing of all. We now know how close this is. It feels like living in enemy territory being here now, and there’s no way around that. We wake up today in a home we no longer recognize.

Our grief, fear and anger is just as real, valid and agonizing as that of America's white, working class who experienced a loss of jobs, privilege and opportunity over the past decade. And the rage and terror running through America's most socially vulnerable communities is no less important than the comparable emotions and experiences of those in Coal Country, USA or rural Maryland, Michigan or Wisconsin.  As Mrs. Clinton said in her elegant concession speech this morning: "We woke up to find that America is even more divided than we knew..."

Two other truths need to be mentioned.  First, so much for the sisterhood!  Fifty-three per cent of white women voted for Mr. Trump.  L.V. Anderson cut to the chase at Salon.Com when she wrote:

According to CNN, 53 percent of white female voters voted for Donald Trump. Fifty-three percent. More than half of white women voted for the man who bragged about committing sexual assault on tape, who said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, who has promised to undo legislation that has afforded health insurance to millions of uninsured Americans, whose parental leave plan is a joke, who has spent his campaign dehumanizing nonwhite people, who has spent 30-plus years in the public eye reducing women to their sexual attributes. More than half of white women looked at the first viable female candidate for the presidency, a wildly competent and overqualified career public servant, and said, “Trump that bitch.”

Of course, the biggest and saddest reason white women chose Trump over Clinton is simple: racism. Trump tried to pit straight white men against everyone else—women, people of color, people in the LGBTQ community, immigrants—and white women decided they didn’t want to vote on the side of “everyone else.” They wanted to vote on the side of white men. White women decided that defending their position of power as white people was more important than defending their reproductive rights, their sexual autonomy, their access to health care, family leave, and child care. White women bought into Trump’s lies about immigrant rapists and decided they’d rather have the respect of their angry white fathers, brothers, and husbands than the respect of literally everyone else in the world. The shocking results of the election prove that most white women don’t consider themselves part of the coalition of nonwhite, nonstraight, nonmale voters who were supposed to carry Clinton to a comfortable victory.

This is the truth Black Lives Matters has been proclaiming over and again for the past two years:  white privilege dies hard. Especially among those of us who refuse to acknowledge its poison and excuse it  by saying: "Some of us just aren't politically correct."  And lest you think I overstate the case: consider  that in Wisconsin alone 300,000 voters were turned away from the polls because the US Supreme Court dismantled protections put in place with the Voting Rights law. The result was Mr. Trump won by a mere 20,000 votes. (

Second, while our republic eventually survived the Civil War, we have NEVER had the likes of an unqualified demagogue like Mr. Trump in the office of the presidency with simultaneous control of both the Senate and the House. I believe that age offers a measure of perspective, and old timers like me know that the sun still comes up everyday, but even Tom Friedmann of the NY Times knows that we've never seen anything like this before - and it is terrifying.

I began election night writing a column that started with words from an immigrant, my friend Lesley Goldwasser, who came to America from Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Surveying our political scene a few years ago, Lesley remarked to me: “You Americans kick around your country like it’s a football. But it’s not a football. It’s a Fabergé egg. You can break it.” With Donald Trump now elected president, I have more fear than I’ve ever had in my 63 years that we could do just that — break our country, that we could become so irreparably divided that our national government will not function...As much as I knew that it was a possibility, the stark fact that a majority of Americans wanted radical, disruptive change so badly and simply did not care who the change agent was, what sort of role model he could be for our children, whether he really had any ability to execute on his plan — or even really had a plan to execute on — is profoundly disturbing. The Republican Party and Donald Trump will have control of all the levers of government, from the courts to the Congress to the White House. That is an awesome responsibility, and it is all going to be on them. Do they understand that?

Personally, I will not wish them ill. Too much is at stake for my country and my children. Unlike the Republican Party for the last eight years, I am not going to try to make my president fail. If he fails, we all fail. So yes, I will hope that a better man emerges than we saw in this campaign. But at the moment I am in anguish, frightened for my country and for our unity. And for the first time, I feel homeless in America.

One of my favorite new/old hymns, "Won't You Let Me Be Your Servant" contains the verse: 

I will weep when you are weeping, when you laugh I'll laugh with you
I will share your joys and sorrows till we've seen this journey through.

My vow this night - born of grief, love, resistance and solidarity - is that I will stand in every way possible - in public and in private, in prayer and in print - with ALL my LGBTQ sisters and brothers as we face the fear and madness of this new regime together. I will be an ally for my Muslim, refugee and women friends as well as all who struggle for justice and equality in our communities of color. As one wise salt reminded me today, it is ironic but telling that November 9th 1938 was Kristallnacht in Germany. Joy, hope and love will be severely tested in my beloved USA over the next four years - and probably longer, too.  So let us NEVER forget as we stand united in a non-violent army for love.

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