Post Election Reflection: Not Going Back

Ours is a divided nation.   The rhetoric of this election has highlighted and inflamed the differences within groups and regions and sometimes even within families. We wonder whether we can be restored as a nation.  

We think of the vision celebrated in our Pledge of Allegiance ‘one Nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all’. We are aware that many feel justice is denied them and many feel left behind. An underlying sense of fear and even hopelessness permeate our psyche as a people.

My concern is that our divisions not be glossed over simply in the name of unity.  Rather I hope that we may come to understand the causes of our division…and perhaps in our understanding, we may begin the essential work of addressing what separates us.  Only then can we form what Abraham Lincoln called ‘a more perfect Union’.

A big part of our work is acknowledging the pain caused by harsh words and thoughtless rhetoric during this long election process.   For Mr. Trump to be successful in his presidency (which for the sake of the nation I hope he is) he needs to take the lead in stepping away from the harmful rhetoric that helped him get elected.

Women and girls have been exposed to his misogynistic language.  People of color feel marginalized.  Immigrants, legal and undocumented feel vulnerable and exposed.  If Mr. Trump wishes to truly be a president for all the people he needs to apologize for the words he used and offer safeguards to those who feel marginalized.

Whether he has the capacity or desire to bring people together is an open question. For the sake of our country I hope and pray he does.

I say this in particular out of concern and love for the generation of my children.  The millennials  will soon surpass in size my generation, the boomers.  Millennials have already begun to take on the mantle of leadership and by the next election will be the largest voting block.

Millennials were raised believing in racial justice and full inclusion of LGBTQ neighbors.  They believe too in full rights for women even as they confront the persistent reality of misogyny in our nation and world.

What gives me hope is knowing that the millennial generation will not go back. They will not accept the ‘locker room talk’ of a man who is now our president-elect.   Nor will they allow voter suppression by race to stand. Nor will they allow a government to control their reproductive rights.

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Nor will they stand idly by while immigrant neighbors, legal and undocumented, live in fear.  Last night in a 60 Minutes interview Mr. Trump said he will move to forcibly remove or incarcerate up to 3 million undocumented immigrants who have a police record http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/60-minutes-interview-president-elect-donald-trump/ar-AAkfQd7?OCID=ansmsnnews11.

I wonder who will be picked up in this massive dragnet in addition to the ‘violent criminals’ that Mr. Trump speaks of?  Will this include people with parking tickets or other misdemeanors?

The reality is that families will be torn apart.  As people of faith will we take to heart these words in Leviticus 19:34?

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

To a large degree our young people have been awakened.  A question to my generation and to people of faith…have we been awakened too?

I will stand up for the hopes of my children. To demand that we become ‘ a more perfect union’.  If need be I will turn to the non-violent example of Dr. King and work to hold our elected officials accountable in our shared pursuit of ‘liberty and justice for all’.

Mr. Trump will have a successful presidency to the extent  he understands that he has bridges not walls to build.  Bridges between generations, regions and cultural groups that make up this great nation.

 

Antidote to Election Bitterness

This has been a bitter, nasty political season.  The level of vitriol which transcends political party has created fissures among groups and within families.

Whichever political party wins the presidential and congressional election we will all have  work to do.  It will take work to live into the promise of our Pledge of Allegiance…‘one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’.

How do we mend the divisions that threaten to pull us even further apart? How do we live into the values that guide us?

To begin we must understand the deep-seated fear and despair that many in our nation are feeling. We need to understand what brought about this alienation and offer practical and effective solutions.

People need to have hope.  In the absence of hope the gulf that separates us will only deepen and grow.  This is the long-term challenge for those we elect and for all citizens.

At the risk of appearing simplistic, I offer two steps that I think are essential in restoring us to unity as a people. 1) Listen.  Find people who voted differently than you and simply ask them ‘why’.  Don’t argue. Listen to understand why they feel the way they do.  Listen to their fears.  Listen to their hopes.

Understanding one another’s fears and hopes are essential first steps to finding solutions.  Listening to understand is a profound expression of respect. We may not readily agree on solutions but when we feel heard we are already on our way to finding common ground.

2) Offer kindness.  This political season has made us more coarse as a society.  We’ve talked at and past one another.  How can we respond?  With kindness.  https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas

Starting with election day intentionally offer a ‘random act of kindness’.  Offer an act of kindness at least once a day for one week.  Who knows, it may become a life-giving habit.

In line for coffee?  Buy a cup for the person behind you.  At an intersection?  Flash your lights and let someone else make their turn.  Passing someone on the sidewalk?  Say ‘hello’.   See someone looking tired and stressed?  Offer a silent prayer of blessing.

Have a neighbor or family member who you’ve been avoiding because of politics?  Offer a gift of kindness.

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Not only will the act of kindness bless someone else, it will also begin to soften your heart too.  The path to reconciliation ain’t rocket science. Listening and offering acts of kindness can go a long way in bringing us back together as ‘one people’.

Come Wednesday morning nearly half of us will be pissed off or despondent.

Win or lose we each can choose how we will respond.  We can choose to listen and be kind.  In such simple acts we will find our way as a nation.