Friday, November 11, 2016

My Shoulders Fall Like Teardrops

I know I have to get this out of me, but I don't know what's going to come out yet.

I think that most people who read this blog aren't excited about a President Trump, so I'm not sure that this is anything more than cathartic writing for me. I'm trying to explain to myself why I feel pain much more deeply than I expected to. I want to begin by saying that I voted third party in California (where there was no chance of Trump winning our electoral college votes), so my grief and stunned-ness is not because my candidate or my policies of choice didn't win. Please bare that in mind. 

Somewhere along the way in this life, I became more of an optimist than I can logically explain, and that part of me is in overdrive. I confront this new reality with silver linings in both fists, because without them, there is no....thing. No way forward. No hope. 

Yet, a lot of people who lost a lot more than I did in this election bounced back a lot more quickly than I have. So many people's response to being crushed and stunned has been, "more love." So quickly the sentiment of "we can do this, we can be better" poured out. I'm proud to be here, right now, surrounded by that, but it hasn't hit my own heart yet. Except for a slim, grim, feeling of willingness to at least consider opposing my own government if it allows or even commands the things that I fear it might. My response is certainly the less mature of the two, but I don't think it's invalid. 

I feel embarrassed about how stunned I feel. I want to slap myself in the face and growl "pull yourself together", but if for no other reason (and there are other reasons), it is appropriate to be brokenhearted in solidarity with people who don't have the luxury of not being *very* worried about our new president. I'm still grappling with the feel of that phrase, "our new President", in my mouth. I feel foolish. Like if I had just been smarter, I wouldn't have been blindsided. If I had just been shrewder, I wouldn't be so sad. If I hadn't been so hopeful, I wouldn't feel so helpless. I feel like I opened a door from a cozy room (my mind in a bubble) onto a precipice, where the winds are whipping and howling and lusting for blood.

Maya Angalou wrote, "my shoulders fall like tear drops" in her poem Still I Rise.
My mouth is full of cold sores and my neck and shoulders are like rocks. My kids are out of control because I've just been staring at my phone, periodically blinking at the ceiling, which is how I swallow tears. They know how to take advantage of my inability to be strong and present right now. So many wonderful people have proclaimed, "where walls are built, I will raise my children to tear them down". I'm trying to get there in my heart, because I believe in it, but I just can't yet. I don't feel fierce, I feel broken.

I do believe that God is in control. But I also believe bad and sad things happen and that it's okay to be sad, very sad, about them. Sometimes "God is in control" is used as a platitude to brush away real hurt, and it shouldn't be. The fact that God is in control does not mean that I have no fear. It means that I put one foot in front of the other in spite of that fear, keeping my eyes on him as best as I know how. Jesus himself begged his Father to spare him from the most painful experience of all, death on a cross and separation from God. I have yet to sweat blood over President Trump, but I know that Jesus does not scoff at my fears. 

Everyone should be sad today. This is not about politics for me. My fear of Trump's politics is merely the fear of the unknown. Given his wildly ranging record of policy statements, anything could happen, though I can't say I'm optimistic that the actual results will be excellent. He's been on both sides of most issues, including abortion, which I think some people chose to make the sole issue they voted on. What I fear is the sentiment and the trains of thought that have led us here. Even if you support Trump's policies, it's a sad day because he won on a platform of hatred, and that's not good for any of us. Those who feel empowered in their rightness today, could so easily have it turned on them tomorrow under the guidance of a man who refuses to condemn crimes committed in his name. There would have been things to mourn if Clinton were elected too, and I know many people who feel hugely relieved that she is not president (none of whom have cited her gender, for the record). I did not trust Hillary to tell the truth or make choices I'd personally agree with, but I'm confident that sexual assault and hate crimes within our own country would not have been condoned or ignored under her leadership. 

I am preparing myself to be brave in the face of policies and laws that conflict with my most basic sense of right and wrong. I brush a lot of things off as "the way things are", but I need to find out what the line is for me (would I allow a friend to be deported, or a family broken up? What will I do as a frail woman if I see a cross-dressed or scarved person being harmed?) and how far am I willing to go against a law that goes against God's law? I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that those questions may be in need of answer in the next few years, and I don't want to find myself unprepared to do the right thing or to know what the right thing is. I don't know whether my expectation of that possibility is blown out of proportion, but I can tell you that the concern is real and not simply a frantic, off-the-cuff one. It's NOT too dramatic to say that we're standing in the middle of history, and I want to be on the right side.

It's okay to be sad that the values you believe in got a punch to gut, no matter who you voted for, or whether that punch came for you in this election or a previous one. But this time IS different because there is more to mourn than policy. Obama wasn't always a gracious winner. He could have done much more to reach out across the aisle. He made a lot of people feel worried about our country too. But I believe he did what he thought was right and worked tirelessly to make the country a better place for many people. I do not have that faith in Trump.

This is not just politics, there are lives in the balance. Again, I know that "lives in the balance" was felt on both sides prior to the 2016 election outcome too, but I'm talking about physical life-and-death which has now become a concern for the "losers" in this election. I am mourning the fact that our leader, our elected leader, is setting a precedent of hatred, bigotry, divisiveness, and disrespect. Nothing seems sacred to him, nothing feels safe. Even for those of us who aren't immediately questioning their status in this country, validation of Trump's message feels like a huge step backward during a fragile time. So much violence has happened this year here, and I feel like it's begun to receive proper levels of outrage, protest, and I would hope, progress toward change. I fear that that progress will be erased. It feels like we've let a country that could be a safe haven slip through our fingers.

Why, oh why, did we see fit to focus on the empty promises of any politician instead of what was consistent and clear about them - their character? 

I respect the democratic process, but it is deeply disappointing to me today. I am less worried by Trump as president than I am by the fact that an unexpected number of my fellow Americans chose to put aside the cruel things he has said and promised to do, or failed to be remorseful for. I'm especially confused and disheartened by the apparent mass turn out of "white Evangelical Christians" for Trump. 

It's not for me to say whether someone is "a real Christian" or not based on anything they say or do. I've had at least one person say I couldn't be a Christian and vote the way I have in the past, and that's just not true. Still, I find myself crying, "why, sister, why?" to my fellow believers who helped Trump get to the White House. I want to understand, but I also don't want to understand. I don't want to understand what could possibly have been more important than standing up to all the things that our Lord has condemned (hating one another, in all its forms). Instead, I want to draw a line in the sand and scream, "how dare you." How dare you use the name of Jesus to marginalize and discriminate. How dare you put your political concerns ahead of the safety of others. How dare you look past this man's character. "How dare your 'strongly held religious beliefs' come before someone else's human rights". And even, how dare you choose "not to be political" when you could have stood up for the what is right, even if that meant a 3rd party. Quoting from several other sources (1, 2):
We white Christians have some explaining to do to convince our non-white brothers and sisters that our support for Trump was not support for his perceived racism, sexism or xenophobia.
The witness of the church is more important than any election, any public policy, any economic plan. And right now, many of our non-white brothers and sisters are deeply confused, and more than a little frightened. Do we really welcome them here? When 90% of black evangelicals opposed a candidate whom 80% of white evangelicals supported, can we really say the body of Christ is colorblind? 
I’m concerned for the witness of the gospel. We need to explain to our neighbors why our support for this man wasn’t a sign of our rejection of them. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we think we look like to the alien, the widow, the orphan, the outcast. It matters what they see when they look at us 
[By voting for Trump en masse, the Evangelical movement has] 1) surrendered any claims to the moral high ground in electoral politics2) abandoned public solidarity with groups who considered Mr. Trump an existential threat to them, 3) failed to escape its partisan bias in favor of more principled and biblical stands and 4) made its evangelistic mission more difficult with many it wants to reach
That is what I'm mourning and why I can't pick myself back up just yet. Again, I know I could approach this with more maturity, but right now I simply don't want to hold hands or rally with people who can't or won't see that they've betrayed something I held to be sacred. I'm trying to be fair and loving toward those I disagree with, but that doesn't mean I'm okay with the fact that this happened. I don't want to be part of further division, but I also don't want to be part of "us" with people who don't find it necessary to answer for this uniquely brutal vote. 

I woke up on day 2 and didn't want to move. I pulled the covers to my chin and realized it was going to be another day of still-sad. Still stunned. Still wanting to turn to rubber on the floor. People going on with their lives make me mad, despite that it's the mature (only) thing to do. Day 3 is less stunned, but not less sad. 

The longer I've sat in this funk, the more I've realized that I don't believe we will come back from this. And that's why I continue to grieve instead of bounce back. I don't think this sadness is because of Trump alone, and it goes deeper than my anger and despair at the ability of so many to excuse his behavior. Since the birth of our nation, which in itself was an act of division and subversion for some, things have been going down hill. There was never some Utopian America that we've since lost. I think America has been, is, and will continue to be great in some ways, but for every issue we make progress on, a new trouble falls in line behind. That isn't something we can eventually put behind us. Instead, it's simply the essence of human interaction. Simply put, none of us make it out of this world alive, no matter how good or bad our surroundings are. If we think we'll somehow fix everything someday, we will always be disappointed because there will always be another figurative president Trump. 

I realize this sounds incredibly cynical, but I don't think that inevitable doom means that we stop standing up to it. Against all logic, fighting a loosing battle makes me fight harder, not give in. What can we strive for other than our own personal best effort?

I don't drink often or much (it doesn't make me feel better, it just makes me sleepy), but drinking just feels like the cultural ritual for when things are hard. That's probably a horrible thing, but I find myself insulating myself with ritual when I'm reeling. Like "treat yo self", apocalypse edition. Butter, sad songs, Tetris, massages, booze on the rocks, group texts full of memes and emojis and expletives, time with my encouraging, funny, unified-even-in-difference church family, complicated recipes that are soothing to labor over. I realize that my escapes are a luxury, but/so I hold to them tightly and am thankful.

I'm thankful that in the midst of feeling incredibly sad and worried, I'm psychically safe. In the broad scope of things, I have a relatively small list of attributes that Trump has attacked. Only (ha) my gender and my free speech, that I can think of. "The worst to come" is speculation for most of us, and that speaks to just how fortunate we are. In one of these comings days, I'll be ready to hand over this heavy load on my back for the easy yolk of Jesus. Soon, I'll remember that we as the body of Christ are standing on a foundation of stone in the midst of this very real storm. One day, the lion will lay down with the lamb, and won't that be a beautiful thing to behold, even if we never see it on this earth? My current sorrow is that I may not see it on this earth. 

If you don't agree with me in my reasoning or attitude, but you're better at being loving than I am, then let's talk. I need you to hold me up. 

(Images: 1, 2, 3)

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