Joy in the Morning

The day after tomorrow, we may still not know who the president is. But perhaps we’ll have gotten over trying to change the minds and hearts of those who we feel are voting against us.

There are a couple of things wrong with that statement. 1-that we think we can change people’s minds and hearts, and 2-that we feel the folks in the other party are voting against us. Against us, personally. Those are the things wrong with that statement–but that is exactly where we are.

I care very much who wins this race. I’ve lost sleep over it. I will be at the polls first thing in the morning tomorrow, and I will be in a prayerful state all day long. I might have to start drinking early–and yet, i will stay up way too late watching coverage, knowing full well that the real outcome might be days away.

For all that, here’s what i really hope will happen on Wednesday.

I hope that a bunch of people will wake up and realize that their behavior of late has been appalling. I hope that facebook will be free of incendiary videos and articles from pretend news outlets; I hope that the trend of socially condoned name-calling will have cycled out; I hope that churches and families and communities will begin to knit themselves back together from the fracture caused by all this rhetoric. And i hope we will all be saying a prayer of contrition for the ways, small and large, we have contributed to the dehumanization of everyone who does not agree with us.

We are disillusioned by social media outlets…we think that they somehow give us the power to change the minds of all our contacts (and possibly, the world) while also granting us a mysterious sort of anonymity. Kind of like road rage…I mean, you will flip a person the bird and shout all sorts of obscenities from the comfort of your vehicle. Things that you would never say to the face of a person in line with you at the grocery store. Or living next door.

In the same way, many good, kind, sane people have developed a sort of sickness over the past few months. It allows them to say all sorts of things about this vague ‘other’ party/candidate/all who will vote for that candidate…hoping somehow to change the minds of all their-across-the-aisle friends. While somehow, AT THE SAME TIME, feeling like their words will in no way reach or hurt people they love.

I say that it’s a sickness, but it’s really more like they’ve been poisoned. It is a toxic sort of fear, rage, and dead certainty that manifests itself in belligerence. A delusion that we can somehow change other people, by being louder and more persistent; and that, at the same time, they cannot really be hurt by us.

I realize i’m going back and forth in my ‘voice’ here, from ‘we’ to ‘they.’ It is because, on the one hand, I am thinking of specific people and behaviors that have hurt me deeply, and levels to which i know I have not stooped. At the same time, I know that I have judged people in my heart; that i have tried to ease my own anxiety by fitting certain kinds of ‘others’ into a small box; and that I have taken my part, however large or small, in a new kind of segregated America.

WE have made characters in a tv drama more important than people we actually know and love. We have believed in imaginary futures in which any number of terrible/wonderful things happen, and we have broken relationships with people who don’t buy the same story.

Enough. Come tomorrow, I want my friends back, I want my country back, and I want my shallow consumer-driven commercials back on tv. Enough. We are tired.

Whoever wins, whatever comes, we’ll have to live with it, together. I’m hoping that the pod people who i once knew as compassionate and intelligent citizens will come back around. If they don’t, I pledge to give up trying to change them. I will try to look a little harder in the mirror, at the stuff in my own eye, and then just walk away. Nothing good can come of where we are now, whatever comes out of the booth tomorrow. I will also try and remember that those who vote differently than me are not voting against me, personally…however much it might feel that way at times. I am not so important as all that.

Here’s to moving forward with kindness, with compassion, with patience and at least a little bit of hope…that we can once again value our neighbor, and possibly even the stranger, over the politicians we will never meet, never work with, never live next door to, and never share a meal with. Here’s hoping that we can all live with the outcome, and start talking about what kind of conversation we want to have next time. Here’s hoping we can go back to feeling that we are all fully human, and a little bit divine, even if we do act like trolls on facebook sometimes. Here’s hoping that our efforts to change our neighbor have not made us utterly unable to change ourselves.

Here’s to hope that real transformation can still find a way within, between and among us, for all that we’ve done to stop it.

Here’s hoping.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

 

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About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...


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