By Shabana Mir
Faith and ideological communities should expect a painful and polarizing four years. It will be like an endless Thanksgiving dinner with the racist auntie and the anti-Semitic cousins and the sexist grandpa. Communities will be torn apart, interrogating anew what keeps them together and asking if that glue is enough to keep them together.
Communities of faith and commitment will melt and re-form. The cultural values of social justice and rule of law will wrestle to the death with the growing forces of fascism. Souls will be lost and won. Hearts will be broken and rebuilt. Schisms will grow.
For the next four years, the dissension and polarization seen among Jewish Americans in response to the Trump presidency will characterize many other groups, faith communities, and ideological clusters. As Julie Zauzmer and Colby Itkowitz write in The Washington Post:
The differing responses to the Trump presidency have highlighted tensions among Jewish Americans, who find themselves faced with what is perhaps a no-win decision. On the one hand, they fear that if Jews complain too shrilly now, they could be shut out of the decision-making process in the White House for four years. On the other, they fear assenting quietly as the terrifying anti-Semitism of the alt-right bubbles up from the depths of the Internet all the way into the highest seat of power.
Buckle up, folks. All our communities will be divided and polarized, as some of us take stands that lock us out of the halls of power, freezing behind the picket-lines. Others will march past those picket lines to take their seats in the White House. They are needed there, they will say; they are fighting the good fight, they will say. If they are not there, someone worse will take up the spot.Many, of course, will stridently declaim – at dinner parties, not on Twitter – that the world is coming to an end but secretly hope to get some conciliatory call that calls upon them to “represent” their people and protect their interests with the new power brokers. As energies flag, some activists will linger by the White House kitchens, hoping for scraps.
There will be Muslims, some of them flashing their credentials to prove their anti-extremist work. There will be the Hindus for Trump, who associate Trump mainly with their own militant anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim ideologies. There will be evangelicals; White evangelicals voted in large numbers for a candidate who has no faith credentials to speak of, but they hope that his pro-White policies and his Islamophobic bile will mean they might ride his coattails to success. God uses bad people too, right?
There will be evangelicals who will become disillusioned with the mainstream politics of their communities. Katelyn Beaty writes that, since the election, “The grief has turned into a more complex emotion — something like soul abandonment. After an election in which 81 percent of my white coreligionists supported Trump, the faith that has been my home for 20 years seems foreign, even hostile.”
Will the traditionally big issues — Israel (for Jews); sexuality and abortion (for evangelicals and other conservative Christians); Pakistan and India (for many Hindus); and sexuality and the Middle East (for Muslims) – shift in importance? Will, for instance, greater numbers of Muslim Americans shift to form alliances with the LGBTQ community and Black Lives Matter?
I hope so. It remains to be seen what routes each of our communities will end up charting.
Shabana Mir is the author of Muslim American Women on Campus: Undergraduate Social Life and Identity, published by the University of North Carolina Press (2014). The book has received the Outstanding Book Award from the National Association for Ethnic Studies and the Critics’ Choice Award from the American Educational Studies Association (2014). She an Assistant Professor at American Islamic College.