As I write this, it has been 12 days since the results of the election were announced and it is the Trans* day of remembrance. This morning I rang the bell 23 times for the lives lost to anti-trans* violence in the US. This morning I was with a congregation hungry for hope for the future. I could not give them any easy answers.
Horror, Disbelief, Despair, Terror and Rage
I find myself in horror, disbelief, despair, terror and rage while I seek the way forward. We are still caught in stories that feed our fear and anger. Throughout the year I watched as the stories were built. A narrative about candidate Clinton, A narrative about the Republican candidate. None of the, at least four, stories cleaved close to the truth that I need. Like the myths told by religious zealots, the stories served a purpose unrelated to serving the people. Many voters were distracted from information they needed. They missed the racist, misogynous, bullying, able-ist, hateful language and voted for other reasons…but that’s just the thing. I saw the hate. Now, I can’t un-see it.
It is my hope that more people wake to the reality of the damage and wake to the way it is indeed all our business. I need my siblings to survive. My siblings of color, my disabled siblings, my poor siblings, my LGB and T siblings all are needed for the days ahead.
And they are dying. Rational people with the clarity to recognize the social dynamics fear for their lives.
72% of Americans did NOT vote for the candidate who practiced and endorsed bullying. But that leaves 28% who perhaps want to tear apart immigrant families (by deportation), want to drive out all who do not meet their religious criteria or who prioritized something else over peoples’ lives. You 28%? We will need to talk. I agree that the 1% is concentrating wealth at our expense and that our federal government isn’t working for us. I don’t agree with this strategy to fix that!
And, of course, many did not vote at all.
We are so divided! 42% did not vote. Candidate Clinton received 48% of the vote, the Republican candidate received 46.7%.
So… the ¼ of Americans who DID vote against bullying and the roll-back of American freedoms… my friends, you who voted for for the strength of an immigrant nation and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… let’s reach out to those who did not vote.
We need to galvanize everyone to resist the destruction of our American dream. AND… There are many among the other ¼ who are reachable.
I’ve been checking the internet, hoping someone has found a way forward. Some suggest the strategy of street protests. Others suggest calling members of congress to influence the president-elect’s cabinet. Some focus on the next election in two years. There are many down-ballot options, from correcting gerrymandering to small community initiatives. Some hope to abolish the electoral college and some are imagining that the popular vote will prevail through some miracle of recount or electoral moral courage.
I do not know my neighbors, and they don’t know me
Many of these things are possible. All will fail unless we can shift the divide in our country.
The deepest sense of horror I’ve been feeling is the sense that I do not know my neighbors, and they don’t know me. We don’t know enough about each other to think about how our vote will help or harm someone else.
42% don’t care enough to sign up and fill out a ballot. 25% either actively wish that people like me did not exist or care more about other things than our life and liberty. I did not realize I lived in such an inimical environment. Here is where my siblings of color, family with disabilities, and friends who are marginalized, have much to teach me. They’ve known that they live in a hostile world. They experience every day the system of oppression that led poet Audre Lorde to say “we were never meant to survive.” Truly, we cannot survive without one another.
But in this divided and inimical world they have been working to change the world anyway. To create community anyway. To connect, and change minds and hearts and laws and culture anyway.
All the ways forward require that we work, together, to change the world. All the ways forward require that we hold back the forces of destruction while also building the new way. All the ways forward require that we do not sink into helplessness, because the truth is, we are powerless. We are powerless alone, and it is only together that we become powerful. When I was coming out in the women’s and Lesbian movement I heard the phrase “an army of lovers cannot fail.” How about we update that! A peaceful army of queer, trans*, brown, black, religiously different, immigrant, poor, disabled, indigenous, and historically marginalized people will not fail!
Yes, it is true that we will experience, and need to grapple with, emotions like horror, disbelief, despair, terror and rage. We will need to, as the Banksy meme says “when we are tired, rest…” We need to nurture ourselves, and turn to spiritual practices that refresh and renew our souls. If you do not currently have a spiritual director, now could be the time to make that phone call. (Look on web page: UUSDN.NET to connect for Spiritual Accompaniment.)
Remember to Breathe
For those who have been out there, fighting with all your heart and soul. Remember to breathe in as often as you breathe out and to sleep, eat, and engage in nourishing ritual.
For those of us who have been complacent or distracted or overwhelmed. For those of us insulated by privilege which allowed us to ignore the danger signs, it is time to, as Marge Piercy says, “be of use”, and “”do what has to be done.”
A scientist recently discovered something that is intuitively true… When correcting someone’s bullying or prejudiced behavior it is helpful to be someone they can relate to and someone they perceive as having power. That means that if we have privilege, we have a super-power.
So, I have a clear sense of calling. And this calling is not mine alone. The progressive and liberal faith traditions are full of people who have been called to do our part. It is time for us to be faithful to our principles. To be faithful to our ideals. To be faithful to the America that can be. To be faithful to the gifts we have been given. Let us be faithful to the work that must be done.