Failures of Love

Failures of Love November 9, 2016

Last night, in the angst of the election returns, as I watched it become increasingly clear that Trump was going to win Florida and, especially, Wisconsin, I blasted out on Twitter and Facebook:

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It struck a nerve. My Twitter friends seemed to like it. But… um… I got a little “pushback” on Facebook. Someone suggested I would regret the post.

I don’t. But that’s only half the story.

Trump and the Failure of Love

Donald Trump’s victory is a massive failure of love.

Let me clarify: I am not saying that everyone (or even most of the people) who voted for Trump are racist, misogynists, Islamophobic, or xenophobes. However, Trump made it clear that he is all of these things.

Donald Trump’s world, and the one he wants to create, is one in which women are not safe, where foreigners are in danger of being herded into concentration camps, where adherence to Islam is a cause for discrimination. It is a world where an honest day’s work leaves you a day poorer.

Yesterday as I was listening to the breakdown of the voting trends the thing that kept astonishing everyone was that Trump had defied the common logic that in order to win he had to appeal to someone other than white voters. He didn’t extend his appeal, and he found a deeper well to draw from than anyone thought possible.

When I say that white America is incapable of loving our neighbors as ourselves, these are the phenomena I’m commenting on: white America had so much of its own agenda in view that the human-despising comments Trump has made about Latino immigrants, his serial sexual assault on women, the fact that he boasts about the latter, his anti-Islamic policies that stand at variance with our Constitution—none of this kept us from electing Trump to office.

America is not a batch of racist, misogynistic, classist, xenophobic, anti-Islamacists. But we were willing to hand over our country to such a one.

This is the failure of love that I’m talking about: when we cannot expand the circle of our moral obligation to include people unlike ourselves. The true, deep, and well-founded fears of the women, people of color, and immigrants who are waking up all over American this morning are testimony to this failure.

Clinton: the Prior Failure

White America, especially white rust-belt America might be forgiven for thinking that they had to look out for themselves. Because nobody else was going to do it.

Not only was nobody going to do anything about it, the prior question is was anybody evening listening? And the answer seems to be no.

For nearly six years America has been experiencing steady job growth, to the point where we are at the lowest unemployment rates since the Great Recession. But those jobs aren’t coming to small town America. And various factors have been colluding to destroy the possibility of making a good life by running a family farm. 404704_393339350738961_1449127209_n

When you can’t work, can’t feed your family, have no hope for offering them a better future than the one you stumbled into, this is one of the most demoralizing and dehumanizing experiences you can face.

And the establishment wasn’t listening. Clinton wasn’t listening. Yuppie liberal urban elites weren’t listening.

Hillary didn’t even visit Wisconsin, from what I hear, and her last trip to Pennsylvania, at least, was a rally in Philadelphia. In the city. In the hub of the urban liberals.

Failure to listen is the first failure of love.

If small-town and rural white America failed to expand its moral circle beyond itself, so too did the sophisticated urban crowd as it benefitted from economic grains and its daily fields of nearly limitless opportunities.

Loving Forward

I can’t believe that this happened. I really can’t. And I think that gives me a small glimpse into just how divided and isolated we really are. Yesterday, before returns came in, I literally saw hundreds of FB updates from folks voting for Hillary. Not a one from a Trump supporter.

We are supposed to live in a world of infinite connection, and yet we have still managed to find ourselves siloed in tribes of people like ourselves. We have created echo chambers.

We have created spaces in which it is impossible to hear. Which makes it impossible to listen. Which makes it impossible to love.

We have failed each other. We have failed each other in our inability to expand our moral circle beyond the neighbors we can see with our eyes. We have failed each other in regarding with disdain or ignoring the people unlike us who cannot simply make a better future for themselves.

We have failed each other in not having each other’s backs. We have failed in not demanding protection for people who cannot lay hold of it on their own.

The inverse in our hope. We have to love our way forward.

To make up for the failure of love that put Trump in office, we have to stand together against sexism, racism, and religious discrimination of the kind that Trump has modeled and promised to put into policy.

To make up for the failure of love that put Trump in office, we have to imagine an economy that not only propels us into the technological future but also sustains the working-class white people as much as the working-class African Americans or Latinos.

Years ago I said that every vote we might cast requires forgiveness. Because America is not the kingdom of God. My vote for Hillary requires forgiveness as much as anyone’s vote for Trump. But forgiveness is not enough.

We have to become a people of love in the places where we have been too blind to see, too deaf to hear.

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