Yes, I too cast my vote for four more years of stability, of moving certain good policies forward step by incremental step while tabling other concerns as too complicated, too intractable, too much a part of the fabric of who we are to really engage with right now. I voted for the status quo. I voted for Clinton. But that’s not who we got (or so, at least, it seems, though I know some out there are working to overturn this outcome at the electoral college and other levels).
We got Trump. I didn’t want Trump – I REALLY didn’t want Trump – but we got ‘im.
And it feels to me like we’re now in a new era. The Trump era. The era in which Trump has been elected president. Maybe it will be over before the inauguration in 2017. Maybe it will go for eight years. We don’t know. All we know is that we are in it now.
In this now, in this present moment, which is the only moment there ever is, a large enough number of Americans have come together to successfully elect Trump as president to be.
And I’m like,
This is where we are.
And I’m drawing on my faith, and my education (I have a PhD in American Studies, though I’ve chosen to live outside of academia), and the power of creative vision to try and discern –
What to do NOW?
Now that here is where we are?
And my answer is the same as James Baldwin’s answer was in The Fire Next Time: Practice radical, transformative, revolutionary love.
And I’m going to be offering, here in this space, and in every other platform that’s mine, and in every instance in which my opinion is asked for (or even just allowed), my ideas about what that radical, transformative, revolutionary love might or could look like in action.
And I think that what I will have to offer may be challenging for some. It probably won’t be conventional. It may or may not be what you want to hear or what you’re ready for. And that is totally ok. I know we are all in different places on this. You be where you are. Be there fully, authentically, so you can speak the words you need to speak and ask for the care and support you need. I ask you to honor your rage, pain, hurt, grief, anger, fear, despondency, disappointment, alarm, and anything else you’re justifiably feeling, and let it move through you. Let the free flow of emotion clean you out from the inside.
And if and when you wish to begin (or get back to) the work of healing this nation, may we find ourselves standing together.
Because healing is what needs to happen here. Not reconquering. Not showing those so-and-so’s what’s what. Not smashing the “bad” people with our “good” “right” “truth.”
Not winning. Healing.
I know I’ve said a lot already, but it has all been a lead-up to this, the “first thing” I want to say.
I live mostly in a liberal bubble between Denver and Boulder, Colorado. But right now I just happen to be back in the area where I grew up, an extremely impoverished region of rural southwest Pennsylvania, visiting my mom, who is seriously ill. It goes almost without saying that this is deep Trump territory. When the results came in, I was wishing desperately that I could be back in my home community, comforting and being comforted by my friends, expressing my solidarity by standing together, singing together, praying together.
But I that’s not where I was. So I stood, sang, prayed here – alone but connected. Together in spirit with not just my friends, but ALL the people.
And then I went out. Into the world. Among the people. The people who are here. The ones that some of my liberal friends might consciously or unconsciously think of as hicks, rednecks, uneducated poor white trash. Racist, bigoted, homophobic, misogynist or simply duped and misled Trump supporters. My family. My relatives. The people I grew up with. The people I came from. Who shaped the course of my early life.
And I saw
I saw their hearts.
I FELT their hearts.
And I recognized
what I felt
because I have felt it
The opening in the chest when the fear, pain, hurt, anger that have been pent up inside, get to finally be spoken.
The sudden shaky lightness of having been delivered of a weight of feeling that was crushing the soul with its heaviness, strangling the spirit with frustration, suffocating the life force with the despair of never being allowed to be spoken.
And I see, above these hearts that have this sudden shaky lightness about them, jaws that are still clenched, facial muscles tense and twitching, necks stiff and unbending: People determined and ready to fight to keep from being forced back into silence.
And what came to me was Marshall Rosenberg’s work on nonviolent communication, in which we recognize that people who are lashing out are doing so be they have needs that aren’t being met, and they’ve lost faith in peaceful means of getting their needs met, and they’re resorting to aggression out of desperation and hopelessness.
And so you witness.
You let them speak. You let them know you hear. You ask, Is there more?
You welcome them to speak until enough pressure has been released to make space to talk about other solutions. Effective solutions. Sustainable solutions. Solutions in which another person does not have to be harmed for the needs of the first to be met.
Really met. Fully met. Lovingly met.
So in the face of this group of people collectively waving their fists and shouting, I’M ANGRY! I’M UPSET! I’M SUFFERING AND I BLAME, I BLAME, I BLAME!
I’m going to say, Wow. I see that you are angry.
I hear your words.
I hear you when you say you’re frustrated.
And I feel the fear and pain you’re in, underneath that anger.
It must feel really bad.
I’m really sorry you’re feeling that way.
I hear you.
I see you.
I feel you.
I love you.
And I am committed with every cell and holy atom of my being to building a nation, a world where you, and you, and you, and I, and ALL of us, EVERY ONE of us, can have our needs met.