So many people have initiated conversations with me since the election. Pastors are listeners. A safe ear. Several have spoken about how traumatized they feel.
Women who were fondled or abused by men are finding themselves re-traumatized by the tape of the president-elect and what he calls "locker-room talk." The stories from multiple victims bring buried memories intensely back to the surface.
There's a black friend who has been in Alcoholics Anonymous a long time. It's a safe, no-politics zone for her. But after the election, a large white man, an acquaintance in her group, said, "I can't be seen talking with you anymore." The next day in a public place she saw him again, and he said, "I hope you understand about what I said yesterday. It's not personal." What? But it is!
I went to lunch with a parishioner whose beloved child is transgender. She says the whole transgender community is scared out of their wits. She's trying to deal with her own feelings about all of the people who accepted the rhetoric setting us against each other. Can she feel kindness toward them when they threaten her child?
An Hispanic friend has been living in a white neighborhood for many years. He's nervous for the first time. Young adults who grew up in this community but were brought here illegally as children are terrified.
And Confederate flags are popping up all over the place.
Many people find themselves moderately depressed. They feel tired. Others are angry. Household members are on edge. Tempers are shorter. It seems to take less to provoke a reaction or an argument. Many people are being careful about what news they let themselves be exposed to. It's too distressing to absorb.
I was asked, "What do we do at Thanksgiving?" Sometimes you just agree not to talk politics. I suggested this to one person: "You love your family. They love you. Ask them why they voted as they did, and just listen. Don't try to argue or change their minds. Just listen. See if you can connect with what values they affirm. We're usually right in what we affirm. We can usually connect when we share what we affirm. We're so often wrong when we tell each other what we deny about them."
After Thanksgiving I heard several encouraging reports from those family conversations. Some relatives said they voted for one candidate because they just hated the other. Others are fed up with Washington. Some wanted a successful businessman. But many relatives didn't like the blustering rhetoric either. They just didn't think it was a big deal. They looked past it. Sometimes in those conversations, relatives found common values they could affirm together. That helped.
I want to talk about what I affirm. I believe God created every human being in God's own image and likeness. I believe God loves us all, infinitely. I believe love is the most powerful force in the universe, and that we are transformed by love. We are not transformed by force or argument. You can't force love. You can only love and inspire love. Love transforms.
I believe in a beloved community of humanity that we enter when we know ourselves to be loved. Each person is God's beloved child. In the beloved community each person is loved into wholeness. Each person is capable of great good.
For me, Jesus is the model. I want to follow him. Jesus brought good news to the poor. He healed the broken, empowered the unempowered, and declared clean those thought to be impure. Jesus taught that the path of the powerful and the great is the path of the servant. To become great is to become a servant. The path toward greatness is the path of humility. I believe that.
I believe we know what a great nation looks like. It is a nation where we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned. (Matthew 25) A nation that does not fear or act out of fear. A nation where we love our neighbor as ourselves, and where every human being is our neighbor.
I can't change another human being. I can only love my neighbor. That's not easy. And I can try my best in my circle of influence to live as a member of the beloved community, regarding every human being as my neighbor. That's all I can do. It will have to be enough.
Commentary on 12/06/2016
Print Headline: Post-election conversations