I can’t figure out the world we’re living in. These are surely times that try human souls (thanks, Dickens). Government is a mess, reduced to odd tweets and cringe-worthy memes. Viewers rail against talk-show hosts for being not political enough (or too political) because apparently we decided to just give up reading and wrestling with news ourselves and instead just want someone to stoke the fires of our collective rage. Goodness, is there ever rage. Against Trump. Against Clinton. Against practically every member of Congress.
That foaming and frothing would be enough, but the rage has become personal. Intimate. No longer, it seems, can civility be maintained. Relationships crumble. Strangers shout at each other through the keys. This country is locked in “us vs. them” chaos, only we don’t really know who the “us” or the “them” are.
I didn’t vote for Trump. Made no secret of that. I’m very concerned about what truths lie beneath the surface, truths that begin to bubble up, popping and singeing those close by. Intuition tells me that the firestorm – raging for so long now – has really only just begun. And yet I can’t muster up hatred for those who did tick the box for him. Am I aware that Trump appealed to the misogynistic and xenophobic tendencies running throughout this country during the campaign, and that he continues to do so? Painfully aware. Do I think that those who stubbornly turn a blind eye to the faults of this administration are deep in denial? Yes. Do I think history will look back and see his time in office as one of the greatest missteps the United States of America has ever made? Probably.
But still. I can’t hate people who voted for him. The majority of us, I believe, want the same thing at the end of the day, as Thomas Jefferson so eloquently wrote: life, liberty happiness. We differ sharply on how such goals are achieved, but these are our desires.
I wonder, if we could all just remember that for a second, if we could start putting country and neighbor above party and power, would things take a turn for the better?
I haven’t changed my mind about the nature of humanity. We aren’t basically good. Apart from God, we are capable of good, sure, but our fundamental bent is selfish. World peace isn’t going to suddenly break out. There’s a radical Anabaptist strain to my theology; I believe that it’s highly possible, even probable, that we will only continue a downhill slide, however slow it might be. I suppose I’m just dumbfounded that this election was the thing to expose the darkness. Then again, I know my history well enough to recognize that politics in this country has never been pretty or easy. Perhaps it was inevitable.
The Founding Fathers made backdoor deals. They were hardly paragons of morality. Jackson sent an entire people group into exile and death. Bleeding Kansas. Civil War. Jim Crow. Economic disaster. Riots. Kent State. When I entered first grade, we were at war in the Middle East. Twenty-seven years later, we still are.
I know all of this.
And yet I keep hoping, praying, that somehow, some way, everyone is going to calm down and we can move on. Move forward. Perhaps that is an unreal hope. I don’t know.
I did not expect this…mess. In the back of my mind lived the assumption that cooler heads and steadier hearts would prevail at the end of the day. There’s still time. It could happen.
And so I remain a pessimist trying to see the light in and amongst the clouds.
Even the barest hint would do.
I’ve left you on a downbeat, something I’m not fond of doing. I’d much prefer to make you laugh or give you something to think on. But I can’t pretend or say “peace” when there is no peace. This is where we are, in the middle of a swirling storm that shows no signs of abating. A numbness, a sense of disbelief, accompanies the sound of thunder and the crash of waves. How did we get here? How did this happen?
No amount of think pieces can provide an answer. I wonder if those are even in the right questions. Maybe it’s not about how we got here, but what we do now.
Please, if you have a good idea – let me know.