I have gone to bed at 7:30pm two nights in a row. This is unusual on so many levels, but with the time change it feels like at least 11pm and the National Election is stressful in a way that I have never experienced before, the dread floating in and out for the last few months. There are bubbles of anxiety floating around in my body, a major presence this year. A year like no other. My 90+ year old Grandpa has told me he’s never lived a year like this – that this is the strangest of his life. Pandemic, people dying in mass numbers, economic instability, remarkable food insecurity, children not in school, exacerbation of economic and racial disparities, parents taking on all the roles, increasing domestic violence and abuse, rampant conspiracy theories, vigilantes with assault rifles, a racial reckoning, mega-storms, states on fire, mass division, and worth stating one more time – rampant conspiracy theories. In many ways the last 10 months have been about exposure and how differently we think, act and move through the world whether by our choices or choices made for us. America, glittering in our luxury outerwear, the image of ourselves we wish to convey, covering deep strife in the layers below. Sweeping anything under has never worked.
I have been thinking about this post for a long time. For too long. Trying to learn more, read more, currently surrounded by my notes, facts and statistics, scribbled thoughts. I’ve been worried about feelings and expectations, creating anticipated responses in my mind. I have also been dealing with a time issue. Time being small because I am not a great manager of it- never have been. I still seem to be surprised when the clock says “time’s up”, even though this phenomenon has been happening my whole life. I am the parent of a small person, and my husband and I are both working from home trying to balance our responsibilities and baby-raising. The three of us are close-quartering our way through this year. It’s hard and yet I love it. I am aware of the privilege I have to love it, as we are unscathed by the devastation Covid-19 has caused. In addition to time, I have also been overwhelmed with where to start sifting through the 2020 trash pile – the extreme amount of information and the sheer volume of topics to possibly address. I wonder at the pointlessness of saying anything. I’ve been concerned it’s just another shovel driving into the divide. Or just another oft repeated sentiment in the echo chamber, where those who already agree will nod in reassurance and those who don’t will utilize their practiced disagreements.
I do not have a “perfect attendance” voting record. I’ve been registered as an Independent since I was 18, but I missed the deadline for my mail in ballot the first time (chasing the mail truck to no avail). Pretty sure I skipped others due to cynicism and probably an unwillingness to pay attention. For another I had my ballot filled in, minus the presidential portion, and got into a car accident 50 feet from the polling place parking lot. I guess there was no immediacy for me because I always felt politics was a separate entity that I could or could not engage in. I sometimes felt I wasn’t smart enough to figure it out or uncomfortable at the very possibility of debate. I grew up in a Christian home, I’ve a been a believer my whole life. The majority of my family and community were Republicans, probably for a myriad of reasons. I knew that the adults in my life were voting toward policies and people that aligned with their values, the values that I lived under in my very safe, comfortable, happy existence. In many areas of my life I have had to learn that it is okay to think differently. My tendency toward pleasing people makes it a challenge.
My husband and I spent three hours filling in our mail-in ballots a couple weeks ago, every local, state, and national bubble was filled in. I have never been so ready to color inside the lines with my black ink. Marked: Biden/Harris. To complete my ballot and take it to the drop box was extremely important to me. I felt like I had something to say. In the state I am in, the effect can feel small – other than to add to the total number of voters and local propositions – our electoral vote is consistent. So mine was a vote against the circus of the last four years. A vote against the lack of morality, decency and order. A vote against cultivated division and lies. And, it turns out, a vote against the expected repeat majority white evangelical vote.
My vote was not out of rebellion, but one for accountability. How is it that Donald Trump appears to be above reproach? One who thrives off division and shamelessly applauds domestic terrorists. A man who refuses to lead with humility and honor. Who disdains empathy and compassion. Who denies facts, figures, and experts and elevates conspiracy theories and misinformation. The American President is a known and studied source of misinformation regarding Covid-19 and perpetuating the myth of mail-in voter fraud. Who, without remorse, invoked violence against American citizens to hold an upside down bible in front of a church. Who refused to condemn white supremacists on national TV. Who has a history of degrading and abusing women. Whose vice president denied the existence of systemic racism, again, on national television. We know exactly who we are getting. Here, supporters could interject the tired line that he is a victim of the media, grossly misrepresented. While many media outlets are not without bias, no one is pulling strings here. Trump lives and loves being a public figure. He speaks directly to his public using a very public outlet. His tweets, his words, his well-documented history, and his actions speak for him. His insistence on re-writing history as it happens speaks for him. Just yesterday I saw another op-ed from another mega-mega church pastor in the defense of Trump and how misunderstood he is. I found it so disappointing. I wonder how the content of his character is not enough of a deal breaker. He has, and many with him, undermined the integrity of the office he holds, to which he feels entitled to, not honored by.
I know that people have different reasons for their vote including commitment to the party, commitment to the platforms thereof. I understand the overarching reasons for the choice and the single issue voter bullet items. I struggle with the Christian commitment to the Republican party at this moment in time. Let me be clear, I am not calling the Republican party or the members thereof bad. I am saying it is bad when we uphold figures like the incumbent candidate; allegiance pledged to party and person no matter the cost. To me, the ends do not trump the means. Looking at numbers from 2016, 78% of white evangelicals voted for Trump, 89% of Black protestants voted for Clinton. There is a lot of story in that statistic. I think part of that story is created hierarchies of value – where one value is placed in relation to another and by whom. It’s not definitive of course that all Democrats ascribe to identical values nor do Republicans, but there are party characteristics and party causes that are utilized for allegiance. That would make a Republican, for example, refuse to vote Democrat because they are pro-life. The hierarchy of values makes it so much easier to define one party as good and one party as bad and to align oneself to that which is good. To proclaim our own morality, followers of decency, torch bearers of truth. The truth is that Christians don’t fit into either majority party. As citizens longing for another country, sojourners, how could we fit into these two imperfect options? The church should be concerned with social justice, sanctity of all life, those in poverty and more. To do so in the current structure of our political system crosses so many lines. We have to be able to cross those lines, unafraid to detach from the party or the person we think will lead us to the promise land no matter how they do it.
For example, when Trump thinks he is speaking to his Christian base, he will put God, Guns, and nationalism dressed up as patriotism together under one large special-interest group umbrella. I doubt that the same God who asks us to care for the widow, orphan and the poor is concerned that his people have unmitigated access to military grade weaponry. Nor is He impressed with the America first attitude that denies refuge to asylum seekers or the spirit of individualism that refuses to wear a piece of fabric over one’s mouth for the safety and well-being of our neighbors.
Donald Trump’s presidency is not a divine right because he decided he was a Republican. God allowed what happened to happen, but I have the free will to say – I will not align myself with his version of reality. I will also not tow the Democrat party line. I will lean into policies I believe are important for our nation and my children – social justice, gun safety, climate change, immigration reform, and pro-sanctity of life from beginning to end, pro-education and health care access (start at the root cause), pro-mother, pro-child among us, pro-equity, pro-accessible health care and pro-support services.
I don’t believe we can demand others to follow the values we ascribe to while aligning with and supporting leaders who act like Trump. He believes in Christians as a voter base and the security that group brings him, but I do not see the fruit of a man who calls himself a Believer – Proverbs 6:16-19. Consider the 545 children who have sat in “very clean” facilities for three years who may likely never see their families again. Not only was the policy put in place, but there was no attention paid to how families might be reunited. As a mother, this makes my heart burn and my blood rage. Consider his disinterest in lives other than his own – 230,000 Covid deaths in America and counting. He has treated it as an inconvenience, or because of the level of healthcare he was afforded, touted it as “not that scary.” The reality is, at best, people passed away with loved ones on FaceTime or holding the hand of medical staff and at worst, totally alone. These are not pro-life choices.
It is hard to break from traditionalism and tribalism. It is most likely that we talk about our experiences of the last four years with those who already share the same view of the world. It is harder to ask those with differing views why and then listen to the response. It can be easy to forget that we know the people behind our political opposition. It can even be easy to slip into pockets of self-righteousness and rightness. In effect, we may more easily accept the caricatures of who belongs to which party and why. The more siloed we become, the more we make an “other” out of one another. As a result, there is so much damage around us – vitriol and condescension – the division of the United. I wonder at the genetic makeup of our choices. If anxiety is contagious, and we are living in a super-storm of it, and anxiety breeds the disease of scarcity, self-focus, and fear, how much say does it have? We’re all scraping to protect what we know with what we have, frustrated that we don’t agree on what we know and what we could have. One word I keep thinking of over and over is accountability. We are accountable for the individual decisions we make. We are accountable to one another. The viruses – pandemic and systemic – among us are extraordinary examples of that.
I am not naïve enough to believe Trump is the cause of all the problems or that Biden can fix them all. Every era holds struggles, changes, battles, steps forward, steps back. The more perfect union is a pursuit. It is in perpetual motion. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Maybe the tell-tale is in the phrase ‘self-evident.’ It is as subjective as the use of common sense. Because we are seeing on an enormous scale that the interpretation of that is… loose. Self-evident means no explanation needed, obvious. But in history, in the present, it hasn’t always been obvious. The phrase was written by a group of white men whose understanding was cultivated by their personal experiences, beliefs and values. As those experiences and beliefs were limited, it is a foundational sentiment upon which we keep building to incorporate the experiences of the underrepresented. We’ve not made it, and it is certainly not behind us. We are accountable to the ideal, to turn it into a reality by reviewing and rectifying it as we go. It is dishonorable to paint our history into the artificial “good ol’ days”. There are only the learning days. These days do not end. I am in some heavy learning days. What have I ignored? What have I missed? Who have I hurt? What do I do now?
We have lived in circles that reverberate with the phrase that it doesn’t matter who wins, God is still in control. That is true. I also know that the components so immense in our Good King are so immensely and dangerously lacking in this temporary president. The quandary is real, how do we align our values in an imperfect, two-party, pay-to-play system? The answer, we choose the common good. We choose our neighbor. Our public witness is dependent upon it. Those of us who have professed belief in the most Faithful can’t be the ones who are least willing to assess our own weakness and shortcomings, who love with limitations in the name of law, who demand order over compassion, and encapsulate God in a box of party and platform. In these learning days, I want to assess where I lie in the list.
I pray that we all learn to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.” We’re all at least a little bit wrong, may we be malleable. And may we bring our neighbors along with us who deserve to witness the destruction of unjust systems. To refuse to position ourselves as oppressed in this nation, but to recognize that we have the means to fight for those experiencing actual oppression.
We have to live and move through the learning days.
The election was two days ago; the president is now waging war against American votes. And the extremists he’s emboldened have taken up the call. The phrase, “I can’ believe it” should officially be put to rest after 2020.