Grieving the 2016 Election. I cannot understand what’s going on at home. I cannot help but feel homeless.

Grieving the 2016 Election. I cannot understand what’s going on at home. I cannot help but feel homeless.

Where do I begin, on this election day like no other?

I considered waiting before writing. I considered allowing the raw edge of my grief to wear off, scab over, and flake away.

But grief swells until it breaks open into lament and protest.

This is my lament.

 

Today, I woke up to a new world. A world in which a person who defiantly demeans women, people of faith, people of color, the strangers among us, specially-abled people, LGBT+ people, and others can become the leader of the “free world”. Yesterday, I thought that endorsement by white supremacists was a death-sentence for a major party candidate. Today, the KKK had to expand their website capabilities as a person who spews supremacist rhetoric accepted the presidency of the United States. Yes, this kind of person has been elected before. Of course. I just didn’t know that I’d see it happen again.

Today, I also woke up to my own disconnection from my country. The last time this sharp reality struck me was when I lived in Russia during the start of the war in Afghanistan. I prayed for peace while those at home embraced war. There is something about the physical distance of living abroad, the geographical dislocation, that makes me feel like I am once again in suspended space. I cannot understand what’s going on at home. I cannot help but feel homeless.

Today, I saw for the first time that American evangelical leaders are willing to turn a blind eye to demagoguery in exchange for power. I will not comment on their followers, who may or may not have access to the information that these leaders have. In the past, I have chosen to believe the best of evangelical leaders during election seasons because I have convinced myself that they are simply seeking another way to accomplish what all people of faith hope for: a better, more ethical world. Evangelical leaders have made compromises in the past that I viewed as merely inconsistent folly. But this time around the bargain was too demonic to miss the parallel: “Only bow down to me, and I will give you all the SCOTUS seats of the land.”

Today, I looked on with horror as Christian friends celebrated on Facebook that they had voted for a pro-life president. That’s the kind of misinformation for which I hold these evangelical leaders accountable. They KNOW that actual lives are saved when Democrats are in office. They KNOW that abortion rates drop—dropping to their lowest level since legalization during Obama’s presidency, in fact, and peaking during Reagan’s. The truth is bloody: these evangelical leaders know how to actually reduce abortions. They instead threw support behind a person who flagrantly pandered to their platform.

Today, I sat in a lecture hall for my Christian Political and Social Ethics class and listened to a professor describe what self-sacrificial solidarity looks like. The professor didn’t mention Trump, the American candidate characterized by his lack of solidarity for the vulnerable. Even so, two American students walked out. So that’s where we are situated: we cannot dialogue meaningfully when we speak of politicians, and we cannot dialogue meaningfully even when we leave them out and simply discuss Christian ethics.

Today, I heard Christians say that we need to move on, and that our politics don’t define us, and that we are being “distracted” by all of this talk of systemic injustice. But what of those who can’t move on? What of those who today are unsure of their safety? Why can’t we weep with them, instead of moving on? Why are we so afraid of the vulnerability of this historic moment? It is the people on the margins who remind us of our fragility. And oh how much it hurts to see ourselves reflected back in their faces.

Today, I was accused of not being a Christian by those who found my political leanings to be indicative of “atheism”. And then I saw that Trump was being celebrated by the same crowd as a Christian. And then I laughed. I laughed with Lisel Mueller.

The laughter of women sets fire

to the Halls of Injustice

and the false evidence burns

to a beautiful white lightness

If there is one thing the devil dreads more than love, it is to be scorned.

Today, I received countless check-ins and messages from friends expressing their solidarity and grief over the American election. They inspire me with their compassion, hope, goodness and resilience.

Today, I will not be afraid of the pain of this election. I will not be afraid of the sincerity of my grief. I won’t wait for it to take shape and become something fiercely beautiful, powerful, and active (though it will). I will linger, lest I forget.

 

If we will have the wisdom to survive,

to stand like slow growing trees

on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it…

then a long time after we are dead

the lives our lives prepare will live

here, their houses strongly placed

upon the valley sides…

The river will run

clear, as we will never know it…

On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down

the old forest, an old forest will stand,

its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.

The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.

Families will be singing in the fields…

Memory,

native to this valley, will spread over it

like a grove, and memory will grow

into legend, legend into song, song

into sacrament. The abundance of this place,

the songs of its people and its birds,

will be health and wisdom and indwelling

light. This is no paradisaical dream.

Its hardship is its reality.

– WENDELL BERRY –

 

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