At first, most of us decided we were having a nightmare. You know the kind that seems like it’s going on way too long and it’s way too detailed to be a dream and when you finally wake up you are soooo relieved?
Except we’ve not woken up yet.
Many of us are still saying, “What??” This is where I’ve been since election night: shock and denial, and glad for it. Because I know what happens next. I know gut-grief.
I finally gave in to a short burst of tears this afternoon. How could my fellow Americans have voted for a man who makes fun of disabled people and says he wants to punch a person in the face? A man who talks about grabbing women’s crotches? Just no. And given that over 60% of Americans believe he's unqualified to be president, how could so many vote for him anyway?
When I get beyond this shocked “WHAT??" I will start asking “how?” and look for someone to blame. And I will probably begin feeling again.
I hope that I will not be filled with rage and hatred against Trump voters and/or against the people who voted third party or wrote in someone because they were too pure to sully themselves with our current political reality. And/or against people who consider themselves Christian but who know a different Jesus than I do, one who supports increased military spending and decreased funding for food stamps. And/or against people who did not even bother to vote.
Blaming doesn’t help me recover, although I know it’s a necessary phase of grief.
After “how?” will come “why?” My mind will try to make sense of this. If I can understand it, maybe I can control it and keep myself safe from it. I will ask “why, why, why?” Probably by then there will be tears. There might be wailing. “Keening,” as one dear friend put it. Like me, she has dedicated her life to protecting our planet and is likely experiencing a primal grief for our species and all the others that will suffer from or succumb to climate change.
I’m sure many pundits will be paid for producing many words about “why” for many decades to come. History books will talk about racism and fear of homosexuals and Muslims, and note “nostalgia” for the good old days when we were all white except for our maids, and we all went to our stone churches in our station wagons on Sundays and mowed our little squares of green lawn on Saturdays while our little wives made lemonade.
There are lots of reasons why, not just one. But my hunch is that 99% of the reasons are based in fear. Fear of the other. And that is a spiritual problem, not a political problem.
So — what do we do now? Well, for one, we must not fear. Because fear leads to hate, as we have seen. That’s what led to President-elect Trump. Which is why the Bible uses phrases like “fear not ... do not be afraid ... have no fear” more than one hundred times. Jesus said it. All. The. Time. He knew what fear does to the human heart.
Fear makes us feel powerless, but hate makes us feel empowered. That’s why we go there. That's why terrorists carry out cowardly attacks, because they are afraid that the west is polluting their way of life and threatening their patriarchal power system. And so they hate. That’s also why Donald Trump is like he is. He is a sick and fearful soul who latched on to judgement and contempt (and money) to make himself feel powerful.
But we who have hearts for justice must not allow ourselves to go there. We must somehow be love in the world. Because love is the opposite of fear. The two cannot coexist. Perfect love drives out fear. Fear got us into this; only love can get us out.
I don’t yet know how to Be Love in this extreme case. The last thing I want to do is make myself vulnerable. Anger feels like the safer route.
I will eventually start praying for the willingness to love. For the time being, though, I'm choosing to stay in numb denial for a little longer.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Her, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ---- Romans 15:13