I’m not going to turn this into a political blog, but after the biggest political surprise of my lifetime, I feel like I have to write about it. And, I promise I will tie it into my spiritual journey that I am chronicling.
It’s been two days since the United States decided to elect an unqualified, reality TV star who embodies the “ugly American”. The world is shaken to its core as it wonders what the hell went so wrong in America. The reasons for voting for this man are many and teasing them out is not easy. Racism, homophobia, xenophobia, protectionism, nationalism are among them. There’s also a deep mistrust of institutions, the need to “shake things up”, and party loyalty, since he did run as a Republican.
As Van Jones so creatively put it, what we are seeing is “white-lash”. It’s the inevitable backlash that comes when people who have been oppressed by white people have made too much progress too fast. As I’ve observed the reactions in the last couple of days I see that black people are taking this better than my white liberal friends are. I am speaking generally here, but please allow me to do so. You see, we as black people have suffered for a few hundred years under this system. As a people, we have seen often enough that progress comes, but it comes in fits and starts. The road is not smooth and steady. And it’s not without its setbacks. We have won battles, many battles, along the way, but we have not won them all. We were shocked when a black man won the White House in 2008. We were pleasantly surprised when he again beat an articulate qualified businessman in 2012. Two in a row? Are you kidding me? When Hillary was the nominee for this cycle we all knew everything, including the kitchen sink, would be thrown at her. Things were changing too much, too quickly. We didn’t know what would take her down, but we knew that this was a big battle and it would not go easy. The only reason I am surprised by the defeat of Hillary Clinton is that the media told us right up unto the last minute that she would win. We believed that America was changing faster than we had thought possible. But, somewhere in the back of my mind, I had this feeling it just couldn’t happen.
There is a reason it was a black man who said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” It’s from shared experience. We were promised 40 acres and a mule after slavery. Instead, we got Jim Crow and saw as men were jailed for petty, invented crimes and turned into virtual slaves because the 13th amendment had an exception. If you were convicted of a crime you could be forced into servitude. So, they made up crimes. We saw as the civil rights movement was moving things too fast, the rise of the KKK in the South to take us down a few notches. And on and on. Always two steps forward, one step back.
So many of my white liberal friends are in various stages of grief right now. They are asking how long the tears will continue to come. They are crying at their desks. They don’t know how to explain to their children that America isn’t as great as they thought it was. One even said that her son wouldn’t be growing up in the America she grew up in. Yes, he will. Sadly, this is the America, we black people knew was still there, just underneath the surface. The ugly rise was inevitable. We didn’t know how or when it would show itself again, but we knew it would.
I think I’m a little bit in denial right now. As I sat there watching Obama host Trump in the Oval Office, I hoped that President Trump would be nothing like candidate Trump. I hoped that he would show some constraint and some leadership. Last night he found his iPhone and started tweeting again saying something about the many protestors of his election being “professionals”, a lie based on absolutely no evidence. I’m going to remain hopeful that it won’t be as bad as it could be. I’m going to continue to hope that a 70 year old man is capable of learning.
The protestors are, in large part, people who are shocked that they could lose. They are stunned that their fellow Americans voted for this hateful man. They didn’t know that we even could take this step backward, let alone would take this step backward.
I’ve been talking many people down off of ledges the last couple of days. It will be all right. This is a setback. One friend messaged me saying one of her friends had gotten an intuition that maybe God allowed this to happen because if Trump hadn’t won, the violence from his supporters would have been much worse than the four years of a Trump presidency. Could be. God is all about short term pain for long term gain. There is a silver lining here. Black folks have created a hashtag #staywoke because many of us were forgetting our lessons. Young white liberals haven’t yet learned those lessons. The weeping 20-year-olds who just voted in their first election saw a black President from age 12. So, maybe we need the hashtag #bewoke.
It’ll be OK. We will survive a Trump presidency. We have survived worse. His racist followers have been emboldened. There have already been incidents in schools of intimidation of latino students. Muslims wearing the hijab have been hassled. And it will get worse. But, the law is on our side. There will be arrests made. The law no longer looks the other way as people are beaten, raped and lynched.
Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
So, how does this tie into my spirituality? Collectively and individually, we go on parallel journeys. The lessons of mankind are the same lessons we find in our individual lives. Hardships are placed in our way to overcome. We don’t like them. We would prefer to skip them. They are necessary, though. Donald Trump is the chemo for the cancer that has been festering in America. Mixing metaphors, bringing the haters out into open was necessary to activate our collective immune system to root this infection out of our body. Take heart in the fact that the majority of people who voted voted for Hillary. The majority of people in this country want equality, opportunity for all, mercy for the stranger, etc. We got a little confused along the way. Some of us got complacent, but we will get there.