It’s hard to put into words all of the emotions I have felt over the last week. I have lost a lot of sleep over all the hateful rhetoric I have seen thrown around, and often justified in Donald Trump’s name.
“If our president can say these things, then so can we,” the common sentiment goes. Those who hate now feel emboldened in a way that hadn’t before the recent election and its results.
What is most troubling to me is that I am truly scared of what the future holds. But, I am perhaps in the least danger of all people living in this country right now. I am a white, heterosexual, Christian male. I don’t have to walk around town fearing that someone will tell me to go back to where I came from, will call me a terrorist, or will claim that I am, in some way or another, a second-class citizen. My rights are not in danger.
Yet, my heart breaks repeatedly each day because I see that hatefulness that has become so prevalent since election night. It is hard for me to feel genuine in my uneasiness since I likely have nothing to fear. Perhaps the right feeling for me at this time is guilt, and that is something I have wrestled with immensely over the last several days. The hate is coming by and large from people very similar to myself (white, heterosexual, Christian males). It is hard to know that so much pain is being caused by people who look and live like myself.
However, I continue to hope that I am not alone in my guilt. Regardless of who you voted for is this election, I deeply desire to believe that no moral American affirms that hate that has transpired in the last week. Most of all, I am ashamed of my fellow countrymen and women for what we have let America devolve into.
I once admired the America that whispered sweetly, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Even though America never felt like it belonged to me, I firmly believed that it would always keep its arms stretched out, and open to me. To us. To the Muslims, to the LGBTQ+, to the refugees, to the disabled, to the immigrants, or to the people who simply just have a different color of skin than most.
My heart breaks. Not for me but for my black brothers, my gay cousin, and my Muslim friends. My heart cries out but it’s not for me. It’s for anyone who is affected by our society’s new rhetoric. This new culture that says, “Respect our opinions, even if they are racist, bigoted, sexist, ableist, or xenophobic.” This new, or should I say old, America that doesn’t want the “tired” or the “poor”, it does not want our freedom nor our love, it does not want the Muslim or “the Blacks”, and only wants straight people as long as they don’t have disabilities that hold them back.
The reemergence of the “Old America” is what this is. I forgot for a second, but now remember what America truly is. America has never been great for minorities, and I have an eerie feeling that it’ll never get better.
Darkness. In this moment, in this time, darkness is perpetually surrounding us. Some may say they see the light, the future, the exciting things that are about to come along. Yet, all I see is darkness. This darkness has embodied hate, racism, bigotry, islamophobia, xenophobia, and misogynistic ideologies. Its’s funny that this darkness’ symbol is compounded and compiled into a white mouthpiece. What isn’t funny is how minorities and underrepresented individuals in America now have to live in fear and shame because of their uncontrollable circumstances. No one asked to be born Black or Hispanic, no one actually is born hoping that one day they could leave their country filled with torment and violence, no one asked that certain individuals in their religion would construct it into one of the most hated religions of the world, no one is choosing to be homosexual; but yet, we are forced to be ashamed of these characteristics, we are forced to hate and try earnestly to conform to the status quo, because that’s the only way you will be able to truly experience the bliss of America.
What America does not see is that these election results were not a step forward, but a step backwards. We are creeping back into the dark times of America, beginning to repeat history. America, although has never been the most conducive place for minorities and the underrepresented, at least it began to give us a glimmer of hope when President Obama was elected, but now that glimmer has been shattered into pieces. That hope for many seems so far removed that we do not know if we ever will be able to reach it again. This darkness that we are feeling is blanketed in hopelessness. Minorities and underrepresented people alike continue to ask ourselves….Will we ever be able to consider America home?
From my experience this week, many of my friends and I have expressed a longing for a satisfactory theology of suffering, of lament, of questioning. This is not an “intellectual exercise”; this is a lived, active search for God, which is why we are so insulted when met with “God is in control” or similar attempts at consolation. How do we heal a dismembered, bruised, bloodied body of Christ? “God is in control” is like putting a band-aid on Jesus’ whipped back. Our expressions are attempting to call God out, like Mary and Martha we say, “but Lord! If you had been there!” Where is God in this?
I still haven’t found anything to heal us entirely, and perhaps it is still too early to take this head on, because, as my mentor reminded me this morning after I had sent him a distressed email of despair and hopelessness, it can be overwhelming to try and process everything right now. For this reason, my reflection will shift focus to self-love and self-care by being with my people. I don’t feel ready or strong enough to take the next steps of making connections with–as I interpret it–those who, with their vote, showed support for hateful rhetoric and discriminatory policies.
For now, I am deciding to sleep in, step away from news updates, and as difficult as it is to muster up the energy, I am going back to reading something that has proven useful, hopeful, and life-giving. For me, that is Manuel Villalobos’ attention to solidarity in his essay “Bodies Del Otro Lado Finding Life and Hope in the Borderland: Gloria Anzaldúa, the Ethiopian Eunuch of Acts 8:26-40, Y Yo”:
“People who have lived in the frontera, in the middle of the desert, know that we cannot survive by ourselves. Surviving the desert demands solidarity with other brothers and sisters who, despite suffering all sorts of discrimination, still find hope in their biblical interpretation. My joy and interpretation of the Bible cannot be isolated from the struggles of the community. There cannot be a full celebration in my interpretation of the Bible if someone still lives in oppressive structures. Anzaldúa reminds us that not all of us have the same oppressions, but we empathize and identify with each other’s oppressions. We do not have the same ideology, nor do we derive similar solutions. Some of us are leftists, some of us practitioners of magic. Some of us are both. But these different affinities are not opposed to each other.”
For further reading, see Joel Johnson’s Gracious Communication: Conversing with Ta-Nehisi Coates