I Am Not Ok, We Are Not Ok
I woke up this morning with conflicting emotions, both of them negative.
On the one hand, I was appalled (and angry) at any and all election results. How could so many bear witness to a four-year stretch of scandals and lies, corruption and selfishness, hostility and buffoonery and want to repeat it all over again? On the other hand, I was upset with myself, at my inability to separate myself from the moment. I felt like I’d fallen prey to the lure of ideology, rising and falling with whether or not “my candidate” won in various races.
I’ve spent the better part of last night and this morning thinking through this conundrum. There’s a lot at stake here, at least it feels that way. My emotions are so charged right now that I’m ready to write off a number of folks — family and friends — who were vocal in their support of Donald Trump. It’s painful to think that so many who are especially close to me could view the world through that particular lens, and it’s enough to reshape my opinion of who they are — to want to take a second look at the substance of our relationship and the meaning of our connection (or lack of it).
Then comes the flip side of that. Why am I so emotional? As a Christ-follower, it is (I believe) the proper response to not pledge allegiance to any of this mess. Power is corruptive by its very nature, and the idea that change happens from the top-down is antithetical to the gospel. It’s duplicitous to chastise white Evangelicals for cozying up to political power for the last four years in such obviously unbiblical (and un-Christlike) ways only to then place so much hope that my preferred choice of a political candidate makes it into that same seat of influence.
Allowing my heart to grow so cold toward my neighbor is poor form on my part. It reveals a discipleship issue, a lack of maturity on my part to lose my spiritual center (love of others, especially enemy-love), and I’ve felt some shame and embarrassment internally that I’ve allowed myself to drift to such juvenile places. (Us versus them is such a base instinct in every aspect of life.) There’s a calling here to be better than this.
But my attempts to just sit with this aren’t working. Any meditation, scripture reading, or prayer isn’t working for me this morning. I remain unsettled, even as I attempt to settle in. Somehow my emotions remain close to the blast site of election results despite my best efforts to breathe deep, refocus, and reflect on my place and greater responsibility in all of this.
My mind keeps going back to a conversation I had with a friend a few days ago who asked me why I’ve been so particularly vocal against Trump. Our conversation had largely been about the ills of Joe Biden (since Trump’s own foibles are so obvious). His query was “If you dislike both, then why be so vocal in one direction?” He also noted that it’s not like any of it really has much bearing on me.
My friend was right for the most part. I’m a white, Midwestern male who has been fortunate enough to keep freelance work through a global pandemic. My wife and I both work from home, set our own schedules, and our 6-year-old son is the perfect age to weather a change from in-school to virtual learning for a season. The policies of any President are far less likely to land home than local political races.
My response to him then was not about me, however. It was about the bigger picture. It’s our American cultural movement peeling us apart. It’s the divisive language used on all mediums on a daily basis, and I don’t like what it’s doing to us. Even more, I hate what is happening to those whose voices are trying so desperately to be heard. It’s divided families at the border and militarized police forces oppressing without accountability. It’s embarrassing on the global stage, and it’s threatening to our literal health at home. It’s the clown car of criminal activity, with unbelievable acts revealing themselves one after the other.
In other words, I might be okay, my family might even be okay, but we are not. And I’ve been taught, by many of those who voted to put this man in power for another four years, that if my neighbor is not okay then I am not either.
Because of that, I’m not sure how to proceed. Maybe it’s just too soon to make sense of anything (and obviously, we all have a lot of waiting and watching ahead of us). Maybe all of this is true in some way — that I have work to do and we have collective work to do. Maybe I am wrong and they are wrong.
At this point, it’s just so difficult to see how any of us are truly going to get better.