Last week, I posted “Trump or Love” believing that you cannot choose both. I made the case that Trump’s rhetoric counters love. Jesus was for the poor, the marginalized, the weak and the oppressed. None of those descriptors fit Trump or the majority of his supporters. And it is often the marginalized, the weak, the outsider who is painted by Trump to be the enemy.
Last night, I was challenged to seek unity by avoiding what is divisive. It was a challenge for me because I have felt strongly of the need to speak out against Trump. Each divisive statement he has made that preys on the fears of Republicans at the expense of minority groups has increased my resolve to be clear about how dangerous Trump is. I know my opinions have made people uncomfortable as evidenced by the conversations and cold shoulders I have experienced as a result. Am I working against unity by speaking out for justice? This is the question that weighs heavily upon me now.
I am highly unhappy with politics in general. I think politics has gone the way of religion and education in our country – we are more concerned about protecting the systems we have than educating, inspiring, and empowering those we lead. The systems are antiquated and failing. I have friends and family who are wonderful teachers and pastors, but they operate in these systems that more often hold them back than help them move forward. I was a Bernie Sanders supporter because he was the only candidate asking inspiring and relevant questions. His movement reengaged me and many others across the political spectrum. Even though there was great disagreement on the answers Bernie gave, we engaged the questions as we considered what might be possible and practical for our future.
But here we are, many of us unhappy with the options for November’s presidential election. Is seeking unity in our unhappiness the best choice we’ve got? Or is there another point in which we can connect? How do we unify and seek justice? What if our definitions of justice differ? I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. What we need are people with different perspectives who are willing to respectfully engage the conversation in order to seek the solutions. I have increasingly little patience for one-sided thinking which appears to be more egocentric than helpful.
Maybe unity isn’t about getting along in spite of our differences, but engaging our differences with respect. What surprised me about my post on Trump wasn’t the level of engagement about Trump but a retaliation against Hillary. I don’t blame you. You felt hit by my post so you swung back. It is so hard to stay engaged when we passionately disagree.
I am also thinking about how unity for unity’s sake can be dangerous. Germany was unified as it exterminated millions of Jews. I want to seek ways to unify through respectful dialogue. And where unity impedes justice, I want to speak out. How do I value and practice both?
So many thoughts swirling in my head today…
Remember that good looking guy in high school who seemed to have everything going for him – cool car, star athlete, rich parents – and he also happened to be an asshole? At first, you look past it because he’s sooooooo cool and you really want to be friends. You tell yourself he is just having a bad day. Or maybe he’s got a lot on his mind. But after awhile you don’t care how cool he seems, you know he’s a jerk because he keeps acting like one. And yet he always manages to have his pick of girlfriends, a group of followers who loyally put up with his behavior, and adults who seem to be living vicariously through him. That’s what I’ve been continually reminded of with Trump’s presidential candidacy.
Trump seems to have the goods that have made a whole lot of people envious and willing to set aside convictions of faith and common sense. Too many of us seem to be that girlfriend of the jerk who thinks, “I know it’ll be different with me.” We are jumping in the sack with Trump, hoping that he will deliver all what he promised: love and respect. Or maybe it’s wealth and power.
I have friends who seem to live with a lot of fear lately. These friends are white, Christian, middle class, and working. I’m not quite sure WHAT they’re afraid of, but they are. In the past, I have seen Christians jump on plenty of bandwagons. But seeing them jump on one being driven by a bigoted, racist, sexist narcissist who owns a strip club defies explanation. The only conclusion I can make is that Christianity has moved very far away from the person of Jesus.
Jesus talked a lot about love. Love God, he said. And love your neighbor too. And later following the gospels in this little book called 1 John, the writer says this: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear… We love because God first loved us.” Trump fosters fear. Trump counters love. Trump is dangerous. Not only do I worry for the people he will target and exploit, I fear that he will do significant damage because of his lack of diplomacy and sound judgment. He has proven throughout his career that he will do whatever he wants for his gain at the expense of others. This is not simply an ideological difference. Trump is unfit to serve as president.
I can only hope Trump’s numbers continue to decline, and before long he’ll be like that fading high school star who still wears his old football jersey even though it is two sizes too small, while everyone else has moved on and built a life beyond high school. God help us if we don’t leave Trump behind.
It has been a whirlwind of a summer. I spent 11 weeks doing an intensive chaplaincy training program at a hospital while my son, recent college graduate, found employment, moved, and settled into his new life. I had little time to contemplate the implications of his new independence, and little time to feel the feelings that go with it. But my intensive unit is done and my boy has settled in and now I find myself facing the undeniable reality that my job as mom has nearly come to an end.
Before you tell me that the job never ends, let me say how accomplished I feel to have gotten to this point with my son. It is our job as parents, as best as we are able, to get our children to a place of full independence and functioning. It is our job as parents to help our children to see their purpose in the larger world, a purpose that brings joy, contentment, and responsibility. And so I celebrate my son not needing me very much any longer. That is what I was supposed to do – ween him physically, emotionally, and mentally. I am supposed to move him from a place of needing me in his life to (hopefully) wanting me in his life. While he still calls with questions about things such as benefits or banking, the reality is he can reach out to a number of folks to get those answers too.
I celebrate his adulthood. And I grieve it just a little too. To deny that grief might mean I’m unhealthily holding on in a way that prohibits his full independence. I grieve openly and honestly because it is difficult to go from being the center of one’s universe to being just like everyone else, even when we are given years to accept it. And periodically I feel myself trying to be that center again. I guess that is natural. But when I feel myself wanting to be needed by him, I recognize that is more for my benefit and to his detriment.
I think the best thing I have done as a parent is to never stop learning how to be a better parent. I listen to my husband as he shares his observations. I listen to those who know me and my kids well. And most importantly, I ask my kids questions and listen to what they have to say. I know there is still learning I have to do as I figure out the new normal for my adult son and me. And no matter how much I have screwed up, I take comfort in remembering that parenting is about the cumulative effect. We always have the opportunity to improve the quality of a relationship. We make mistakes as parents. How could we not? But if we don’t forgive ourselves for the mistakes made, we can’t be our best selves in the here and now. I look at my grown son, and I see how we have all grown to get to this place in which we find ourselves.