April 16, 2017
After a set of dreary, gray days laced with rain showers, this Easter morning is brightly sunny, warm and burgeoning with hope. In a curious way, this transformation stands for me as a metaphor for the past several months and for my longing for a resurrection of American citizens to an era of peace, justice and broadly-felt well-being.
Unlike many of my peers, I find living in the US during the first months of Trump’s presidency a time of genuine hopefulness. While I find so much of the current administration’s make up and activity utterly reprehensible, I suspect that what is being created across our country is a re-awakening, a realization that when we slack off on our responsibilities as citizens, truly ugly and mean things can happen. However, when we pick up our opportunities and assert the values and visions that we hold in common, the brutally unjust and self-serving manipulations by narcissistic leaders can inspire a new wave of public organizing and a genuine revolution in our claims about what the United States can and will be.
I find myself constantly reminding myself about several dimensions of our November 2016 election. I am mildly intrigued by what evidence will emerge about Russian meddling in our election process, but I do not need further evidence to convince me that there was a concerted effort—not only by Russians but also by cynical leaders within the US—to use powerful media to spawn distrust and dismay regarding especially our national government. A broad collusion of national leaders and the media (swayed by Russian meddling) significantly depressed the turnout on election day. We now know that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.7 million votes. While Trump won the electoral college, he did so with barely a quarter of US citizens of voting ages. In other words, in a democracy in which 51% allegedly decides an election, Trump garnered support from about one in four adult citizens.
In other words, Trump’s election was influenced more by the disillusionment and disregard of the vast majority of US citizens than by a strong showing of support. Literally he capitalized on the failure of citizens to participate. The election was less won by Trump than abandoned by the populace. He rules by virtue of a stunningly small minority!
But truly, Trump is not the issue here! Trump is merely a phenomenal distraction from what is really at stake. At this point virtually everyone agrees that this Republican president is narcissistic, impulsive, untrustworthy and self-aggrandizing. But the administration behind the president and the congress that rode his coattails to a scandalous election are truly dangerous to the values and principles that most of us hold sacred. The devastation of God’s creation, the abuse of people of few means and little voice, the heightening of racism, neglect or abuse of women and children—and the list goes on—these are what needs to be our preoccupation, our primary concern, not the machinations of an adolescent attention-getter. As we insist to each other that we pay attention to what matters, we will be less distracted by the inane and sensational and more attuned to what shapes the world our children and grandchildren inherit.
This is where I find myself hopeful: that we begin to talk to each other about what matters to us. After all, what happens if a great proportion of US citizens reclaim their convictions about what is right and good about our country? What happens if seniors use the hard won wisdom not only to mentor younger citizens, but to organize themselves as elders into a dynamic, caring constituency that demands truthfulness and transparency in government? What happens if young people actually voice their longings and put substance into their dreams, and then organize themselves to accomplish what they want? What if our Easter faith is claimed in terms of how people of faith move out into the world—into our congregations, our neighborhoods, our cities, our nation, and, yes, even out into the larger, diverse and beautiful world—and apply our long held convictions about what it means to love our neighbors, to care for the stranger and those left behind, and to honor and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation? What if we get ourselves together to make a difference, based on what we believe? What if…?