I wanted to stay in bed yesterday morning. I wanted to stay in bed for the whole day. When I heard that Trump won the US Presidential election, I didn’t know how to deal with it. How can I accept this reality? I still don’t have an adequate answer.
Turn to prayer? Yes. Do some writing? Ok. I’ll also take every hug and kind word that’s offered to me. And still, my emotions will be raw for a long time. I cry at random moments. My voice catches unexpectedly. I feel that so many Americans embraced a vision of the country that is intensely hostile to people like me (women, African-Americans, Black Lives Matter sympathizers, liberals, intellectuals). How can I not take that personally? Dismissing the harm of Trump’s open hostility or accepting it in deference to some supposedly higher goal feels like rejection too. It justifies and legitimizes his contempt and denies the seriousness of it. Do we really accept a man who speaks so openly of sexual assault because he promises to bring jobs back? That denigrates women and all assault victims. The hatred directed at immigrants, Muslims, and LGBTQA persons is even more unrestrained and horrifying!
Trump’s message of hatred is alarming to me as a progressive Christian. Rhetoric that incites hatred, fear, and anxiety seems antithetical to the message of Jesus. But while my Christian sensibilities are pained, my feminist sensibilities are even more wounded. Truthfully, I would have liked to see a woman as president. It would have been a symbol of progress in women’s equality, even though we know that glass ceilings remain firmly fixed in many places around the country and globe. It would have been exhilarating to see a former First Lady come into the highest executive position by being elected to it. But ultimately, it’s not who lost the election that crushes me. It’s who won that hurts. We chose a man with scant political experience over a woman who is qualified. I can’t help but call that a sexist double standard.
At times when I would hear some of his statements during the campaign, I wondered if Trump has a suitable knowledge of the powers of government and checks and balances. I do know there are some positions and policies Hillary Clinton would have adopted that concern me. For one thing, I’m critical of her militarism. But despite a few concerns about the manner in which she would have carried out the presidency, I was not concerned about her ability to do the job. I think she is diligent and thoughtful. On the contrary, I think Trump is impulsive and rash, and I’m deeply worried about having an inexperienced president who does not take the time to thoroughly deliberate. Will a Republican Congress back hasty or reckless moves in the name of party unity and partisan agendas? It seems many of his Republican critics supported him as the election drew near despite vocal concerns in the months prior. Why should I believe it will be different when Trump’s term begins?
I wish I had a bountiful reserve of faith, hope, and love (the theological virtues) to move me out of my dejected state. But I am closer to despair than hope. My faith in my compatriots is low. I struggle to love in the midst of anger and doubt.
I worry that turning to the theological virtues too quickly might trivialize the grief I feel. But perhaps I can find a way to express grief and loss and also draw myself back to wholeness. After all, I did not stay in bed yesterday. I got up and went to work. I went to work and then meetings and then church. I built in some extra self-care and I was able to meet all my obligations for the day. And in the coming days and weeks will choose again to get out of bed, to teach my classes, to write my book, and to believe in God and feminism. I suppose that’s faith. Or at least faithfulness.
I am afraid of what we will have to live through over the next several years. And yet also, I know the future is undetermined. We might be able to turn things around. I believe that the power of the sacred, the divine, the holy One provides us with options to avert a dystopian future. It’s why I’m in this community. Turning things around and finding alternatives to crisis and chaos will take hard work and commitment from many of us committed to this same cause. I don’t know if we will succeed, but I believe it is possible. I suppose there’s a glimmer of hope there.
I also continue to reject and denounce the xenophobia, homophobia, rape culture, ableism, racism, sexism, body-shaming, and other forms of contempt and disrespect for “others” and “minorities” that has been revealed in the campaign and elections. I don’t think hatred will ever bring us security or prosperity. I choose love instead. I have to work on this virtue, though. I have love and compassion for those who are hurting. And those who are vulnerable. My religion asks me to love my enemies, too. On election night, I realized there are more enemies than I thought! So I’ll get lots of practice with love. Many opportunities to get it right. I choose to love, but I’m not quite there yet.
I don’t yet have the full measure of faith, hope, and love that I’ll need to cope over the next few days, weeks, months, and years. And so I offer this prayer from St. Therese of Lisieux for me and anyone else who needs it:
May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Blessings to all of you who are hurting, too. Be well. Please tell me how you are nourishing your spirits.
Elise M. Edwards, PhD is a Lecturer in Christian Ethics at Baylor University and a graduate of Claremont Graduate University. She is also a registered architect in the State of Florida. Her interdisciplinary work examines issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter, google+ or academia.edu.