If you are like me, you are still reeling from the election results in the United States – trying to make sense of it, while at the same time going through the steps of mourning. As I write this, it is difficult to call our country United – because it is anything but. In reality, we have become the Divided States of America – and worse, we have had friendships lost and detachments with relatives over this election. And I guess I could say, what’s even worse – we learned about the bigotry and viewpoints of people we used to consider friends or even learned this about family members, even spouses.
When one mourns, it is to cope, heal, and to express the loss of love. However, I think we should stop or never approach the final stage of acceptance; rather, I think we need to be vigilant.
Back in the early 1930s, there was a person considered to be powerful and charismatic, and much like Trump, beyond reproach. Hungering for change, a promise was made to the disenfranchised for a better life and to make the country glorious (or great). Even with losing about 2 million votes from the previous election in July 1932 (a number that ironically is the estimated spread of popular votes Hillary won over her opponent), a coalition with Conservatives was made in January 1933, a man named Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor – head of the German Government – the proclaimed savior of a nation. Racism and authoritarian ideas, basic freedoms were abolished, forcing parties into goals, abolishing trade unions – the world saw the move from democracy to a dictatorship and the loss of privacy and use of terror used to achieve goals became the new norm.
Am I trying to be an alarmist, no, but I am calling for vigilance. Part of the work I do requires me to read Nazi Era unclassified briefings, which often include government briefings, letters of victims, and correspondence between different businesses. As I read through these documents, my mind continues to move back to the election. The fear, the desperation, and the destruction – you gain an insight from primary source documents that help you experience the fear of the oppressed. There are so many similarities between that election and Hilter’s rise to power, that we must stay vigilant.
So here we sit, a divided nation that has blamed racial divide on our first African American
President, as well as a congress that has denied the President the ability to fulfill an almost 1-year vacancy in the Supreme Court, played bipartisan games giving the illusion that Obamacare and other policies were substandard and denying that they were bastardized by bipartisan disagreements and politics. Then there are interference of the FBI, voter fraud allegations and lost ballots, the appointment of power-mongering racist career politicians that seem to remain at the bottom of that drained swamp that we have heard so much about, and the blatant allegations of fraud and wrongdoing – all of which continue to be ignored and overlooked. Some will go so far as to say that this is for the betterment of the country. I don’t have to tell you that I adamantly disagree – this country, before the election tore it apart, was already great – and we were in a time of measurable growth – the first time in a long time.
The “reality show” rhetoric with a string of already broken promises have been discounted and justified as a means to an end. We as a nation stand abhorrently divided – and that is a problem. We have racial violence and religious bigotry spilling into our elementary schools, universities, churches, and communities. We have parades by the KKK, interference with foreign governments, and the rhetoric of registries, walls, and camps – is this really the State of our Union? We must never forget that at one time, in a not so distant past, it was our differences that united us – that is what made (or makes) our country great. It was our quest to have a safe space to practice or not practice our faith; celebrate the traditions of our homeland while learning about others; in this, the United States of America, differences were welcome and embraced.
We need to recall Mark 3:25: “and if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” In other words, for the country to move forward, we must find a way to come together, heal, and be united so that the history of the 1930’s does not repeat itself. We need to be a better stronger nation – leaving the world better for the next generation. With someone who does not believe in global warming and feels that since we have nuclear weapons, why not use them – will there even be a world left for my children and grandchildren?
Michele Stopera Freyhauf is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and a Member of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University as well as an Instructor at John Carroll University’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies. Her research and areas of focus for the classroom, lecture, and publication are Religion, Cultural Identity and Memory Studies, Forced Migration and Exile, Cultural Heritage and Human Rights, Biblical Archaeology, Provenance of Antiquities and Art (including Nazi-Era Looting) and international dialogue surrounding the protection, conservation, and education of cultural heritage. Michele has an M. A. in Theology and Religious Studies from John Carroll University, and did post-graduate work at the University of Akron in the area of History of Religion, Gender, and Sexuality. She is also the student representative on the Board for Eastern Great Lakes Biblical Society (EGLBS). Michele is the 2015 recipient of the P. E. MacAllister Excavation Fellowship where she participated in the Bethsaida Archaeology Project. Michele is a feminist scholar, activist, and author of several articles including “Hagia Sophia: Political and Religious Symbolism in Stones and Spolia” and lectured during the Commission for the Status of Women at the United Nations (2013 and 2014). She also wrote “The Catholic Church and Social Media: Embracing [Fighting] a Feminist Ideological Theo-Ethical Discourse and Discursive Activism” that appears in Feminism and Religion in the 21st Century: Technology, Dialogue, and Expanding Borders, edited by Gina Messina-Dysert and Rosemary Radford Ruether. Michele can be followed on Twitter @msfreyhauf and @biblicalfem. Her website can be accessed here and is visible on other social media sites like LinkedIn and Google+.