Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America just now. I’ll admit it: I feel sick to my stomach.
I still don’t understand how a narcissistic bully without any political experience won the presidency using racism, misogyny, lies, and outright meanness. He’s a cruel man, and I’m having a difficult time right now envisioning how a cruel man can become a compassionate leader. He’s justified rape culture, torn down people of colour, and has promised severe reversals in same-sex marriage laws. Trust me, boys, millions of people (both Americans and international folks) are justifiably angry, terrified, sad, and confused.
Protests are happening en masse around the world against Donald Trump. While I don’t agree with all the methods some protesters are using, I do agree with unflagging zeal of nonviolent activism that Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. embodied. Just because Trump is officially America’s president now, it doesn’t mean he’s no longer accountable. In fact, it is all the more critical that people of conscience and justice rise up and not back down.
If you think such protests are the domain of the marginalized, you would be wrong. Only months ago, thousands of Albertans – yes our fellow Albertans – marched on the Legislature in Edmonton (many brandishing pitchforks) to protest a bill Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP Party was pressing into law. I confess I was ashamed to be an Albertan that day, not because of any lack of deep respect for farmers, but because their display connoted a violence against other people whether that was the intention or not. Pitchforks, when taken out of the field or garden, have long been a symbol of peasant uprisings used to kill, torture, and destroy. In other words, the pitchforks were being used by people for purposes for which they were not intended.
And the underlying tone of the protest was so hostile and angry that I found it challenging to dig deeper into the real reasons protesters actually showed up for such an event. Having said all of that: even though I did not agree with how the protesters sent their message, (and I strenuously disagree with much of the vitriol towards women, immigrants, indigenous people, and Premier Notley herself that flowed out of that protest) I agreed that the right to protest was a part of the democratic process we all shared.
The kinds of democracies that both Canada and America have built allow for such protests. Remember that. Even when you vote for any given candidate, your work is not done, my boys. The hardest part is learning to live in community when the leadership above you stands against almost everything you hold dear.
And to live in community in ways that emulate Christ.
No easy task.
How can we do this? Today it seems impossible.
- I’m going to be gentle with myself today, boys. I’m angry and sad both for the backsliding America and for my friends in America who are genuinely afraid for their futures now. That anger can fuel further community action, but left to its own devices it will devour me. So I’m going to take a long walk around the lake, watch the birds, and (if I’m lucky) look up to witness a brilliant display of Northern Lights.No matter how dark the world seems to get, search for the beauty within it. Always. When anger or sadness threatens to consume you, take a step back. There’s no shame in doing so. Find a quiet space that is safe for you. Be alone with God and enjoy your presence together. Learn from the ancient mystics, prophets, and sages who meditated, prayed in the desert, and found Jesus in the broken places of the world. Walk gently, boys. Walk gently.
- I’m going to keep on learning how to listen. Not every Trump supporter would declare themselves as racist or homophobic. In fact, many thought his promises of viable work and food on the table were finally going to be real for them.So often I want MY viewpoint heard, because MY viewpoint has already critically examined all aspects of an issue or an event. But MY viewpoint is extremely limited. I need to learn not only to listen, but to DESIRE to listen. Even if the person across from me is making (what I believe to be) horrible statements that I disagree with, I must challenge myself and ask: “How can I make this space between us safe enough that this other person senses that no harm will come to them, even if we disagree?”
- I’m going to work all the harder to find the truth in the “news”. Fake news and post-truth are trending terms right now. How do we know what to believe? Outrageous stories shape my viewpoint, whether I like to confess it or not, and I must be oh-so-careful. False news is a beautiful way to start wars and genocides. Be zealous in getting all your information, boys, but be cautious and questioning of all of it.
- I’m going to stand with those already oppressed. There are many privileges you and I take for granted (and not all of them are good privileges) that millions around the world and in Canada will never know. I choose to listen to them, to see the world through their eyes, to glean from their wisdom, to repent of my own blindness, and to transform the world by seeking transformation within myself. I can donate all the canned goods in the world to the food bank, but without taking the time to understand why food banks exist in the first place (and ways to grow past them), poverty will continue.
You will all grow up and find your own ways of collecting information, forming your own opinions, and acting on your convictions. Today was a dark day for millions of people, even as it was seen as a day of light for millions of others. I can’t tell you what to think, but I can help you how to think. Be informed, be wise, be discerning, be questioning, be kind, and be loving. Choose that your heads and your hearts work together as one, just as we were created to be, so that your words shape your actions with integrity, honesty, humility, and love.
As for me, I’m going to take that walk by the lake now. I’m going to take long deep breaths of fresh air.
Tomorrow we resist.
“The ultimate thing is that we build community not on our love but on God’s love, because we really do not have that much love ourselves, and that is the real challenge. . . . It puts us in a position where sometimes natural community is very difficult. People are sent here and there, and often very incompatible people are thrown together. Groups of people who would never have chosen to be together in an ordinary human way find themselves living together. . . . This is a test of faith. This puts God’s love to the test and it is meant to. . . . It isn’t just a question of whether you are building community with people that you naturally like, it is also a question of building community with people that God has brought together.” —THOMAS MERTON, “MERTON IN ALASKA”