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When Hate Trumped Love

NB: Herein are my opinions about the election. They don’t represent my employer, my husband, or anyone else associated with me. I don’t expect to you to have the same ones—or to leave this with yours changed. Thanks for reading, in any case.

Let me start with a confession: This is the first election I’ve voted in. 

I realize that may be offensive to some. As a devout Christian, I’ve always believed “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phillipians 3:20). There are many ways to interpret the Christian political witness. The idea of America as a Christian nation has always made me squirm. I stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance in high school. I cannot in good conscience pledge my complete allegiance to a nation—my first allegiance is to God and his Church. I am a strong advocate for the separation of Church and state. I am a passivist, and I believe in the equal value of all people, American or not, Christian or not, of all colors, orientations, political beliefs—because they all bear the image of God.

Because of these convictions, voting for either party has always felt morally treacherous. On the one hand, vote for the party that takes care of the poor, and you’re removing protections for the unborn. On the other hand, vote for the grand old party, and you’re paving the way for more guns and more harm to God’s creation.

And yet. Yet. This year is different. Though I still believe those things, this strange and heartbreaking election compelled me to action. Was voting morally precarious? Perhaps. But not voting felt far more dangerous. Midway through this summer, I shared this on my Facebook:

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I’ve not yet posted about the election, because I don’t know that my personal opinion is that important or helpful. However, I’ve decided to speak out because I believe the collective voices of those choosing to vote for Hillary Clinton ARE important and helpful. And in this election’s climate, I’ve personally felt afraid to voice my support of Clinton, because of how often I’ve seen Trump and Sanders supporters alike shame her supporters.

I understand and respect those who have decided to vote differently. I have come to my support of Clinton for a few reasons, and I hope to show here, in a positive way, that there are thoughtful, moral people supporting Clinton, despite the shaming on both sides.

As a Christian, I feel it’s incumbent on me to elect the person who is going to use his or her position of power to do the most good for the most people. Clinton has done this throughout her career, fueled by her Methodist faith. She’s not only the most qualified candidate for the job, but she leads with goodness, strength, and a philosophy built on love, not hate. I understand many see her differently; I have investigated these claims and do not see substantive facts behind them. She’s not perfect, but I believe she’ll be an excellent president. I also believe it’s incumbent on me to do everything in my power to prevent a dangerous, hateful, exploitative potential president from taking office. I understand that many in my circles make their choice out of an allegiance to the Republican Party that goes way back; while I see things differently, I respect their point of view.

Finally, while I don’t choose Clinton because of her gender, I am delighted and proud at the notion of electing a woman into perhaps the most powerful job in the world. Our culture and world need this. Our daughters and sisters need this. Heck, I need this. The argument that her gender shouldn’t be a reason for electing her has one major flaw: we’ve been electing presidents because of their gender (male, our “default” gender) for centuries.

I’m happy to dialogue with those who feel differently, perhaps privately. Proud to say #ImWithHer. We’re #StrongerTogether.

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As the election went on, it became more and more personal for me. Listening to the way Trump spoke of women, people of color, and immigrants, I was stirred to action.

Watching Clinton endure endless interruption and sexist comments in the debates, I felt a familiar sting most professional woman know well. We’ve all been victims of it. I admired her grace as well as grit—she ignored the sexism and got on with the work.

But my support for Hillary wasn’t just anti-Trump or pro-woman. I am the follower of a savior whose greatest concern was for “the least of these,” and who died to break the cycle of violence and enact justice in the world. I truly believed—and still do—that Hillary Clinton would be an excellent president. While I don’t have a savior complex about her, I believed she would do good for our people and our society, particularly for the vulnerable. The president of the United States has a powerful (though finite) role, both in action and symbolism, and I’ve been hyped about how Hillary could hold that role.

Tuesday morning, I woke up absolutely giddy, sure that we were about to witness history being made. I was joyful all day, having no doubt that we would have a female president that night—and that she would advance our society even further towards goodness. I felt newly aware of the power of representation—seeing my gender affirmed in the role of (almost) president brought me a joy I’d never experienced. That was moving. I proudly pinned my “Love trumps hate” button to my pantsuit and marched out the door towards my polling place.

Tuesday night was like a bad dream—a nightmare, more specifically. Surreal, dark, heartwrenching. I went to a returns-watching party, where everyone was in Hillary gear. They handed out “Nasty Woman” and “Bad Hombre” buttons. The tone was triumphant and even playful at 7:00 pm.

But things started to change quickly. The party deflated. We were shocked—none of us saw this coming. The polls were wrong. The newspapers were wrong. How could it be?

My feminist interest in having a Madam President suddenly seemed petty. If Trump was going to be our president, so many people I love were at risk. How could we give the most powerful job in the world this man? A bully who mocks the disabled and anyone who disagrees with him. A man who boasts about assaulting women and speaks of them in the crudest terms. An exploitative business man with no political experience and a platform built on hate. A racist whose constant display of prejudice gained him the endorsement of the KKK. A narcissist who can be baited with a tweet. What were we teaching our children about character? Furthermore, what would he get away with in office? What of human decency, kindness, LOVE?

At 9:00 pm I was overcome with anxiety and had to head home to watch in privacy. I stayed up all night, texting friends for solidarity. At 1:00 am, when the Clinton campaign announced their attendees should go home, I felt a glimmer of hope. Maybe we could turn this around somehow? I lay down and tried to go to sleep, but soon my phone began buzzing. Trump had reached 270; Clinton was going to concede. I ran back downstairs to flip on the TV, and I watched in a dream-like state as Trump walked across that stage to give his acceptance speech.

I couldn’t cry until the next morning, when it began to set in. I had to go to work, to a University where many of the students are immigrants (even undocumented), young women, or people who identify as LBGTQ+.

If Trump keeps his promises, their parents will be deported.

If Trump’s rhetoric is executed, some of them will be persecuted for their religion and labeled terrorists.

If Trump’s example is followed, assault on their female bodies will be normalized.

If Trump’s policies play out, their neighborhoods could be more militarized than ever.

If Trump has his way, they could lose their healthcare—and their path to finishing college and starting a career.

Trump’s victory has shown them that a large cohort of this nation is comfortable discriminating against them based on their skin color.

Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” We have seen our new leader’s heart, and it is a dark and shameful moment in history that we would put him in power.

I’ve dialogued with folks who feel differently. I know Trump supporters are not a monolith, and their motivations are many. For my dad, who voted for Trump, it’s out of a deep concern for the economy’s flourishing. I understand his perspective, and I respect him. But I’m saddened that he—and many others—can let their priorities eclipse human rights.

My mom (who didn’t vote for Trump, for the record) pointed out that, of course, Trump can’t carry out everything he’s promised. She’s right, and I needed to hear that. The core of my concern, however, is less about his words all coming to fruition—and more about the number who bought into and supported those words. I thought, as a nation, we were better than this.

I know many voted for him because of their concerns about Clinton or their allegiance to Republican values, including pro-life convictions. I know many truly believe he’s the lesser of two evils. I’m not suggesting all his supporters are morally corrupt. But truthfully, I’m still flabbergasted by their choice.

Chicago has been mournful, solemn, and quiet since Tuesday. One thing I’ve learned in this election, is your context is everything. In this city, filled with such beautiful diversity, such potential—alongside such poverty and violence—the sting is strong.

Many, many Chicagoans—particularly young people, particularly people of color—are angry. Rightfully so. They cast their votes, but the system is not working for them. Their voices have not been heard. And they will be the victims of a Trump triumph. Let me be clear: This pain we are experiencing is not about one political party or another. It’s not about Republican vs. Democrat. It’s not about Hillary’s loss. This is about the triumph of a movement of hate. This is about the flourishing of injustice.

On Tuesday night, thousands of them gathered to protest outside Trump’s tower downtown. After meeting with our students and faculty at Chapel Wednesday morning to pray and process, I decided I would go to the protest. The journalist in me wanted to observe, and the neighbor in me needed to stand in solidarity, and the broken parts of me had to mourn with others.

When I posted a Facebook live video, I got some negative response. I agree with the commenters that we’re supposed to respect and pray for elected officials according to Scripture. But we’re also supposed to seek justice, experience righteous anger, and lament. I don’t endorse the protestors’ language or methods; I broadcasted the event to bring awareness.

The faithful Martin Luther King Junior said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Some commented that there’s no point in protesting when the election is “finished.” The point isn’t to change the outcome. The point is to question the system, to be heard, to fight for justice, to love our neighbors.

I am still overcome with grief. I am tearing up out of the blue. I feel tired. And I know that many have reason to be much more dismayed than I do.

Of course, my hope is always fixed on a Kingdom that is to come. Of course, God is still on God’s throne. And yet, Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” Whenever justice is done, whenever mercy wins, whenever love is given, heaven is coming down on Earth. For those of us tuned into heaven’s coming, this manifestation of hate is a severe blow. I know that hate had a temporary victory this week; I believe that love wins in the end; but the now is painful.

Part of the walking wounded, I’ve been looking into the eyes of people this week, thinking, “Are you hurting too? Are you a safe person? Do you bear this heaviness in your heart that’s in mine? Or do I need to pretend I’m okay?”

That’s why I’m partaking in the #safetypin movement. Borrowing from Brexit, it encourages individuals to wear a safety pin to show solidarity. If you see one on my clothes, you know I’m safe. I am for you. It’s a simple sign of solidarity.

I am not sure where to go from here. I did (along with nearly three million others—so far) sign the petition urging the electoral college to step in. I’m certain it won’t prevail. I can only pray that Trump’s power and tongue will be checked—that he will not be able to make good on his promises. And that perhaps some good could come of his presidency.

For now, I have to see this grief through. I have to help my neighbors (and myself) heal. I need a break from media. I need some silence and rest.

I am trying to follow the example of a good friend, who said today: “I’m not going to let Trump win even more by being afraid.” She’s right. Jesus said, “Perfect love casts out fear.” In other words, love wins.

I find comfort in the words I read from the gospel in morning prayer today:

“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11

Let’s exalt each other, let’s make each other safe.

In love, tolerance, and care—despite our differences and disagreements,
Andie

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