I have to forgive these people? I have to pray for them? After what they have done? So many dark thoughts. Not Christian thoughts at all. Thoughts I normally would reject with all of my might.
Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness and prayer are repeated throughout the gospels and are frequent themes on this blog. But I was in a dark place that day. Even my dog knew it. She turned away from me when I picked up her leash. Instead of an exuberant response to her favorite activity she stood still, her long tail pointed down as I snapped on her harness. The date was 11/9, the day after the presidential election, but in some ways it felt like 9/11 to me.
Like many Americans, I felt my home was now located in a strange, inhospitable land. Throughout the day I experienced some of the fear, shock, insecurity, and disorientation that haunted me and others for many months after the events on that terrible September morning 15 years ago.
About mid-day I decided to deactivate my Facebook page. Earlier I huddled with my friends online, while others gloated and thumped their virtual chests as if the presidential election was part of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The words “drain the swamp” and “how’s it feel to be a loser?” and an undisguised blood lust filled my news feed, because electoral victory was not enough.
Others offered snarky shoulder-shrugging comments about “change, finally” interspersed with suggestions that poor losers should get over themselves. There is nothing quite as menacing as a vindictive winner, and this, following the most hostile, hate-filled campaign on record threatens to be the kind of contest where every citizen will be the loser.
It is my firm belief that there is a life-giving aspect to every experience, no matter how dark, but hard as I tried I was too broken up to locate it. So, before disabling my Facebook account I reached out to my friends and asked them to share their wisdom on the subject.
The idea of forgiveness worked its way into my thoughts and later, umbrella in one hand, dog leash in the other I worked my way up the street and began my silent rant. Forgive? Forgive who? Doesn’t forgiveness first require someone asking for it? Does forgiveness even come into this conversation? And who should be forgiven? Forgive us Lord, for we know not what we do.
I picked up the pace, walking faster and more fiercely than I ever had, slogging angrily through piles of leaves littering the sidewalk—unraked fiery gold and persimmon leaves, their wet fragrance rising towards me. I walked along streets shiny with rain and reflected red maples, my poor dog moving as fast as she could behind me. I was surrounded by the colors and scents of fall’s glory. Look up, look up. I saw it all and I didn’t care.
I was angry with God. I was angry with the church and the 51% of Catholics who from my point of view voted against the full teachings of Jesus Christ. I blamed the Bishops for their inconsistent teaching on Catholic social justice issues and their failure to demonstrate God’s mercy in this Jubilee year of Mercy. I blamed those who willfully ignore the words and example of pope Francis whose eyes are trained, as ours should be, on the Lord.
Pray for them.
I stormed past the grand home of a wealthy neighbor and whipped the bag of still warm dog poop at the political sign taunting me from their lawn. Maybe they will need to learn how to mow their own damn grass and clean their own damn house and take care of their own children after their help is deported.
Sigh. Oh Susan.
Remember, I never claimed to be The Good Disciple. I only strive to be.
The heaviness in my chest slowed my gait, and the sky opened with my tears which stung as a reminder of their source—the perception that The United States’ slow but steady progress towards a more inclusive and just society had just been halted.
I didn’t want to pray for these people, but I did go back and retrieve the bag of dog poop from their lawn. And as I stood up to continue walking home in the receding daylight and porch lights began their timed announcement of the days end, I became aware of the silence. No cars, no planes, no dogs barking, just the patter of the rain, my dog’s nails tapping on the pavement, and my sniffing. I offered a prayer for healing and asked for forgiveness. We are all mourning our country in some way. Forgive us Father; we know not what we do.
What is life-giving about this experience and other similar situations throughout the world? Dear readers, it emerges from the fact that this cuts us so deeply. We mourn our broken union. But our progress towards a more inclusive and just society has not been halted, we just have to work harder at it. We need to insist on being community with one another, to console and listen and work to build bridges across our painful divides.
The life-giving element—what actually will make America great again— is our collective agreement to act on behalf of one another because we are human beings. We know what to do.
This is the wisdom of my friends who responded from both sides of the debate.
“The America that we know and the rights of every community of Americans will remain sacrosanct. The darkness will lift – the weight of this enormous shock will lift and our faith will sustain us.”
“Activists will be born today.”
“But life-giving for me is the truth that God will use this experience to strengthen the resolve of those who stand for true social justice, across the board, from womb to tomb. Love always wins. Love always wins. Love always, always wins.”
“Love, reason, and compassion are the antidotes to the hatred of the campaign. We have to continue working for the common good.”
“People who normally would be passive will now be activists for justice. We need to be vigilant now more than ever.”
“Let’s reflect (St.) Paul’s words, “where abounds sin, over abounds grace” Rom 5:20… let’s be positive … and get involved, and claim “our” country back, with kindness, love, charity, mercy, all those Christian virtues that tell who we are!”
“Feeling despair does not help and does not change anything. Instead, continue to raise the important issues – whether that is through getting involved in politics or volunteering with an organization.”
What is your response?
10 thoughts on “What actually will make America great again?”
Susan, like you and many others, I am devastated by this. The cruelty — the gloating, the enjoying of other people’s pain — is something that was learned from this candidate, or was already present and was given license by him. Donald Trump’s campaign made me political again; his win only underlines that change in me. It’s all still too new, but I am contemplating what I will be called to do as a result of this catastrophe. Because in my life, it was only the very deepest personal wounds that got me out of myself and made me into something better.
I won’t go into a litany of the many disasters that have befallen me, situations so desperate that I thought I would never get out of them, and didn’t know how I would survive what I was feeling.
I have been through drug addiction; I have almost committed acts so desperate that I would have been in jail for the rest of my life; and I have become a Christian as a result, which has been a gift so extraordinary that I could never have even imagined it.
All this experience points towards a renewal. Which, of course, helps with what I am feeling now, although it doesn’t erase it, by any means. I won’t say “whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”. How do I know? How do I know it won’t just get worse and worse and not get better at all? Maybe that’s just not the way I think anymore.
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Thank you so so so much Dave for this heartfelt response to my sharing. Yesterday felt like a 3-day wake to me. I woke up today with a bit of clarity that like you points me in the direction of activism. We really all must do this if we want to participate in the democratic experiment known as the USA. I am deeply moved by your conversion story and am grateful to you for sharing it, and for sharing your plentiful gifts with the world. I’m glad we are friends.
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You found your inspiration. ….. I knew you would!
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Thank you Missy. ❤
Your voice matters. Out of darkness emerges the Light, Susan. You are a light. Thank you for your sharing this experience. And thank you for retrieving the poop. What an awesome metaphor! ❤ ❤ ❤
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Thank you, Debbie. xox
I believe that activism and involvement are what is needed in this country. I think that we will see a reinvigorated and recommitted Democratic Party by midterm elections.
I think that people need to understand that there is no Evil Empire here. No, Trump does not represent what I want or expect in a President…but we shouldn’t label everyone who voted for him as thinking as he does.
It’s easy to return the negativity that some people showed during this election, but I believe that we can rise above that. I’ve often thought that republicans stopped reading the Bible after the Old Testament while democrats started reading it with the Gospel of Matthew. I don’t believe that now, but I do think that we need to be more inspired by the red words in the Bible at this time…
My ♥️ really goes out to you reading this post, Susan. A little while after reading it, I related your dog-walking story over breakfast to my very sore partner we both began laughing. And laughing. And laughing. 😂 That felt really good, so thank you!
Kate, thank you for making me smile! It did feel pretty great to express my frustration in the throwing (whipping?) of that hot bag of poo. lol
I have similar thoughts, hoping for the president elect to exhibit unifying actions.
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