Did you listen to Trump’s victory speech? I did. And it calmed me down.
It came after three rounds of crying. There was the quick, visceral cry after Iowa got called. Iowa wasn’t a swing state, but the momentum really changed for me then. “Say something uplifting,” I texted my friend Conor, a witty and thoughtful policy wonk (find him on Twitter here). He sent me a wonderful quote from Reinhold Niebuhr (here).
Then there was the profound cry when Pennsylvania went red. Tell me you didn’t cry? I was texting last night with a good friend in Pennsylvania who asked how she was supposed to take her son to school in the morning—he’s brown; there was a “Trump that Bitch” sign in front of the school.
Then there was the cry at the end of the night, before the speech. That was the cry of despair. I was thinking about the sexism that I’ve faced and that friends and colleagues have faced, and the painfully obvious double standard used to measure each campaign. My friend texted me that a woman friend had recently told her that it’s possible a woman might not have the temperament to be president. What?!? I also read the statistics that 78% of white, evangelical Christians voted for Trump.
Deep, body-aching despair.
I always think about the sermon a young seminarian gave at my husband’s church in New York City. The seminarian had been at an interfaith gathering and a rabbi had told him that for God, despair is the ultimate hubris–because with God, nothing is impossible. We may not see the way out, but we don’t know everything.
I think of that often, usually when I’ve clawed my way out of the pit, and am trying to move away from the edge.
I felt I had to stay up for Trump’s speech.
I have a tendency to be practical, centrist, compromising. Also, there was an imminent threat to my sanity—the next day I was having lunch with a certain relative who does not like to appear anywhere online and who may or may not have voted for Trump.
But mostly, I don’t want to burrow down into hatred, digging away the dirt of rationality and throwing clumps of mud at the other side as I listen only to my people. That kind of hatred destroys me from the inside out, and blinds me to my own weaknesses.
If I was sinking like a ship into my couch, people somewhere were feeling a sense of elation and relief. There’s humanity in those emotions, and I wanted to see for myself.
I had an inkling I’d left a crack in my calcified heart to see the other side with something other than horror—I’d read a profile of Kellyanne Conway in The New Yorker. I don’t agree with most of her ideals, but I could also see myself in her—she’s a mother of four young kids, she is passionate about her career, she came out against Trump’s original comments on abortion (the they “should be punished” ones). I like Ivanka Trump’s website. Its tagline is “We are women who work,” and she has profiles of interesting women, including a stay-at-home mom. I listened to Donald Trump Jr.’s interview on election day, and there was such a proud, loving tone. Family—it makes us loyal even in the face of sometime-lunacy. I understand that.
So I stayed up. The speech was good. It was kind. It was unifying. It was coherent. It was impassioned. If you haven’t heard the speech, no pressure, but it’s here. Here are the highlights:
Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; [we] have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.
For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people. . . I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.
I know you’re probably rolling your eyes. I get it. The speech is best if you can watch it. It’s even better if Trump’s way of speaking reminds you of your grandpa, of whom you have very fond memories. (That actually helps a lot.)
I felt good after the speech. I wanted our politicians to deescalate the vitriol, to model what it means to be part of civil society. I could go to bed.
But I couldn’t get out of it.
I woke up crying. I got up and went back to bed crying. My friends who are people of color, who are part of the LGBTQ community, who work with refugees or at women’s health clinics—everyone was expressing a sense of vulnerability and fear that they hadn’t felt in a long, long time. I’m trying to listen a lot more.
Then I listened to Hillary’s speech in the parking lot of the local rec center, and I cried more. At this part…
And to all the young people in particular, I want you to hear this. I’ve spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I’ve had successes and I’ve had setbacks -– sometimes really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your careers. You will have successes and setbacks, too.
This loss hurts. But please, please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It’s always worth it. And we need you keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives.
To all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion.
I know that we still have not shattered that highest glass ceiling. But some day someone will -– hopefully sooner than we might think right now.
…I did ugly crying.
Then I got this beautiful, future-glass-ceiling-shattering little girl out of the car, and went in to meditation class.
Most people in meditation class are twenty, thirty years older than me. We talked about “taking the hits”–allowing yourself to feel the deep sadness, and not pushing it away with anger.
A friend of mine, Melissa, who graduated with me from college, wrote this. She kindly said I could share. It beautifully captures where I’m at.
“Earlier this week, I took part in a discussion on “lament” and the lost art of mourning and how we’ve learned to harden our hearts and forgotten the importance of deep-felt grief. Wailing, clothes-tearing lament.
This morning, as I enjoy the warm snuggles and love of my family, I don’t mourn for our family. Our white, upper-middle-class, well-employed family will be fine. In fact, if any of those huge, great plans come to be, we’ll probably thrive as we traditionally have. Our privileged children will continue to enjoy access to all the best schools money can buy, all the benefits of well-educated parents, and a strong social-emotional family foundation that will save them from much trouble.
My daughter will grow up, hammer in hand, ready and able to shatter glass. I don’t mourn for our family. But I do mourn for the thousands who will lose their health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, especially those with pre-existing conditions who will experience financial decimation or poor healthcare without guaranteed insurance; I mourn for the women who will find it harder to access healthcare if the government increases its power over their reproductive choices; I mourn for all the girls, the children of color, those with disabilities, and for my LGBTQ friends who received a clear message today that their country tolerates their bullying and values them as less than equal citizens; I mourn for the thousands of refugees who will never experience the freedom and greatness of America if we reverse our long-held tradition of welcoming the tired and weary; I mourn for the dreamers who grew up here and believed they could be part of America’s future and now may lose their pathway to citizenship; I mourn for women, who obviously still have to fight the fight to be heard and valued; and I mourn, with deep sadness and probably most of all, for the people of faith who traded in their calling to be an image-bearer of Christ for personal prosperity and bigotry, placing their needs over the needs of the poor and disenfranchised and forgetting our call to share love.
I’m not worried about our family but I am clothes-tearing, wailingly sad for America.”
I’m ready to move forward. I’m ready to give the Trump presidency a chance. I’m ready to raise the voice of progressive Christianity, whose silence has allowed the dialogue of the church to become bigoted and myopic. I’m ready to keep doing the work I do on behalf of the poor and refugees. In the meantime, I’m definitely going to cry some more.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”