I almost didn’t write this. I’m a straight, white male. Christian. Educated. I’ve had no crosses burned on my lawn, no hateful names yelled at me as a child by other children who didn’t understand what they were saying, or by adults who definitely did know what they were saying. I don’t feel the fear that many of my friends felt when they woke up this morning – the fear that maybe they are not as welcome in this country that is their home as they thought they were – as they deserve to be.
But tonight I have friends who are mourning – that the America they thought they lived in, that they thought would welcome them, that they thought they belonged to, does not exist in the way that they thought that it would, in the way that they hoped it would. Refugees. Undocumented children, women, and men. LGBTQ friends. Muslims. Latinos. Women and girls. Syrians. Women and men of color. Theirs are the voices you should be listening to tonight. Theirs are the words you should be reading. I merely want to stand by them.
All I can offer is my support. My presence. My love. My love to all of you who mourn. My love to all you who feel shell-shocked. I am with you, and for you… My life – our country – would be the poorer for your absence.
But I can’t stay completely silent. To see friends, family, and strangers – many of whom are Christians – celebrating the election of the same man that is celebrated with such glee by David Duke, by the far-right neo-fascist nationalist parties in Europe, by neo-Nazis and white supremacists and white nationalists in the United States, by the KKK, by Putin, LePen, Farage – it is disturbing, and disheartening, and cause for grief.
I grew up in a village in the Andes mountains with an outhouse. I played with my Quechuan neighbors in the dirt outside our home, speaking a mixture of Quechua and Spanish and the universal language of play: floating sticks down the irrigation ditch, chasing and being chased by the pigs and the sheep. But I had a US passport. I had opportunities that so many of my neighbors lacked. Not because I worked for it, or because I was better than them, or smarter than them. Completely unearned.
And when I graduated high school (I got to go to school, and didn’t have to stop studying in order to put food on the table for my family) I boarded an airplane and flew to another country – the country I was “from,” and had grown up hearing so many wonderful things about.
America. The land where all men and women are created equal. The land of opportunity. A country that was “blessed by God.” The land where freedom of speech and freedom of religion and freedom of the press and freedom of assembly were foundational. The country that said “I might disagree with what you say, but I’ll fight for your right to say it…” The country that stood for something – that welcomed immigrants and those who were willing to work hard – that lived up to the ideals of “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…”
But when I arrived, I slowly discovered what many who grew up here and experienced life from the margins already knew – that the ideals often failed to live up to the reality.
I still had hope.
I have hope.
(actually, scratch that…)
As Dr. West says, “I am a prisoner of hope.”
It’s hard to maintain hope though, when the children you work with every day – those who have fled violence, hunger, religious persecution, and have come through strong and brave and creative and resilient – when they are demonized and told to “go back to where you came from.” When they are told there isn’t enough for those of us already in the lifeboat, so please move along. “I’m sorry you were born in the wrong place, but that’s your fault. Next time, be born in a better country… or with a better skin color… or to a better religion…”
Am I my brother’s keeper?
Who is my neighbor?
If you accept me, but not the people I grew up with, my neighbors, my co-workers, my friends, the people I love, where does that leave us?
Is the only reason I’m accepted in this country the color of my skin, that I say the right things, that I fit in, that I am a member of the in-group, that I can pass?
Because I can. For a while.
(Until we start to talk about baseball, or any college sports, and then it becomes pretty clear that I am a fraud and an impostor who is not a “real American.” Or until I grow tired of stifling what I really think and feel because I am afraid it will alienate people that I love.)
Dishonesty is a small price to pay for the absence of conflict right?
But only out of honesty comes shalom – peace – wholeness – reconciliation. Only out of telling the truth – the whole, messy, honest truth, can we know each other and be known. Only then can we embrace freedom.
So I am going to try to be honest, and try to tell the truth. I don’t want to be silent.
My love to all of you friends who mourn. My love to all you who feel shell-shocked. I am with you, and for you…
For my friends and family who are Christians – it doesn’t matter who you voted for. But it does matter how you treat others. It does matter if you stand up for those who don’t have the privilege you wield without thinking. Your words matter. Your actions matter.
I heard Trevor Noah last night. He was born in 1984 in South Africa. Mandela was still in prison, apartheid was the law of the land. It was illegal for his parents to be together.
“You can be dejected. You can be sad. But don’t let it turn in to fear.
Because that’s what Donald Trump used to get his side to do something that they never should have done.”
Perfect love casts out fear.
We will rise.
We will walk.
There is much to be done.