An insufficient response to the election
President-elect Donald Trump is seen with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, in Washington, Nov. 10. (CNS photo/Shawn Thew, EPA)
I don’t know about you, but the results of last week’s election have left me feeling completely overwhelmed.
First it was the election itself: While I wasn’t totally shocked that Trump won, I was surprised, and I swear it’s taken me lots of mental heavy lifting to adjust from my Clinton-framed view of what the next four years might be like to a Trump-framed view. As I said on Facebook the morning after the election, “I always considered both prospects for the presidency to carry some big negatives and some less-negatives. I'm now trying to get used to a different set than I anticipated.”
Then there are the reactions of my loved ones – everything from despair to giddiness. Many have been thrust into something like mourning. Some are struggling to grapple with what has happened. Some are grasping at straws, trying for something, anything that might undo Trump’s election. Some have taken a more productive course of action, setting the stage for four years’ worth of opposition. Others seem to be pinching themselves, delighted that a culture that has been so dominated by one (progressive) view of the world has been disrupted. They’re eager for their chance to be heard.
There are the broader, wider reactions of people across the country: those who march, those who riot, those who fight, those who are consumed by fear, those who feed it by marking up public spaces with hateful slogans, those who resent the intensity of it all.
There are the calls to action: To reach out, to stand up, to grow up.
There’s the confusion of the contingent to which I belong – conservatives who oppose the Republican Party’s swing towards populism; who disdain the Trump campaign’s associations with racism, sexism and fearmongering; who value life, liberty and the rights of the individual human person over electoral success. What do you do when your side becomes unrecognizable to you? What are the options for the politically homeless?
An AT&T truck burns as protesters riot in Oakland, Calif., following President-elect Donald Trump's victory in the Nov. 8 election. (CNS photo/Noah Berger, Reuters)
Like I said, it’s been overwhelming. And adding in the demands of my home and my four beautiful, exhausting little children, I feel like I hardly have enough energy for life these days, let alone any Big And Important Response to the election.
So here I stand, almost empty-handed. Insufficient.
The best image I can conjure up to describe what I mean by “almost empty-handed” is that of a woman tentatively approaching the home of a friend who has been grievously injured in an accident.
The woman is sad, she’s concerned, she’s confused. Her mind spins with the particulars of the accident and her friend’s precarious condition. She wants to help but doesn’t know what the family needs or whether she’s equipped to offer it. But she also has hope. The accident was not fatal. Her friend lives. She has loved ones who are willing to help her recover.
So the woman does a little something. She does all she can think to do, fully aware that it’s lacking. She walks up those front steps and knocks on the front door, and in the face of all that fear and anguish, she stands there, insufficient, holding a cake.
After my first, dull, hollow response to Trump’s election, my next response was better, though it was small and insufficient like that cake. I wanted to talk to people. Not to type angry comments into my phone, not to work up a diatribe against the conditions that brought us to this point – just to talk, in real life, to real people.
I thought of the people I’d been trading political points with online, friends from long-ago stages of my life. I thought of the people with whom I’ve felt a kinship, those who have given me hope. And I wanted to just sit with all of them in my parlor, holding a cup of something hot and a plate of something sweet – and talk. Just talk. About where I’m coming from and where they are, about the experiences that have lead us to those places. About why we think we’re right and what we want others to know about us. About the things we don’t understand about the other. I wanted to see faces and hear voices and remember that we’re all struggling for the good, stumbling and imperfect and insufficient as we are.
So I issued a little invitation to my friends and family on Facebook: “I want to get together a group of not-like-minded folks to talk about some big issues that divide us (abortion, gun control, immigration, race, whatever). Not to argue, not even to convince – just to help us understand each other. Just to ask questions and explain perspectives. I'll provide the place and the drinks; maybe others could bring an appetizer or dessert to share? What do you think?”
I was hoping for a half-dozen interested people who were local to me. But I got that and more. Around a dozen locals and more than a dozen people from across the country expressed interest in participating, so now I’m putting together several discussion groups, some to meet in person, some via video chat.
It’s not much. It’s only a little brave, not a lot. It’s an insufficient response to all the fear and frustration our country is going through right now. God willing, it won’t be all I do.
But at this moment, this is what I’ve got. I am by nature a friendly person who reaches out and wants to know people. And right now, overwhelmed as I am, that’s the instinct I’m going to rely on.
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11/17/2016 11:17:15 AM
By Julie Walsh