Two days after the presidential election I found myself crying while exercising on my elliptical machine at home. I usually watch TV as I work out and on this day, I was watching an episode of the Netflix series “Longmire”. I know it wasn’t the particular scene I was watching that brought me to tears, but rather it was the pent-up emotion of the election and the uncertain portent for the future of our country. But the scene was the trigger. It was about a troubled ex-veteran who was arrested and handcuffed for a kidnapping. She was so distraught that she jumped into a lake – still handcuffed – attempting to drown herself. As the sheriff jumped in to save her and his deputies bolted into action to help, that’s when I began to cry. And not just tears, but sobbing. After pondering this for several days, I have come to understand that the scene welled up in me deep feelings of despair and redemption.
Unsurprisingly, how one feels about the outcome of the election is dependent on which candidate was supported. Trump voters feel relieved, excited and proud while Clinton voters feel afraid, devastated and angry, according to a recent Gallup poll. I’m one of the devastated and angry voters. It doesn’t help that the number of hate crimes across the country have spiked since the election and that Trump has appointed as his chief policy advisor someone who is affiliated with the alt-right.
The post-election despair among the majority of voters is palpable and is disproportionately felt among people of color. My daughter is a teacher in a city school. The day after the election a young Black student in her sixth-grade class asked if she would be deported and sent to Africa now that Trump was elected. This poor child’s entire family was born and raised in America.
It is the communities of color which will bear the burden of a Trump presidency if his campaign promises are implemented. Muslims will be banned. Immigrant families will be torn apart and millions deported. Intrusive and unproductive “stop and frisk” policies will likely be increased primarily in low income and minority communities.
Some may ask how I justify this despair and anger with my spirituality. Well, that’s where the redemption part comes in. I pray for Trump’s redemption. I know that at this very moment God is whispering in his ear talking about fostering abundant love. But in case Trump refuses to listen, I also take solace in the actions of Jesus as he faced down the unscrupulous power structure of his day. There was nothing wimpy or passive about Jesus.
Jesus was fierce when he was standing up on behalf of those who were most in need. I mean, this is the fellow who used a home-made whip to drive out the money changers in the temple because they were charging for access to pray; turning the “house of prayer into a den of thieves.”
This is also the guy who took on the Pharisees; the Jewish religious hierarchy calling them hypocrites, blind fools, and a brood of viper’s because they “ignored the important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness.”
As a people of God, we are called to stand up on behalf of those who are most vulnerable. The coming years will be challenging for our country. We will be forced to live out the values to which we aspire. We will be called to decide through our policies and through our actions whether we are a country that embraces diversity, mercy, and equal opportunity or are we a racists and greedy nation.
I know what I am called to do. I will pray for the redemption of all who spew hate and violence. I will pray that our elected officials act with wisdom and mercy. And I will organize to oppose people and policies that pile heavy burdens on those least able to bear them. I pledge to be tender in prayer and fierce in opposition. That’s what I think Jesus would do.
Michael Soika has been a community activist for more than 30 years working on issues of social and economic justice. His work for justice is anchored by his spiritual formation first as a Catholic and now as a Quaker.