I am writing this just a couple of days before the election; but by the time it’s published we will, hopefully, know the outcome. Back in January of 2017, I posted this on Facebook, “Yesterday, as Trump was taking the oath of office, I set up an annually recurring donation to Human Rights Campaign of Mississippi because I think they're going to need it. I also prayed for our President because I think he's going to need that too. I hope he does such a great job that many of us are eating our words, but I don't think he will. If I did—I might have considered voting for him, but I didn't and I won't pretend to like him or condone his actions just because he's been sworn in.
I won't pretend to have forgotten the horrible things he's said and done just because he now speaks from the Oval Office. But I'll tell you what else I won't do—I won't hope he fails. I won't pray he's a disaster. I won't root against him. That would be so self-defeating. Instead I'll keep supporting causes I believe in and giving my time and energy to causes that build people up and give voice to the voiceless. I'll continue to not let my opinions about Trump color what I think about my friends who support him—I happen to have some pretty awesome friends who voted all different ways and assigning my feelings towards their candidate of choice to them would say a lot more about me than it would them.”
I posted this as a promise—one that was out there on the internet, hopefully holding me accountable, even if only to myself. I have, by no means, always succeeded. My prayers for Trump often sound less like, ‘Lord, please give our President and his advisors wisdom and discernment and help them make the good and hard and loving decisions that will help our country,’ and more like, ‘Dear God—please make him stop. Just—help.’ To be fair, this is what a lot of my prayers about my kids sound like, and I would be willing to bet it’s what a lot of Trump’s most ardent supporters’ prayers for him sound like when he gets going on Twitter, too. But Jesus never said I had to pray pretty, just pray. You aren’t hiding anything during a prayer anyway—so don’t waste yours or God’s time on fake, flowery, fancified language. Anyway… Trump.
In my Facebook post from (what feels like) a lifetime ago, I said I wouldn’t let my opinions about the President color what I think about my friends who support him. I haven’t always managed that. I am sorry. Sometimes, I wasn’t trying hard enough. It’s so much easier to write someone off than try and understand them—even if there’s little reward in that.
Often, I didn’t care about the depth and richness added to a relationship that is braided with disagreements and strengthened by the shared efforts of resolution. I know that the first step in this is to remind myself that the person parroting political stances I abhor is the same person I thought was funny and fun to be around before they posted—but sometimes I can’t pick up my feet and find my way around to that. My tendency towards dualistic thinking picks me up at, ‘This is wrong,’ and drops me off at, ‘You are wrong,’ like a tornado drops a cow on the highway. Moo. I hear the President talk and behave in ways I won’t let my children listen to—much less get away with, and I wonder how all the amazing parents in my life who support him can square that up.
I look at some of the generous and loving servants’ hearts I am honored to be in the world with and wonder how they can live lives that look so much like the Gospel and then give their vote to a man whose most evident use for the Bible has been as a photo op prop. When friends I would never think of as racist, cast their ballot for someone who called African nations ‘s---hole countries’ and Black protestors ‘thugs’ and white supremacists ‘very fine people’—I wonder when racism in their leaders stopped being a dealbreaker.
I wonder if my loved ones who state, unequivocally, that they aren’t voting for the man but the platform realize that a vote for that platform is an unambiguous vote against the right of other loved ones to legally marry. I see smart, strong, successful women supporting him and wonder if the way he talks about women is how they talk to themselves, their mothers, their daughters.
I still don’t understand those things. I don’t know that I ever will. And I don’t think Biden is a perfect human, but I weighed my options and chose him over President Trump and how my math landed me there is a solution some of my friends will never understand, either. But here is what I do need those I disagree with to understand: I will try harder. I will try to reach for empathy even when indignation is easier. And I will work to weave more love into relationships frayed by disagreement. I cannot promise to agree for form’s sake, or fake acceptance of things I can’t. If I ever stop standing my ground with someone—it means I’ve given up hope of a relationship of any depth with them. But I know I can knit more kindness and gentleness into my honesty and, honestly, that’s the best I’ve got.
I don’t know who will win this election, but I do know that—either way—none of the anger blanketing our country will disappear when a winner is declared. We are all still going to think and believe certain things are as true and real as the ground we stand on—and those things will still look as different as red and blue. The end of this emotionally exhausting election won’t bring us all together to hold hands and sway as we sing along to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’—but, oh my gosh, that would be amazing if it did, right? But surely, we could let the end of this election be when we ALL try harder to stop acting like, ‘Ew, I am not holding a Biden/Trump supporter’s hand—they have cooties.’ Maybe this could be when we all take that whole, ‘…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,’ thing Jesus was talking about so seriously that we start to run out of enemies. We may never get there completely, but a promise to try and love our way out of this seems like our best shot.