shoulders

So here we are four days after a long, grueling, divisive election season in which the nation is part jubilant, part stunned, part saddened, and part scared, with more than a dash of anxiety thrown in for good measure.

I have been sporadically blogging since 2008. I don’t blog for likes and comments (although I do enjoy them, esp. comments). I don’t blog for money nor do I write with any over-arching theme. A tiny reason for blogging is just for my voice to exist in some small way in the greater conversation of the interwebs. I like to think of my great, great grandchildren reading my thoughts someday. However, the primary reason I blog can be summed up by the great southern author,  Flannery O’Connor, who said,

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

Now, of course, you might tell me that I should just keep a personal journal instead. Actually, I do. However, I enjoy reading blogs–some that challenge me, some that comfort me, and some that make me say “Me too!” That is why I am writing these thoughts here. And these are my thoughts and only mine…and they may be rather rough, unprocessed, and a bit “stream of consciousness” because that is where my head and my heart are right now.

This election has been one for the books. Never in all of my 30 years of voting have I experienced such a surreal feeling on the day after–and it wasn’t just my feelings. It was this collective feeling of all of my communities in real time, in real life. It wasn’t quite as bad, but the only other time I remember this surreal feeling of going through the motions, pushing through, trying to make sense of the world, was the on September 12, 2001. We went to work, grocery shopped, picked kids up from school, and made dinner, but everyone seemed to be going through the motions. We engaged half-heartedly in conversations, which soaking up the news. It was just weird. This Wednesday was similar, though on a lesser scale. Maybe others didn’t have that feeling. Maybe it was because I live in a blue county in a typically blue state that surprised the whole nation by turning red. I’m not sure, but I know that never before have I hugged both colleagues and students through their tears.I have never seen so many heartbroken and confused 18-24 year-olds in my life. We didn’t ignore it. We talked about things, but kept it more in the realm of feelings, rather than politics, and we watched Kid President’s Pep Talk in my one class on Wednesday. We needed Kid President. We still do.

This campaign dredged up some big, emotional stuff for me as a woman. Hearing Trump talk about women in the way he did, which he have on audio (multiple times on Howard Stern’s show for one example), multiple TV interviews, and the infamous p*$$@-grabbing tape, led to some sleepless nights for me. For the record, I have never been sexually assaulted or molested, although I know many, many women who have. However, being a women in society I have experienced my share of objectification and sexual taunts. Here’s an incomplete laundry list:

  • 7th grade art class: We were studying on an architecture unit and I was scoring and cutting thick paperboard with an Exacto knife to make buildings. Two guys, that I had grown up with, were sitting across the table from me. Apparently, they rolled up a bath towel that was in the art room and were trying to poke me between the legs under the table. Because (1) it was a towel (2) I was wearing jeans which are thick material (3) I was concentrating on the task at hand and (4) I doubt the towel could reach that far anyway, I didn’t feel it. So they progressed to making comments for weeks about how I didn’t feel it because I was a slut and “used to it”. 7th grade. I hadn’t even ever kissed a boy yet.
  • Age 16: I was dating my first boyfriend and had verbally and nonverbally set clear boundaries. He repeatedly challenged them, but would always back off when I restated them. One night he didn’t. I vividly remember taking my open right hand, putting it on his face, and shoving him back away from me. I was a pretty passive 16 y/o, so I would like to high five 16-year-old me for that brave move. Shortly thereafter, he broke up with me (of course).
  • Honestly through college and early 20s, no real incidences to report other than cat calls, which are just par for the course of being female.
  • Age 26: Married woman with a 4-month-old. I was watching Robert play in a church softball game and my baby got hungry. I started to breastfeed him in the stands and was fully covered with a nursing bib. No one could see anything except for his downy head and his feet sticking out because it was July in Texas and I was trying not to smother my baby. When the game was over and everyone was drinking water and Gatorade, one of the guys on our church’s team stood right in front of me, smiled, and asked, “Is this the place where we line up for drinks?”
  • Then there’s the  adult male client who got a little too flirtatious in therapy when I was a graduate student, so I used moved back, crossed my arms, and sent other nonverbal signals that it wasn’t appropriate while continuing with therapy. I got told that I was a cold clinician by my male supervisor…or the male professor in another state with whom I was collaborating on a research project and asked our mutual (male) colleague if I was “good looking” before the collaboration began…or just a few months ago when I was attending a conference by myself, the guy who yelled out “hey!” to me while I was walking the block and a half from my hotel to the conference center in the morning. I turned, thinking he was going to warm me about a root in the sidewalk, a missing manhole cover, or some similar danger, when actually he just wanted to give me his personal evaluation of my physical appearance.

I could go on because there are many more, but I think my point has been made. I had not repressed any of these, but when people, including a close friend who I respect a great deal, questioned why no woman had come forth before the election, it got my ire up. It made me realize how much I had been socialized to laugh those things off, that “boys will be boys” and that’s “how the world works.” I had been told to take it as a compliment. My brain and my soul brought all of these things to mind and left me sleepless and angered. The very next time of these types of incidences happens to me, assuming there are other people around and I feel safe enough to do so, I will not laugh it off. I will stand and confront. Even in my fear, I will say something. I know it’s not part and parcel of being a male to act with such objectification and sexualization. I have a husband who has been nothing other than kind and respectful, I know many great men who treat women with high regard, and I, along with my husband, have raised two fine sons who frequently talk about how they stand up for women in conversations with their peers. I know it can be otherwise.

And then there’s been the constant insults of this election. They have certainly been tossed from both sides of the aisle, but there was more vitriol and more targeted insults towards groups of people (Mexicans, immigrants as whole, Muslims, etc.) from Trump. I cannot understand that and I cannot condone that.

Here are the honest feelings that I am wrestling with (and if they sound disjointed and erratic, welcome to my mind). While I may not fully understand you, if you voted for Trump reluctantly and I know you well and know that you prayed about and wrestled with your choice, I get it. I have some level of understanding there and I can respect that choice, even if I don’t agree with it. I understand that you might be a one-issue voter and/or that the abortion issue is one that you just can’t compromise on morally. Okay. I am anti-abortion too because I am pro-life. However, because I am pro-life, I am also anti-capital punishment, anti-war, pro-social programs, and pro-refugee. It left me in quite the political conundrum. Here’s a 6 year old post on that. Maybe you are hanging your hopes on a conservative Supreme Court.

So, reticent Trump voters–I understand you since I was a reticent voter as well. I’m not going to say who I voted for other, than #nevertrump. If you did vote relucantly for Trump, I would humbly ask you to read these good thoughts. As an evangelical Christian, a term I have come to feel uncomfortable with this year, there are many reasons I could never vote for Trump. These include my icky experiences as a woman, his viewpoints on immigrants, refugees, and people of color, and his fear-mongering rhetoric. Others have said it better and more comprehensively before, so you can read their words that speak (mostly) for me: The Theology of Donald Trump–Christianity Today, Trump Won–Christianity Today, Why Christians Should Not Succumb to the Apocalyptic Language of the Election–Washington Post, and 95% of the things that Russell Moore and Ed Stetzer have said about the election. However, I can still accept that we have different views, but the same underlying deep values just manifested in different ways. Or maybe you are scared and that felt like the safest vote for you and even though I don’t agree, I can understand.

However, it’s the sign-toting, rally-attending, hat-wearing Trump supporters that I’m wrestling with. Having lived in a lot of places, traveled fairly extensively, and having friends of all sorts of religious/political/racial/ethnic backgrounds and sexual identities, my pre-election Facebook timeline was a mess.To be honest, I unfollowed many people. We are still “friends” but I can’t see their posts. I’m now stuggling with what to do with these friends and I know I’m not alone. (I suspect it will be less of a problem if they read this post, because they will probably just unfriend me). On one hand, I believe we all, including Trump, and including his supporters, are created in the image of God and I am to love and pray for all. I am working on that. It’s hard, but it’s commanded and God’s grace is sufficient. The spiritual realm of this is challenging, but a bit easier because there is supernatural power there. It’s the pragmatic real-life part that’s tough. In my daily life if I have friends who are openly racist, who are xenophobic, who aren’t empathetic, who don’t seek other perspectives, then I wouldn’t choose to spend my free time with them. I would be kind to them, I would help them if in a place to do so, but I wouldn’t readily seek them out.

We have discussed friendship and what being a friend is at length in the Asperger’s Group I facilitate. We keep coming back to shared values and interests and a deep sense of trust. So, if we have totally opposite sets of values, you can be an acquaintance, but can we really be friends? On the other hand, I want to have friends, or if not friends, at least people in my various communities who are different from me and who think and act differently. But, is having these people in my community without calling them on their beliefs, in fact, condoning them (especially with people who I don’t think can engage in civil discourse)?  I purposefully have friends and people with whom I interact who are evangelical, mainline Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, agnostic, and atheist. I have friends who are Black, African American, Chinese, Korean American, Greek, Nicaraguan, British, Australian, Canadian, Native American, etc. I have friends with different sexual orientation and gender identities. Many of these friends have different values and beliefs from me, but yet we can still find some common ground to build a friendship on and learn from each other, so now I have to figure out who to do this during my post-election angst.

For now, I am not unfriending anyone. I am also on a media fast for this month (except this past Tuesday and Wednesday) so that helps a little in that regard. I will continue to pray for unity in the U.S. I will pray for the transition and, as difficult as it will be, I will pray for our president-elect. A president who makes humble, thoughtful decisions that benefit our nation would benefit us all. My husband said that he and a friend who read and discuss theology texts regularly have committed to only read theology books written by women and minorities for this next year. In that spirit, I have decided that about one-third of the books I read next year (10 out of 35) will either be authored by someone from another cultural group than me or about another cultural group. This will include non-fiction and fiction, bearing in mind that much research has shown that the reading of fiction increases empathy. My list is here: Broadening My Perspective 2017. I will be an ally and a listener for those who feel afraid because they have brown skin, or visas, or green cards, or no paperwork at all, or wear a hijab, or are disabled, or identify differently in regard sexuality or gender. I refuse to be afraid (and maybe because that is my privilege speaking–I’m wrestling with that too) of what is to come, because my god is not a political leader and my home is not the U.S. I have a citizenship in heaven and I worship the God of the universe, the author and perfecter of my faith,  who can do more than I can comprehend. Ironically, on Thursday, I just finished reading the New Testament. I normally am not a huge fan of the book of the Revelation, but I found great comfort in it during the post-election period. It ends with these words:

Revelation 22:20b-21

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

 

 

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