My friend recently posted a challenge on social media asking for perspectives on the content of Jamelle Bouie’s article in Slate and this is my response as I try to navigate through the fog.
Racism and other forms of bigotry (a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance) exist and for many of us our blinders have been torn off and we see the depth and breadth of its ugly existence. My heart can’t stop hurting and I feel a sense of shame for not fighting harder for the victims of bigotry. The constant micro aggressions they encounter on a daily basis cannot be comprehended by someone like me with white privilege. Read here for an interesting perspective on how a woman came to terms with her white privilege. If bigotry didn’t exist, we would not need so many laws protecting citizens of its ugly presence in our society. (Civil rights, fair housing, voting rights, equal credit-just to name a few). However, I bet if the economy were stronger and white middle America perceived they were prospering, we would not be facing Donald Trump as our next POTUS. It’s the economy stupid. And when people are suffering, they want to blame someone, and DT gave people someone to blame. Let’s blame muslims, blacks, women, gays, democrats. Let’s blame the other for interrupting my way of life. How dare they? I had it good until (you name it) came along and took it all away. When people hurt and feel powerless they scream loud and look for someone to blame. “If only the world would be different, then I would be happy” is the internal mantra. This is a common theme amongst us human beings and we need not look any further than ourselves to see we may have bought into this mantra from time to time. It’s a victim mentality. This is not to say there are not victims and when we know a person or group has been victimized we need to fight and do right by them. There are many victims who do not adopt a victim mentality and there are many that have a victim mentality who have not been victims. I recently asked the question, since when did ‘Christians’ develop such a victim mentality and what responsibility do church leaders take in strengthening this mindset. It is an opposite mindset of the independent spirit, “we pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps” or “we are over comers in Christ” just to paraphrase a few of the phrases I often hear from the right and certain groups of evangelicals.
So, as I consider how we should move forward in a world with Donald Trump as POTUS, I’m conflicted. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and other democrats are willing to work with DT. Said Sanders:
“If the president-elect is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families, I’m going to present some very real opportunities for him to earn my support.” Said Warren: “When President-elect Trump wants to take on these issues, when his goal is to increase the economic security of the middle-class families, then count me in.” If Trump embraces the bigotry and hatred of his campaign, however, both Sanders and Warren promise to fight him without compromise. “We will not give an inch on this,” said Warren. Read the full article here.
I agree with Warren’s and Sander’s position. I believe this is the most effective mindset if we wish to move forward. Whether we like it or not, DT is our president-elect. We have no time to waste to work on behalf of all Americans. I think they see the wounded that mistakenly blame the “other” for their wounds and because they’ve incorrectly identified the problem, they think they’ve found their solution in DT. So yes, I think we must go deep below the surface and have compassion for those that supported Trump, some from their own ignorance and pain and sorrow. Remember, many of these people are fed constant propaganda by right wing media such as Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, and The Christian Right espousing the authority of their version of God and preach a brand of Christianity based on legalism and political authority similar to the Sadducees and Pharisees (sects of Judaism that were part of the religious establishment at the time of Jesus). It’s a brand of religion that promotes bigotry. Just drive through any rural area and all you hear is this kind of inflammatory rhetoric. There is no NPR or BBC, or anything that closely resembles fair and balanced news. There is only Christian talk shows that have a very right-leaning view of Christianity. Jesus was in constant conflict with the religious establishment of his time and he railed against them while at the same time having tremendous compassion for the common man, the ‘victims’, of the establishment. His teachings freed them from the bondage of legalism and oppression and he helped his followers to embrace the spirit of Judaism and not the oppressive law, which was very threatening to the religious establishment. James A. Fowler says in an article “Jesus Confronts Religion”:
“Jesus Christ did not come to found another religion. He came that we might have His life, and experience such in abundant human expression (John 10:10). The Christian gospel is the presence and dynamic of the life of the risen Lord Jesus being manifested in the behavior of receptive believers to the glory of God.
Such freedom of life and worship was alien and foreign to the strictures and structures of Jewish religion that existed in the first century. It can be reasonably argued that Judaism in the first century was representative of religious perversion at its worst. Every form of legalism, exclusivism, moralism, etc. was rampant in their religion. This provided, though, a perfect environment to exhibit the radical antithesis and ultimate contrast to what Jesus came to reveal in Himself, the “good news” of Christianity.”
So, yes…I think we look below the surface of the cries of the people, and look at the pain in their hearts and begin to address it with the things that will again make them feel they have meaningful and prosperous lives. We win the hearts and minds of the misguided Trump supporters with true compassion and love. I applaud Sanders and Warren for having a heart big enough to embrace these misguided souls. They understand the spirit to “forgive them for they know not what they do.”
According to Jamelle Bouie, in his article in Slate the concern with taking this position is that it obscures the racism, bigotry, and white tribalism of Trumps appeal. “It matters that Warren and Sanders (and, it seems, the likely chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison) have made a choice to obscure the fundamental tribalism of Trump’s appeal. It matters that they’ve cast the bigotry of Trump’s movement as an element to oppose if it comes, and not an essential part of the whole. To take that step is to sanction white nationalism as a legitimate political appeal, thus rewarding the fight against liberal pluralist democracy.” This is a scary outcome. And I mostly agree with Sen. Harry Reid when he says:
“If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate. Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans. Donald Trump may not possess the capacity to assuage those fears, but he owes it to this nation to try.”
My concern is that it will be an exercise in futility to expect DT to do this before we agree to work with him to benefit all Americans. It will strengthen the gridlock that has hampered this nation for too long. It will deepen the entrenchment of rigidly held beliefs on both sides.
So what can we do? What must we do? We must stay vigilant and pounce on anything that may threaten anyone’s civil liberties. We must fight harder than ever to protect, uphold, and strengthen the civil rights of those that DT marginalized in his hateful campaign rhetoric. We must be a loud and consistent voice demanding that DT repudiate himself from his hateful and bigoted rhetoric. We must use the tools available to us to remove a white nationalism agenda. Let’s support the Southern Poverty Law Center and ACLU
and others that fight against hatred and bigotry. Let’s befriend those who are victimized by bigotry. Let’s make sure our voices are heard when we vote in two years. Healing can take place if we humble ourselves and put our love into action and remember that all Life is precious. I close with a quote I heard on the PBS news hour from the late Gwen Ifill that so closely reflects my sentiments:
“Cynics thinks that they know all the answers already, and then they stop listening.
Skeptics always have more questions to ask, but we are willing to be persuaded to the honesty of an alternate point of view, even if we don’t share it.
Is it possible to be skeptical and optimistic and ambitious, open, excited to possibility and willing to change the world as well? I think so.”
Namaste – Diane