America’s divided house

thinking

Following a long and tedious, tortuous presidential campaign rife with insult and innuendo, counterfeit story lines of candidates’ illnesses and inabilities, conspiracy theories of media favoritism and rigged election processes, and virulent threads of racism, sexism, and nativism, Hillary Clinton carried the popular vote and Donald Trump, winning the Electoral College, is America’s 45th President-elect.

The election is over, but no one’s happy.

Not Clinton stalwarts, many, perhaps most viewing Mr. Trump, at best, as unseasoned in governance and unprepared to govern and, at worst, a personification of a wholly self-interested, ethnocentric, exclusionary ugly America.

And not Trump supporters. To wit…

On Thanksgiving Day eve, a Michaels arts and crafts store customer in Chicago, proclaiming, “Yes, I voted for Trump, so there!”, erupted into a profanity-laced, racial-tinged tirade protesting discrimination at the hands of African American employees.

This past Wednesday, a Florida man, berating a Starbucks barista as “garbage” and “trash”, made the accusation of “anti-white discrimination”, though ostensibly for poor service, linked to his self-identification as a Trump supporter.[1]

This past Thursday, Clinton and Trump chief strategists joined in the now, since 1972, traditional presidential election post-mortem at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The customary civil character of the gathering quickly evaporated in the heat of mutual verbal fusillades of anger, if not also contempt, some of it markedly personal.

On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln, then the state Republican Party’s nominee as Illinois’ United States senator, channeling Jesus,[2] delivered what became known as his House Divided Speech. Lincoln, as a latter-day prophet, speaking of America in the light and shadow of the idea, the reality of institutional slavery, said, in part: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free…Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it…or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States…”

The presidential election is over and no one’s happy. There are few gracious losers. There are more sore winners. Depending on where one stands, hope is shrouded in varied shades of doubt and fear and civility trumped by schadenfreude-esque self-satisfaction. America again is a house divided, and, according to Lincolnian and biblical wisdom, cannot stand. Which way will we go?

 

Footnotes:

[1] In a nation of over 325 million people, I would and could discount these two incidents as anomalies; considering them to be peculiar expressions of individuals at particular and isolated moments of personal stress or distress. However, in light of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s tabulation of 867 acts of intimidation and violence, most unabashedly motivated by racial or religious animus, coming within ten days after Election Day, I view the Michaels and Starbucks episodes, reflective of a larger and most worrisome malaise, as manifestations of a communal, national psychic disorder.

[2] When Jesus was accused by the religious authorities of casting out demons by Satan’s power, he answered, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3.23b-25, my emphasis).

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Trump change redux

In my November 10 post, Trump change, I reflected on the result of America’s November 8 presidential election. More, I wondered about the character of the Trump presidency, recognizing that it’s too early for me to tell, too early for me to arrive at a conclusion, any conclusion. Hence, as I wait, looking forward to what will be, what may be, I looked back and asked questions in regard to some of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises.

Now, on this day after the day after the day after the day after Election Day, reflecting afresh on my November 10 point of view, I realize that my fundamental internal stance on that day was what I’ll term egalitarian idealism. In a word, believing in the God-given equality and respecting the dignity of all people, I gave Mr. Trump the proverbial benefit of the doubt.

This morning, I’m in a different place; one, in some abiding measure, the product of my responses to life’s disappointments, more akin to my typical skeptical, even pessimistic realism. In this light or perhaps more truly said, shadow, I ruminated on Jesus’ word from the Sermon on the Mount: “Beware of false prophets…You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7.15-17).

Prophecy, particularly of the biblical sort, is not a prediction of the future (which, I believe, is a common perception or rather misconception), but the proclamation of God’s revealed word to a community (which, in calling for a response from the people, bears within their choosing to obey or reject it future consequences).

I do not presume to cast Mr. Trump in the role of a biblical prophet. However, in the same way that I, in my November 10 post, looked at the substance of some of his campaign pledges, I think now of the spirit of his rhetoric. In this, Mr. Trump, as I perceive him and his words, fashioned his appeal on a homophobic, nativist, racist, sexist foundation, each element and all elements of which, in the brilliance of God’s love and justice, God’s unconditional benevolence and fairness for all, I believe to be bad fruit.

Given that a sufficient percentage of the electorate that cast ballots bought and ate of this fruit, I do predict that the future of America, indeed, the world will be difficult.

Trump change

donald-john-trump-nbcnewsThe American people (well, a minority, according to the tallies both of total votes cast vs. the number of eligible voters and of the popular votes for each of the major party candidates) have elected their 45th president, Donald John Trump.

Between now and Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017, and then, immediately beyond, in the fabled “first 100 days” in office, with selections of cabinet members and the leadership team and propagations of political and policy agendas, the kind of president Mr. Trump will be will become clearer.

Today, this day after the day after the Election Day, whilst I, with everyone else, wait for what is to come, still, ever the inveterate inquirer, I wonder. With nothing else yet upon which my mind can feast (or from which it can fast) save Mr. Trump’s campaign declarations (though low on the scale of substance, were they high in hyperbole or deeply sincere?), I, among many questions, ask…

Will Mr. Trump press forward to build a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico, with the request (demand?) that Mexico pay the price for construction?

Will Mr. Trump carry out his expressed intention to rid the land of 11-12 million undocumented immigrants?

Will Mr. Trump execute his proposal of an outright ban on Muslim peoples entering the country or his subsequent position of instituting the “extreme vetting” of immigrants?

Will Mr. Trump, in league with a Republican-controlled Congress, repeal Obamacare?

Will Mr. Trump seek to dismantle the North America Free Trade Agreement and continue to disavow the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Will Mr. Trump withdraw American support for the United Nations’ Accord de Paris on climate change?

Speaking of change, “Change We Can Believe In” was a 2008 slogan of then presidential candidate Barack Obama. A cornerstone of Mr. Trump’s campaign for the White House was that he, a businessman, is change. Indeed, he is the first American President-Elect who neither served in the military nor held elective office. Given the latter, he touts himself as having no debt to pay to the political class, no duty owed to Washington’s establishment elite.

The change Mr. Trump has in mind, articulated in fuller measure in his campaign declarations and enumerated in part in my aforementioned questions doubtless bears little resemblance to that of his soon-to-be predecessor. Equally doubtless, those who voted for him believe in the change he embraces, embodies

Leading me to ask additional questions, for, it seems to me, a businessman-now-President-Elect is summoned to stand within sight and in the light of different rules than those of his making or choosing:

What will happen with the Cohen v. Trump class action lawsuit suit filed against Mr. Trump and the erstwhile Trump University?

What will happen to that privately owned international conglomerate known as The Trump Organization, headquartered in New York City’s Trump Tower?

What will happen to Mr. Trump and the release or, as yet, non-release of his taxes?

Whilst I wait, I wonder.

12 days ‘til (all I want for) Election Day!

Our American commercial economic machine has turned its attention to Christmas. Store aisles are lined with toys for tots and decorative baubles, bangles, and beads to festoon the soon to appear evergreen trees (which, I imagine, if they could feel, would be chomping at the bit to get those Halloween candy displays and pumpkin patches out of their way!).

However, for me, Christmas can wait. Another über-significant day fast approaches. Election Day. As I am not one of thousands of Americans in various states who have cast their ballots in early voting, Tuesday, November 8, is my opportunity “to exercise my political franchise.”

One of the grandest learnings my family taught me was the value, indeed, the virtue of voting. My parents, Bill and Lolita Abernathy, my grandmother, Audia Roberts, and my aunt, Evelyn Roberts, considered the casting of a ballot, yes, a long-fought, hard-won political right, especially for black people, but also, through history’s illumination of those who died to make it possible, an elemental act of American citizenship imbued with the spiritual quality of an active, living legacy. Voting wasn’t an option, but rather an essential act of individual responsibility of communal consequence.

As I consider the principal candidates at “the top of the ballot”, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I face a dilemma of mind, I feel a dis-ease of soul…

All I want for Election Day (I confess it’s a lot!) is to vote for a candidate who I believe is committed to:

  1. The vocation (yes, from the Latin vocare, “to call”, thus a political-spiritual calling) of public service.
  2. The vigorous and virtuous pursuit of collective societal interests, indeed, the common national and international good (meaning, for me, believing and treasuring the dignity and equality of all people); necessitating the practical recognition and prudent restriction of the influence of singular special interests and wedge issues (whether of race, class, religion, and region) and, as importantly, personal self-aggrandizement.
  3. The viewpoint of “both-and”, not “either-or”, even more, a worldview that believes in the reality and knows the language of ambiguity, eschewing notions of absolute certainty, thus, being able to entertain a contrary opinion, indeed, person as not innately duplicitous, erroneous, injudicious, or malicious (read: dishonest, wrong, stupid, or evil).

As I reflect on the public histories of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump and particularly the less than bighearted, high-minded tenor of the current presidential campaign, each, in her and his own way, fall short of what, who I want. Thus, come November 8, I will vote, but not with liberty of mind or lightness of soul.