I pulled into my parking space next to a small pickup truck. I didn’t notice the bumper sticker on the window until I was getting out of my car. “Hillary for Prison 2016” it said. The driver of the truck was just opening his door to get in and our eyes met. A small older man who smiled and nodded and touched his cowboy hat the way country gentlemen do in my small East Texas community. It was a sweet smile, a real smile. I guess he didn’t notice my bumper sticker.
On election day, I helped open and count mail in ballots for my county and I wasn’t surprised to see how many voters marked the straight Republican bubble. 77% of us here in this very Red community. Many of these people are my friends. Many of them do good, noble, helpful work in our community and I’m usually at peace with our differences of opinion on politics.
But this election has felt different for me because I truly cannot understand how these good-hearted people could bring themselves to vote for a character who so clearly opposes their own high principles and moral character. The man they elected to be president represents the antithesis of many of their core values.
Besides being solidly conservative, there’s another thing that’s solid and real about my community: the ethnic and religious mix of our neighbors. Even in this very traditional, small town community, we are wonderfully multicultural. Yes, we are predominantly White and Christian, but we love our Muslim and Hindu doctors from the Middle East who take very good care of us. We’re grateful for our Filipino and Latino friends who spoil us with their good food and hard work. We’re proud of our gay friends who play the organs in our churches and bring their creative energies to our business sector. We’re happy with our Pakistani Muslim Mayor (who voted against President Obama every chance he got but was pleased to visit the White House and shake his hand.) We partner together – Black and White and Brown – to address crime and poverty and misunderstandings.
So why would my community vote by 77% to affirm a man who disparages and denigrates these our American brothers and sisters, our neighbors? How can they justify the ways he has repeatedly demonized people they know and care about?
You can see I am in process here, as many of us are today. Processing what happened and why. Processing what the future holds. Processing my place in this new America, in a Trump America.
And part of the process I’m going through is dealing with the grief and the inevitable part of every grief cycle – anger.
Over the past decades, anger has grown and continues to infect our nation and invade our relationships.
As a pastor and counselor, I have seen how anger doesn’t free float very well. Anger always needs to find a target. Most of us realize how we are tempted to yell at our kids or kick the dog or call the other driver names when we’re mad at something else; we know good and well we are projecting our anger on those who don’t deserve our venom.
We humans do this: we lay our own discomfort onto others and blame them for everything that is out of our control. Our free floating anxieties form a fist of anger that targets whoever is available or vulnerable. They take the blow and relieve our tension.
I’m angry right now and I’m trying to do the hard work of unpacking my fear and anxiety and disappointment. I’m trying to name what is really going on in deep places in my soul so I can deal with the real issues, not the projected ones. And so I won’t hurt someone in my anger who really doesn’t deserve my lashing out.
I know others are angry as well, for lots of different reasons. But our American anger is desperately dangerous right now. In these days of turmoil and transition, an American mean streak has been exposed and has grown worse.
Some Trump followers have given themselves permission to demonize others because of the example of their elected leader. Too many sisters and brothers are being targeted, bullied and harmed by boiling-over-anger projected upon innocents. Some Trump haters are giving in to violence as well, escalating and compounding our national angst and fear.
So those of us who share the true values of America – ONE nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL – need to speak up and step up to form a circle of protection for one another. Those of us who believe in this vision of a united America, a great America, a good America need to join together in the process of making that vision become a reality.
Whoever you voted for, if you disavow the violence and the intimidation, say so. Say it loud and clear and every chance you get. This is not about winners and losers in an election. I’m talking about all of us who believe in America working together for common decency and domestic tranquility.
We are not there yet. We are all in process. We are hurting and afraid. We are angry and disillusioned. But we can come together in this one thing at least: we can say “Stop the Violence!”
As for me, I am wearing my #safetypin whenever I am out in public. I will watch out for the safety of my neighbors whenever I am able. I will stand up to the bullies and stand against the evil that has been unleashed in this land that I love.
Let’s do this together. But it will demand our collective courage. It will require our collective commitment to build together a home where all are welcome; to make room at the table for all our brothers and sisters; to create listening space so that everyone can have a voice.
I don’t know if I will ever understand why some of my friends voted for Trump. Probably some of them will never forgive that I voted for Hillary. But whatever our vote, let’s join together and stand against the violence. This is the only way we can move forward in the process of actually becoming a land of the free, a home for the brave, a light for the world.
Whatever our vote, we can still do this one thing together.
Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She is national secretary for Coffee Party USA and contributes regularly to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page.
Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.