Yeah… We get it. The fact that you voted for Trump does not mean that you are sexist… It just means that–for you–the litany of wildly offensive and overtly misogynistic statements he made were not significant enough to disqualify him. And yeah, the fact that you voted for Trump does not make you anti-Muslim… It just means that–for you–a presidential candidate suggesting a registry for an entire religion and implementing a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” was not a big enough deal for you to vote for someone else. And yeah, the fact that you voted for Trump does not mean that you hate Mexicans… It just means that–for you–characterizing Mexicans as criminals and rapists (while admitting that “some, I assume, are good people”) wasn’t really a deal breaker. And yeah, the fact that you voted for Trump does not mean that you are anti-gay… It just means that–for you–his choice of a running mate who is arguably the most anti-gay governor in the country was not that serious a character flaw. And FINE! The fact that you voted for Trump does not make you a racist… It just means that–for you–the fact that Donald Trump removed people from his rallies based on the color of their skin, encouraged violence against Black Lives Matter protesters, and suggested a Federal Judge couldn’t be fair because of his race (among other things) wasn’t a compelling enough reason him to lose your vote. Voting for Trump does not mean you’re a bigot… It just means that you are willing to support a candidate who has the endorsement of every white supremacist group in the nation.
Voting for Trump is like wearing a racist T-shirt and saying you bought it because you liked the color… The message is still the same.
And I realize every candidate is a compromise in some way. Every candidate has faults. My vote for Hillary Clinton was a compromise. She was too cozy with Wall Street. Her interest in People of Color sometimes came across as more political than sincere. She’s more hawkish than I’d like for her to be. And I was willing to compromise those things… Some for the other good things she would bring as a leader, and some because the alternative would have been so much worse. But I promise I wouldn’t have been willing to compromise on a candidate who seemed to embrace the dehumanization of so many vulnerable populations at every turn. For eight years, the republican party has been acting like “compromise” is a four letter word… But the party of “No Compromise” just compromised all over itself. The embracing of Trump just shows the right is willing to compromise on morality and human rights… Where the right refuses to compromise is on economic issues. There is that one shoestring issue of abortion that allows them to try to claim the moral high ground… But if we’re being honest, every other moral issue has been abandoned by the political right in its quest for political power.
And they have it. They have the political power. So for many of the people in the groups I mentioned above–women, Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ, People of Color–this can be a scary time. And it is also a scary time for people like me–White, straight, Christian men–who know and love many of those people who are not only feeling outnumbered, but now the people who seem openly hostile to them have all the political power.
So I hope you can understand why some people might be feeling more than a little unsafe. For many, the election of Donald Trump is like confirming the suspicion that you’re living in a country where A LOT of the people are willing to tolerate discrimination, injustice, and oppression if it means them having a chance at getting their better-paying jobs back. And that is a scary message people are receiving. And I hope you can understand why some of us are grieving right now. It’s not just because “our side” lost the election… People are coming to terms with the fact that so many in this country are willing to overlook SO MUCH at the mere chance that an inexperienced, narcissistic, con man’s promises of economic gain might be true. People ARE hurting financially. But seeing so many loved ones–friends and family–willing to embrace an ideology which blames and demonizes people of color, the poor, the immigrant, the OTHER for that hurting… That is enough to shake the very foundations of my belief that we–that humans–are slowly getting better.
And now, people are grieving. Genuinely grieving. And the prevailing sentiment from our friends on the right has been this: Get over it. We are told “You lost–Get over it” by people who fly the flag of a lost Civil War from 150 years ago. A week after a candidate lost an election but won the popular vote, we are told to “accept our new president” by people who spent years spreading birther conspiracies believing President Obama was a Kenyan (one of those people being our President elect). People who swear that they are not misogynistic and sexist are telling us to “Grow a pair” and “Man up!” And we are accused of being too “politically correct” by people who talk about boycotts because their Starbucks cup is the wrong color… Or accused of being too “sensitive” by people who literally lose their shit when someone wishes them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” And in response to the protests around the country, I am hearing people say things like, “You didn’t see us throwing a fit when Obama won,” and posting memes like this:
And we have the President Elect criticizing the actions of “professional protesters” with tweets like this…
Even though, after a different open and fair election, he himself suggested marching on Washington in a tweet from four years ago…
In addition, in some recently-deleted 2012 tweets, Trump wrote “He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!” (even though Obama DID, in fact, end up winning both the popular vote and the electoral collage vote in the 2012 election versus Romney), as well as writing, “More votes equals a loss… revolution!”
But beyond the bewildering hypocrisy of it all, there is something more sinister to take note of… And it is this: The disturbing trend of equating compassion with weakness. It starts with casting “political correctness” as an enemy… Where a desire for people to treat others with respect turns into something that feels like a tyrannical policing of words and even thoughts. Resentment grows, as people–for so long–feel like they can’t say the things they want to say, make the jokes they want to make, or even admit the feelings they have been feeling. Resentment turns to anger as they are called names: Racist. Sexist. Bigot. And beyond that, they are dismissed as too stupid to “get it.” I am guilty of this. And when these names come out, the other side dismissed this criticisms as “Playing the race card.” If someone on the left points out a place where a person is being victimized, someone on the right accuses people of “Playing the victim.” Meanwhile, no one listens, no one learns, and no one loves. Both side drift further apart… And before long, it seems like EVERYTHING is “playing the race card,” “playing the victim,” political correctness… People start saying things like, “I don’t see color,” and “But we have a black president.” And terms like “hate speech”and “safe space” and “trigger warning” become punchlines to a joke… And I’m left wondering how we can ever get back to a place where we can talk to each other.
But here is the truth: If we get to the point where we look at something as basic and human and good as Compassion and Empathy as signs of weakness, we are in deep, deep trouble.
- Helping someone who needs help is NOT weakness.
- Asking for help is NOT weakness.
- Mourning with those who mourn is NOT weakness.
- Weeping with those who weep is NOT weakness.
- Showing emotion is NOT weakness.
- Showing concern for someone who doesn’t feel safe is NOT weakness.
- Acknowledging that words can hurt people is NOT weakness.
- Empathizing with hurting people is NOT weakness.
- Caring about vulnerable people is NOT weakness.
- Admitting you are afraid is NOT weakness.
Strength is not measured in self-reliance, lack of empathy, and being able to hide/bury emotions. The strength of humanity is not found only in stereotypically masculine traits. We are at our strongest when we are focused on WE instead of just ME, and we are at our most resilient when we are caring for those who need our help. And if you want to know why people are afraid, consider the fact that many of the people who voted for Trump (as well as Trump himself) seem to consider compassion for others as a sign of “weakness.” Talk about an “Unsafe Space.” I can imagine no more dangerous society than one which equates Compassion with “Weakness.” Our strength is not in our thirst for more… Not in our ambition… Not in our power over others. Our greatest strength is our compassion. It is what makes us beautiful, and it is the very image of God in us. So no… I won’t “Man up.” I won’t “Grow some balls.” And no… I won’t get over it.
In West Virginia, a county official named Pamela Taylor wrote a Facebook status that said, “It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a (sic) ape in heels.” And as a comment on this woman’s status, Beverly Whaling, the Mayor of Clay, wrote, “Just made my day Pam.” I guarantee you that both of these women voted for Trump. This doesn’t mean that everyone who voted for Trump is as racist as these two women… But if you’re NOT, it SHOULD mean that you should be standing up and saying this kind of hatred is not okay. These words are an act of violence against whole groups of people, and there are more each day. I will not be tolerant of your intolerance. And when people vandalize a sign for a Spanish Language Church Service like they did right here…
… It means that I will be standing up and calling bigotry what it is: Bigotry. I will continue to point out white supremacy when I see it. I will not be afraid of the ones who equate compassion with weakness. I will weep with those who weep, and I will mourn with those who mourn. I will do what I can to let people who are hurting and afraid know that I am on their side… Not because I am weak, but because I am strong. And I believe that as we continue to proclaim the strength of compassion, people will be reminded who they are. And what it really means to be human.
One last bit… It doesn’t take much. Yesterday at a gas station, a woman was pumping gas next to me. She had brown skin, and wore a red hijab. I looked at her standing there… A woman. A black woman. A black, Muslim woman. A triple threat. As my van filled up, I walked around to her side of the pump and said, “Hi there.” She jumped a little when I said it. I said, “Are you having a good day?” She said, “Yes… Why do you ask?” I smiled and said, “I’m just checking in. Nice to meet you.” Caring about vulnerable people is NOT weakness. Our compassion… Our empathy… Our LOVE is our strength. And it is the hope for this broken world.