A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Monday, November 14, 2016


So, I'm not "at peace" with Trump's election, but I do see a way...well...forward (my fundamental Pollyanna-ish optimism has apparently re-asserted itself). One thing that helped was a thought experiment. 

Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 80,000 votes, he won Wisconsin by less than 30,000 votes, and he won Michigan by less than 20,000 votes (note that votes are still being counted, but these are margins as of this writing). If the tables were turned, and Clinton had won any two of those three states, she would be President-elect instead of Trump. Think about that - if only 50,000 people had changed their votes (out of 120 million votes cast!), the whole outcome of the election would change. But fundamentally, we would still be a very divided nation. Roughly half the people who voted would have voted for someone other than the President-elect. And some of those people would have been just as disappointed as I am now.

Somehow, that helps me. Despite the fact that I find Trump repugnant, it's incumbent upon me as a citizen to understand the hopes and fears of millions of my fellow citizens, and what motivated them to choose Trump. It's too easy to dismiss all Trump supporters, and I can't fall for the fallacy that they all are racist misogynists. I know good people, rational people, who voted for Trump. If I can't understand why they did that, I'm failing at empathy. That is hard for me.  

Here are a few things that have helped me over the past few days - I share them in the hope they will help you too. Except for the first one, they are in no particular order, and are interspersed with songs about moving forward. None of this changes the fact that I'm bummed out big time by this election, but it does help me move on a little bit.

If you don't read ANYTHING else, read this post at the Mormon blog By Common Consent: "Mystic Chords and Better Angels: Building Zion when we Disagree." Convince your friends at the other end of the political spectrum to read it too (and if you don't have any of those types of friends, make some).

Some wise counsel on being Instruments of the Lord's Peace in the world.

Stephen Colbert's end to his election special (also, check out additional comic takes on the election results by Seth Meyers and another great Stephen Colbert moment):

I don't think I can link to a friend's post on Facebook because it isn't public. But she shared some words of wisdom from a rhetoric teacher friend that touched my soul:

I teach an 8 am first-year rhetoric class. For most of my students, this is the first election they've been able to vote in. Our lesson? Not moving to Canada.

I mean this metaphorically, of course, because I don't think that many people are actually going to raise stakes, but "moving to Canada" is shorthand for disengaging and shutting up. "Moving to Canada" is about surrounding yourself with people who already agree with you and not taking seriously the concerns of people who have very different backgrounds, life experiences, and concerns. "Moving to Canada" is about saying, "Not my problem anymore." Don't move to Canada.

Our class is about civic dialogue, about employing a rhetoric that listens first, and about being unafraid and optimistic about speaking up. I hope my students engage in many conversations, even heated ones, with people who don't agree with them. I hope they open their mouths. I hope they stay here in America. We need them.

This podcast by Krista Tippet (who has one of the most soothing voices in radio). She interviews Eboo Patel, an interfaith activist, and he has some words of wisdom. If you don't have time to listen to the whole thing, here are my two favorite parts:

(Part 1)
So, if you add religion to a diverse democracy, and if you understand religion per Tillich as “ultimate concerns,” you have a society in which people are invited to make their personal convictions on matters of ultimate concern public, knowing that their neighbor has a different definition of “justice” than they do. Justice is another term that we assume everybody has the same definition of. My new line to 20-year-olds who look very chastised when I say this on campuses is, “If everybody in the room that you’re in has the same definition of ‘justice’ that you do — I don’t care how many colors, or genders, or sexual preferences, or religions are in that room — it’s not a diverse room.” Part of the definition of “diversity” is the recognition there are diverse understandings of justice.
So, in that situation, what does healthy look like? And my quick take on that is healthy is a society in which people who orient around religion differently can disagree on some fundamental things and work together on other fundamental things. And in my mind, the most dangerous trend in our society right now is what Andrew Sullivan calls the “scalping” trend, which is if you disagree with me on one fundamental thing — and I’m going to recognize that these things are fundamental — matters of the Middle East, same sex marriage, abortion — they are fundamental — let’s not say that they’re marginal at all — but if you disagree with me on that, I will neutralize our entire relationship, and I will take your scalp and hang it on my wall as a trophy to make sure that everybody else who has that opinion knows that I’m coming for them.
And I just — how do you have a society in which people who disagree on where to draw the line in the Middle East will perform heart surgery together, or serve on the PTA together? Isn’t that what a diverse democracy is? And it feels to me like the central thing that we do is nurture that ethic of a half-full cup of, “I will disagree with you on this set of things and continue to work with you on this other set of things.”
(Part 2)
William Raspberry writes a column in which he says, “The smartest people I know secretly believe both sides of the issue.” And that was so striking to me. Because I was — the way I viewed the world at that point was, “I’m the smart one. You all are the dumb ones. My job is to figure out how to make you smart.” And the definition of “smart” was you thought like me....And this notion of William Raspberry, who was, generally speaking, a progressive columnist was like — look, the smartest people I know choose the pro-life side and understand that there’s something else at stake. The smartest people I know are against the death penalty and understand that people who might be in favor aren’t crazy, that there’s a set of values, something at stake there.
I wanted to say one thing very briefly on this matter of justice. And I actually — my sense is actually justice and empathy, they’re in the Venn diagram. There’s a shaded area. But the more empathy one has and the more diversity one is in, the more one recognizes different definitions of justice. So, here’s my moment to this. Eight or 10 years ago, I’m speaking on a college campus, and I happened to be speaking with a man named Nechervan Barzani, who was introduced to me as an Iraqi leader
And as a good multicultural against the Bush administration progressive, my first instinct was to apologize to him for, quote, “the unjust war in Iraq.” And he looks at me, and he kind of shakes his head. And I think his English isn’t great, and so I repeat what I said. And I said...[laughter] This is a great insight into the mind of the Manichean, right? You don’t understand me because your English isn’t great, not because you disagree with me. I said, “I want to apologize on behalf of the American people.” All 320 million — for the unjust war in Iraq. And he looked at me, and he said, “I’m a Kurd. The only unjust thing about the war in Iraq is you didn’t do it 20 years ago.” And I thought to myself, how ridiculous that I didn’t even imagine that. And I mean, of course, this is over the next several years that I kind of unpacked this in my head. But how narrow a world did I live in that I thought that this was — now, I still believe the Iraq war was unjust, but I do I think that Nechirvan Barzani’s position, after having tens, hundreds of thousands of his people killed by Saddam Hussein’s chemical warfare, that his position is not a reasonable definition of justice?
And what strikes me in reflection is, how come I didn’t imagine that? How come I didn’t play with the figure of Nechirvan Barzani in my mind in the dialogue? How is it that I had such a black and white vision of justice in the world? And I find that — I think that that is a problem in the hyper-diverse, 325-million jazz of a nation in which we live.
In my mind, you don’t have a diverse democracy, you don’t have America, unless people are willing to say, “I am able to disagree with you on this set of things, and you will see me on the other side of the picket line on those things. And I will try to defeat your candidate at the polls. And we will find other things to do together.”
If you haven't read or watched Hillary Clinton's concession speech yet, you should - even if you didn't vote for her.

Of course, "Hillary Clinton" (aka comedienne Kate McKinnon) singing Hallelujah on Saturday Night Live:

Don't give up - I won't either!

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