It’s the day after the attack on the Capitol and my anger hasn’t gone away, it’s only now accompanied by sadness. I’m angry because we’ve known since Nov. 9, 2016, the morning after the election, when light of the morning revealed hate crimes in Trump’s name peppered throughout the nation. We knew then that Trump does not condemn violence in his name in any meaningful way, if it all. We watched his angry mobs during his campaign rallies get fueled toward violence by his words. We’ve known for decades that he doesn’t play fair and the only name to which he bows and which he adores is his own. We’ve known all along that something like this could happen, and as his rage over losing the 2020 election increased, we had all the indicators that this could happen, not just someday, but on January 6, 2021.
Donald Trump did not create nor generate the seemingly uncrossable chasm of polarization that has come to make up our socio-political climate (lots of theories about when, where, and how that began), but he did monopolize on it and exploit it to increase his power and influence. Trump supporters will claim that he is only the way he is because “no president in history has endured opposition from the opposing party and the media like he has” without naming that no president or presidential candidate in history as perpetrated and fomented so much anger, vitriol, and even verbal abuse to anyone who challenges and opposes him.
What happened yesterday was shocking, but not surprising. This is why I’m angry.
President Donald Trump is at best a failed American experiment, and it’s time to end it. Not in two weeks. Right now. Since the election all he has done is ignore his duties as President while working to tear down the mechanisms of democracy by which we elect our leaders. He his dangerous to the health and safety of this nation by both what he is doing and what he is not. He needs to be removed from office now, and we need to welcome in Vice President Pence to assume the duties of the Presidency and lead us toward repairing the shredded history of the peaceful transfer of power, something I believe he can and would do.
So why am I saying all this. I’m just a pastor of a little church in Minnesota. Who am I, why do I feel so emboldened to say such things?
Well that touches on why I’m sad. I’m sad today because I’m not sure how it is we can bridge this gap. But I also say all of this, because I believe there is a way, and I believe that bridging this seemingly uncrossable chasm of polarization is going to take leaders in every corner of our communities doing our part, clergy included. And you might question how in the world what I’ve written above could be work toward a bridge. That’s a fair question. I say what I said above not increase the gap, but to name that the bridge we build cannot be one toward Trumpism. That needs to be named. But that doesn’t mean we can’t build bridges toward any or all Trump supporters.
We need to first recognize that we’re all Americans. I believe that Trumpism (however we may define that) is not concerned with what is best for America, but I do believe that the vast majority of Trump voters and supporters are concerned with what is best for America. I believe many of them have been conned by America’s greatest conman (that is one thing he is truly great at), and in so doing have believed they’ve been aligning themselves with America’s best interests. I want to build bridges, but if you’re asking me to build a bridge toward Trumpism… well… that’s even half a bridge that is just a bridge too far.
But if you want to build a bridge toward a greater good for America that puts the needs of the nation ahead of any candidate or political or party, then let’s start building. And as we do so, I recognize that there are some “isms” of my own that I am going to need to leave behind as well. We cannot compromise on justice and equity, but we on the left will have to make some compromises on the path to it. Remember a “justice delayed is a justice denied” but I am willing to lay aside the form of liberalism that says we’re the only ones who know how to get there. If we progressives think all we need to do is get tough, dig our heels in and cram justice down their throats because the Democrats will hold The White House and Congress, we’re delusional. That may make us feel good for a while, but it won’t heal us nor will it bring about justice.
Yet, the status quo is untenable, friends. If the only way out is war, count me out. Violence and destruction just aren’t in me. But if mere peace-keeping is the way, you can also count me out. We have hard work to do and hard words to say that will make us all uncomfortable at times. We need to be about peace-making, not peace-keeping. So how do we do it? How do we do the truly courageous work of arguing out the path to justice and equity? What are the visions that will compel us, the values that will guide us and the strategies that will drive us? How can we be peace-makers together? I don’t know the answers, but for my corner of the world, I think it’s our guiding question.
As far now, I lament.
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.” (Psalm 130:1-2)