The weeks since Election Tuesday have forced many questions upon the United States. The low probability, high impact scenario of Donald Trump becoming president-elect backed up by a Republican majority House and Congress became a reality. Once Trump officially begins his presidency, it is expected he will appoint justice(s) that are sympathetic towards GOP values. Once that occurs, the Republican Party will direct all three branches of the US Government.
It would be one thing if the Establishment GOP was running the US Government, but this is not the Republican Party of yesteryear. This iteration of the GOP won on promises made that appealed to the nativism and anger of rural whites who will now be expecting to see Hillary jailed, immigrants deported, walls built, Muslims registered, and foreign policy changed towards isolationism.
That is after all what the “Make America Great Again” platform was constructed upon.
In the wake of this, many marginalized groups have become nervous about the United States that awaits them. Trump’s cabinet is full of the kind of people who have made a political career out of advocating things like LGBTQ reparative therapies, gutting public education, and all forms of “alt-right” messages that sound an awful lot like Neo-Nazism. And that list doesn’t even mention some of the things Trump’s successful campaign has now normalized such as compromising truth for impact, violent language towards women, and fraud charges on a president.
It seems like we are approaching the fulfillment of a prophecy penned by Richard Rorty two decades ago:
[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. A scenario like that of Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here may then be played out. For once a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen. In 1932, most of the predictions made about what would happen if Hindenburg named Hitler chancellor were wildly overoptimistic.
One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words [slur for an African-American that begins with “n”] and [slur for a Jewish person that begins with “k”] will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.
And so, in the midst of all this, what are we supposed to be positive about on this Thanksgiving holiday? Throughout this week, I kept asking myself, Is #Thanksgiving2016 only for the privileged? What can we offer thanksgiving for when it seems like the US, long a beacon of democracy and liberalism, has failed itself and might fail the world?
I think the only path of peace and hope at this time is to pull our heads out of the political soil and look beyond whatever comforts materialism and capitalism have offered us. And hopefully our roots have richer and firmer soil to grow on then the politics of today.
There is no other way.
There is no other comfort.
What we have to remember is that even the poor in the United States are incredibly wealthy when compared to the rest of the global population; living in this country surrounded by luxuries and pressured to live like the elite, it is easy to think life’s meaning is wrapped up in the American dream.
I know that ever since my family entered into the United States, it has been a long and difficult journey of balancing the pursuit of financial prosperity and the pursuit of spiritual health. And we have not always prioritized appropriately.
But at this time, as many of us who do not integrate so well into Trump’s “Make American Great Again” vision realize the delicacy of earthly governments and how quickly they can turn against what we considered progress and change, we are pushed to find gratitude and peace in the realms political parties cannot affect.
The things that money cannot buy, policy cannot change, and votes cannot undo.
Gifts like the love and joy community give us.
Gifts like good food at family meals.
Gifts like the charity and grace of a God who is still sovereign.
This country has long pretended to be a gentle lamb offering safety but acted like a domineering dragon in pursuit of power and wealth.
This nation has always only been a mirage of refuge, but not an actual sanctuary.
The sanctuary of God yet awaits us.
That sanctuary will be open to the Mexican, to the Syrian, to the African-American, to the LGBTQ, and yes even to the rural white person.
That sanctuary will invite members from all the nations and it will be wonderful to have the air strikes end.
That is the sanctuary of God that has been promised to us and will descend from the heavens one day.
But for today, may you be able to tune out the constant hum of I-think-this-world-is-gonna-fall-apart and be able to find a sanctuary among friends and/or family that gives you a taste of the sanctuary yet to come.
I know it's not easy, but where else are we supposed to look?