I’m writing this post on Friday, three days after Donald Trump’s election as America’s 45th president. My candidate did not win. My hopes were not realized. The outcome was very close—today’s headlines report Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote and Mr. Trump the electoral (and decisive) count. The transfer of power has begun, but the country will not be at peace for a long time to come.
We’re in Armenia today. We’ve been out of the country since July, so we followed the campaign surrounded by people in Mexico, England, Ireland, Scotland, and France. They have reminded us that while only Americans can vote, they also have a stake in the outcome. They anxiously watched the vitriolic campaigning. Their keen interest reminded us America’s president leads not only the United States but what we used to call the Free World. Well, the election is over and it wasn’t rigged. Mr. Trump won the electoral war. Now his challenge is to win the post-election peace. This will be the real test of his leadership. It’s one thing to divide and conquer. It’s quite another thing to establish and promote peace.
In truth, the election didn’t settle much. It wouldn’t have, either, if the outcome had been different. Emotions have been at a fever pitch for too long for an immediate settling back into normality.
But you know this already.
Today I want to return to the only post I published on the election to say thanks to you who posted comments. I had hoped that at least on this blog, if nowhere else, we could have a small exercise in civil discourse, a reprieve from the name calling and mud slinging and ad hominem (forget the issue–attack the person) arguments that have been tearing the nation apart. I wasn’t disappointed.
Several of you wrote a post or emailed me separately to state your reasons for agreeing with me. Thank you. I like your company!
The rest wrote to disagree. I like your company, also. What pleased me was your courtesy. Nothing needed to be deleted. Each comment was published in its entirety.
One friend whimsically announced his candidacy for the office of president. He solved the dilemma of two unacceptable choices by writing in his own name on the ballot. That frankly didn’t seem much of a solution, and the waste of a perfectly good vote, but it did reduce the tension a bit.
One writer stumbled over my reference to Jesus, thinking I felt a need “to justify some very rational and commonly-held human principles…. Your points would be valid if you didn’t pin your (very articulate) rationale to your faith.” But of course my rationale is based on my faith, as is everyone else’s. My disagreement is with this writer’s belief in “commonly-held human principles.” But where did those principles come from, if in fact the argument can be made that they are commonly held? If they are so common, why are we still at war? Does this mean the values of communism and fascism and hedonism and anarchism and animism and militarism and white supremacy (to name a few) are, at base, ones humanity at large subscribes to? The truth is, whether they cause stumbling or not, my own principles are derived from a lifetime of studying the Bible and trying to apply what I’ve learned there, and to write anything other than that would have been disingenuous. BUT—this writer could not have been more civil and respectful even in disagreement. I hold his comment up as a model.
That’s quite different from the writer who found my treatment of the issue not only “simple but simplistic,” but offered me no help in trying to discern what made it simplistic. This is the closest anyone came to name-calling. Still, it was an honest opinion honestly offered. I was glad he wrote.
Some others I enjoyed:
“…though I respect your choice I am dismayed at the same time.”
“I appreciate your blog. Disagree with your election choice.” Fair enough.
“You have such gifts of writing, encouragement and voting. Well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.”
“I have always had great admiration and confidence in Roy’s power of observation, analysis, and logic. Until now.”
“I agree to disagree with you on this.”
My favorite, I suppose, is one writer’s assurance that if I were still a pastor today I would act better (in maintaining my neutrality) than I said I would in my post. He knows me well, this good friend, and he may very well be right. Still, in the aftermath of the election, I’m not certain that my conscience would be clear today had I not at least tried to express myself on the implications of Christian ethics as applied to the issues and contestants in the campaign. So I felt compelled to try in my post and I wonder, in light of his comments, how I could have been true to my calling as pastor without speaking on behalf of those whom I felt were abused during the campaign. I’m still thinking.
So where do we go from here? Our new challenge is how to put our deeply fractured country back together again while reassuring a worried world that we can provide the fair and steady leadership it looks to America to provide. From where I sit today, I can’t see how it can be done, at least not for a long time. Grave damage has been inflicted on the body politic. What I do know, though, is that it will require compromises on the part of people who are fanatically dedicated to not compromising, even for the sake of national unity.
And no matter what happens in Washington, we little people can play our part. We can be as civil as those who replied to my post. We can find the good in another, even the one—especially the one—who disagrees with us. We can seek—nationally and personally—“liberty and justice for all,” as we promise to do every time we repeat the Pledge of Allegiance. This is not just a matter for the law courts to decide and the government to provide. It’s also how we talk about and act toward our neighbors, our friends, and all—all—the “others” in our lives. Our new leader has promised to make America great again. He’s a powerful man, Mr. Trump, but this is something he can’t do by himself. Or even with his supporters. In a democracy, the potential for real greatness resides with the people, with you and me, doing our best to be our best. And we are only at our best when we reach beyond our selfish interests to serve in a way that benefits our neighbors—wherever they live and whoever they are.
Even if they disagree with us.