This is bad. I’m not going to tell you it isn’t. America just committed a stunning unforced error. Last night’s election result is downright traumatic for those of us raised on post-war, triumphant patriotism. Twenty years ago we were on top of the world, or so we thought. Turns out we were just living in a gap between histories.
We are not special. It can happen here.
I wrote a lot of things over the years that proved to be wrong. I owe it to you to revisit those mistakes and try to understand them. I promise to do that. It’s going to take some time.
If you want it, I can offer this comfort: This will all become ‘normal’ soon. We will get used to it. That’s what human beings do.
Let me suggest, however, that we resist the temptation to normalcy. Regardless what we may have done to fight this menace, we all own what happened here. I live in an affluent suburb, insulated from much of what was wrong about the world yesterday. I will still be insulated tomorrow and next week. I have a choice to make about whether to continue that isolation, whether to rest, whether to accept comfort.
I will not be comfortable. I hope you will not either. We all have to make this choice for ourselves.
Those who reject the temptation to a comfortable withdrawal will face another threat – creeping hatred. We face this threat because anger in this case is justified, natural, the only sane response. We should be angry, both at the people who chose this and at ourselves. Anger is necessary and appropriate. Hate is not necessary, but it is a common side-effect of anger. As any parent understands, anger does not preclude empathy, but anger, mishandled, can burn through our empathy. No good can come of actions driven by hate.
We are all human beings. We are doing what we can, as best we can, to make our way in the world. People make mistakes. People commit terrible acts. We are suffering through a general, national crisis of empathy. We must not add to the problem in furious pursuit of some imagined goal. Empathy and understanding are the forces that will allow us to harness anger, to handle it with wisdom and care as a motor rather than a fire.
My religion places great emphasis on the power of love. Through faith and hope we find the power to rise beyond ourselves, to feel, and dream and accomplish what would have been impossible alone. Love subverts the natural order of the universe, an order based on exploitation and greed, where the strong feed on the weak. Through love we find understanding, we become something more than just ourselves, alone, grubbing for an existence. It is on love that we build strong families. On love we build healthy communities. And through love we can build a force more powerful, and more good, than ourselves.
Love is not passive. Love does not tolerate complicity. Love is sometimes fierce and potent and tough and uncompromising. We need that kind of love to keep us focused through what lies ahead.
Do your best to recover. Reject fear and shun hatred. Find time with the people you love. Be good to your family and friends. Do things that restore a sense of hope and strength. There are trying times ahead. This is how we discover what we are made of.