When don’t-worry-be-happy rings hollow

November 10, 2016


Some somber reflections two days after the 2016 election – from a white, male, traditional Christian exhausted from rowing up the political stream, perhaps helpfulImage result for angst to Trump supporters who don’t understand all the angst:

First of all, I could do without the spiritual bromides.  Many of my dearly beloved brothers and sisters in Christ jingle the mantra, “Don’t worry.  God is in control. “  That’s theologically simplistic.  A close reading of Genesis 1:27-31 suggests the Almighty has delegated his earthly reign to humans.  We’re God’s stewards – and bad stewardship can be calamitous.  Thus, I’m truly troubled when we pack the electoral college with voters who will choose a climate-change denier for president.  He’s already named a skeptic to head his EPA transition team.

Bromides and platitudes easily transform into snug cloaks veiling fatalistic complacency.  They bring little genuine comfort.  Did we paste on our god-is-in-control smiles before the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which crossed the Philippines in 2013 and killed 6,340 people?  Of course not.  We supplied aid.  We do the same in response to Haiti’s repeated catastrophes.

Secondly, Trump’s victory is no mere abstraction for me.  Mouth cancer and reconstructive surgery gave me a speech impediment last year, robbing me of my preaching career.  It then metastasized.  I’m bound for more chemotherapy and more unemployment.  I find little solace in a president-elect who mocks the handicapped and promises to dismantle insurance reforms and Medicaid.  I’m grateful for disability payments and friends who have rallied to my aid, but they cannot fund my medical costs.

So yes, I admit it.  I’m afraid.  I’m afraid of a slow, agonizing death.  I’m afraid of leaving my family bankrupt.  True, God is ultimately in control, but I fear that God’s designated stewards have forgotten about “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46).  There’s real human cost to that.

Thirdly, I plead with the Democratic Party: Get your act together.  You were once the blue-collar party, the family party, the party of the GI Bill.  You’re now the party of a self-designated cultural elite.  You no longer feel America’s pulse.  For example, you continually dismiss pro-lifers such as I as “extremists.”  I feel alienated from you even though I hold the same views on marriage as each of your 2008 presidential candidates – views echoed through the millennia.   That doesn’t mean I “hate” those who disagree with me, nor does it mean I won’t protect their rights.

You’re living in a bubble, oh Democrats.  Pop that bubble and mingle with your former Rust Belt hombres.

And, please, no more candidates like Hillary Clinton. As Dick Polman observes, “Hard to believe, but true: For all the boiling rage that has propelled him to the presidency, Trump garnered 1.3 million fewer votes than Mitt Romney got while losing in 2012. Heck, Trump has 300,000 fewer votes than John McCain got when McCain was blown out in 2008. And yet, Trump won.”

Voters opted to stay home because Clinton weaved around the e-mails and failed to craft a core message.  She generated little enthusiasm (I think of myself: I wrote reams of anti-Trump comments but nothing explicitly pro-Hillary – partly because I’m leery of clergy partisanship, but also because I was … meh).  Like it or not, she was politically tone deaf and acted like an evasive attorney in the face of accusations.   She generated the impression, at least, of dodging the truth.

Fourthly, our patriotic clichés lay like rubble on the floor.  There’s something deeply wrong with a political system in which the GOP nominates Donald Trump, whom most Republicans opposed, and an election handing him a “mandate” even though he received fewer votes than his opponent.  Politicians in other democracies would at least seek a coalition government in such circumstances (which, incidentally, don’t happen because they’re not weighted with electoral colleges).  Not Trump.  He’s following the precedent of George W. Bush, who took his 2000 election as a mandate even though he received fewer votes than Al Gore.

Worst of all, I cannot help but think that the American soul ails with a deep sickness.  People of integrity and capability were running for office (John Kasich, for example), yet the Republican Party – supposedly the “pro-family” party – nominated a philandering, thrice-married, abusive, misogynistic, Islamophobic, Mexican-hating, serial-lying, anti-science racist with little knowledge of civics and the US Constitution.  And many architects of the Religious Right backed him.  And self-identified white evangelicals voted for him 80-20.  And America gave him an electoral college victory.

What is this?  What has America become?

All of which means I’m not calmed by the calls for “calm.”  Of course, we must not be violent – and Trump may turn out to be a far better president than I anticipate.  But I must also prepare myself – now, not later – to climb into my niche in that great democratic institution called the loyal opposition.  I’ll used my diminished capabilities however I can and for ever how long I have.

About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern


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