I don’t know where your head is at on day two after the presidential election. Yesterday, for me, I could barely think straight. Being a woman felt more real than ever before. Being Mexican and Native American felt more solidified than ever before. Being a sexual assault survivor felt sickening. Being a Christian felt more surreal than ever before. All the many ways my identity could be named felt stripped and laid bare. Like some out-of-body experience, I saw how each of part of myself was being told it didn’t matter.
And one cannot understand all of this if one has not lived it.
In September, B and I took a trip to New Orleans. My experience with this city was all at once fascinating and confusing. (It is a strange thing to see the countless homeless sitting among the debauchery of Bourbon Street.) We ended up spending one night in a quieter part of the city called Frenchman Market. The scene is more arts, food, and the bluesy music you really want from New Orleans. Upon sitting down at one blues bar, we made friends with an older couple from Australia. Naturally, B talked with the husband and I talked with the wife. What I learned from their perspective on America — similar to a lump in your throat before you cry — will never leave me.
Jen told me that she and her husband pulled their three kids out of school for a month to tour the United States. In Australia this is, apparently, a very common thing to do; they give the children their materials and tell them to come back with their stories of experiences. Jen said they started out in New York, which was exciting and exhilarating for all of them. She then explained that it was important for her and their kids to experience, not just urban, but rural America, too. On their way to Nashville, TN, they chose to stop off in parts of rural Tennessee for this part of their journey.
What they wanted their kids to experience most? The lack of gun control in America. You can read all about Australia’s gun laws here. They waltzed their kids into a Walmart in rural Tennessee, found the dedicated Firearms section and took a seat. For an hour, they watched people with shopping carts full of groceries buy bullets and browse the selection of newer guns. Jen said her youngest daughter was so confused why a pink gun made for a child was even available. I won’t even try to explain this away. I trust you get the point.
They said Nashville was great … despite the overzealous amount of “hen” (bachelorette) parties happening. Then they made their way to New Orleans. There, the family decided to take one of those (terrifying) swamp tours. Jen said their tour guide was this “wonderful black man, who told us about his richly educated background and how he loves New Orleans.” At some point on the tour, a woman poked Jen to get her attention.
This woman, laughing, asked if Jen heard her husband. Jen replied no and asked what did he say? The woman goes on to tell her an awful racist “joke” about the tour guide. Shell-shocked, Jen just looked at them and turned around. She had never heard someone, with such fervor, so blatantly and openly say something like that about another human. Again, I won’t try to explain this one away. I trust you get the point.
That night, I learned a lot about the perceptions of our America. At around two in the morning on Wednesday, we all learned that we live in two different versions of America. We have yet to reach out to our friends in Australia to talk about their Westward adventures, let alone the election results. But I imagine, because their hearts are so kind and pure, their response would be one of shared sorrow for our country.
I woke up this morning feeling the heaviness, but less like a piece of sushi. I listened to a short podcast from a pastor I admire. He talked about the ambiguity in politics, and how to honor that well. I don’t know how long it will take me to get there, but I want to be there. Then he reminded his listeners of how there’s no sustainable hope in the systems of the world, only in Jesus. So, I’m holding close to that truth. He himself voted this year (he typically doesn’t, because he’s that against putting hope into an earthly system) but he did because of Trump’s dangerous mentality and what it could do to our country.
There’s this episode in the show Angel (surprise, I’m a nerd) where a demon is taunting Angel. I watched this particular episode on Monday, and what the demon said has stuck with me since:
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m stuffed! God, I love people! Don’t you? They feed me the worst and I kinda serve it right back to them, and the fear and prejudice turns to certainty and hate, and I take another bite and mmm-mmm-mmm! What a beautiful, beautiful dance!
Here and now, in figuring out where to step next, I want to – need to! – avoid that demon dance. That dance is one that is made up of unruly steps towards the old adage: An Eye For An Eye. It’s that fear from both sides turning into certainty and hate for the other.
We mustn’t. We can’t.
So what do we do?
We grieve the state of our nation. We rally for the repeatedly marginalized and disenfranchised. We look each other in the eyes and remind each other how we deserve better and will be better because of this. We reject permanent defeat and sadness. We take our collective sadness and, together, turn it into a story of movement. There is a lot of work to be done, starting yesterday. I’ve already known this to be true, yes, but to see a sea of redness across our nation? It is solidified on a level I wasn’t yet fully prepared for.
My dear friend Nicole told me yesterday, “Everyone copes differently and in different timing.” As we cope, remember we are not alone. If you are a Christian coping, remember that our hope is not in political systems, and to move forward with Christ’s unwavering, unconditional love for all who are marginalized. In every regard, there is work to be done. This onion is thick.
Lastly, as a reminder to all, but to first and foremost myself: steps toward reconciliation is all in avoiding the steps to that hungry, tireless demon dance.
(Maybe try this all while listening to “Yes We Can Can” by The Pointer Sisters.)