On Tuesday evening, millions (perhaps even billions) of people flocked around their TV sets to watch the history of America unfold right before their eyes. During and well after the election, social media was bombarded with a number of hashtags. While some ranted and raved, called Trump a number of names and decried the apparent injustice, others lavished in what they believed was the culmination of the “American dream.” While some are in a fragile state of considerable mourning over the loss of the #pantsuitnation, others are more about rubbing the results in your face with flashy buttons or funny memes. Although all elections elicit a high level of emotional response, it is fair to say that this particular election brought many preconceived notions and attitudinal barriers to the surface. It is fair to say that we as Americans, Canadians, and internationals alike still have a long way to go in order to create our “ideal” situation. However, there is one ultimate truth that permeates throughout the results: the fact that Trump won, that he won because of the majority, and that he won based on a democratic process. You can complain about the Electoral College or the way things ended up playing out, but the truth is, that whether you like it or not, Trump is going to be the president for the next four years and nothing we can do will change that. However, there are some things I would urge us all to do as we move forward with this news: exciting for some and terrifying for others.
#1: Don’t Make Straw-Men
A lot of my friends are Democrats and quite a few others are Republican, so you can imagine how my newsfeed has been filled up recently with debates from either side. While some of them are broad and open-minded, quite a few others point towards a divisive understanding of politics and even drastic measures such as unfriending or unfollowing people. I thought I was safe and in the black until I recently checked my friends list and noticed that two people had unfriended me. Even so, I am thankful it was only two people. I get it, I may not be an American myself, but what happens in the next 4 years will greatly affect me. It affects members of my immediate and extended family who live and work full-time in the States, it will affect a number of my friends who study and travel there frequently, and it will even affect a number of people I don’t know personally but who I am friends with on Facebook because of ministry connections. Furthermore, what happens in the States does not just affect Americans themselves, but it really affects all of us – starting with their neighbours to the north (those of us up in Canada who can wave to them from across the river) all the way to people in both developed and developing countries that have trade and legal agreements with the US.
Nevertheless, it is important that we all find ways to steadily move forward rather than live in a state of shock and disillusionment. It is important to not merely criticize Trump for his perceived personality, looks, or any of these surface level things we often get caught up in. I am just as guilty as the next person. I love making fun of Trump’s hair! But the truth is that I can bet the majority of us have never met Trump or Clinton personally, so a lot of what we are saying is based on skewed media rather than seeing the person as they truly are: both beloved and fully accepted creations of God.
It is also important not to idealize the situation. I hadn’t realized this until one of my former colleagues sent me a personal message this morning, but a lot of what I was posting on Facebook was serious skewed, biased, and perhaps even insulting or attacking towards people of other political persuasions. For this, I most heartily apologize. This was not my intention and I am sorry to anyone I have offended in the process. Politics are truly a very difficult topic to tiptoe around and I can see why at certain points it is best to “leave well enough alone.” If I were to be completely honest, I would say that neither candidate was the absolute best or strongest person. Both said things during their campaign that pointed at archaic and naïve understandings of world affairs. Both have apparent personality traits that make me cringe. But both also had some really good, solid, well-thought-out points of view. Regardless of whether Trump or Clinton were to be in power right now, each would have brought a unique set of skills and abilities, but also a unique set of challenges. Both would have brought strengths to the US, but also weaknesses. That’s because neither Trump nor Clinton is God. They are mere humans like the rest of us, capable of making mistakes and finding themselves in short-falls, but both had a vision in mind and I truly believe that regardless of where you stand, in the end of the day, both of them really and truly wanted to see America thrive as a country. Trump is not the only one who wanted to “make America great again.” Either one of them would have had that type of potential, but both of them would have chosen to go about it in a different way.
#2: Be the Change You Want to See In the World
As President, Trump really doesn’t have as much power as we all think he does. In fact, he’s really not much more than a mere figure head. Yes, he will have to make a number of important decisions in the upcoming years, but he won’t be doing it alone. We, as global citizens, need to rise up, let our voice be heard, and find ways to support and encourage our new leader. In the Bible we read that we are to pray for our political leaders, but also to submit to their authority. We also read that we are to try to live peacefully with others (as much as it is possible for us). I’m sorry, but unfriending someone with a different political persuasion than you doesn’t sound all that peaceful to me, but then again, neither does back-stabbing, emotionally abusing, name-calling or making personal attacks. We all must find a way forward in this mess and seek to bring out the best attributes of our country, our humanity, and our world. It is not just the President’s responsibility to end racism, misogyny, bigotry, or homophobia, but all of our responsibilities. We cannot simply blame the President for our world not advancing as we think it should, we must take responsibility for ourselves and act now. Every action we make (whether large or small) to create a more just, peaceful world will have a cascading effect, bringing a chrysalis of energy to all those who are around us, and encouraging others to join in what we are doing.
Earlier this morning, I opened my Facebook and I saw a brilliant meme which said “Don’t wish for Trump to fail, remember you’re on the boat he’s steering.” You may not like Trump, I certainly don’t, but I also certainly don’t want to see him fail. I know that he has a huge responsibility which I cannot even fathom, and I certainly don’t envy him for his role and his position as leader of one of the largest and greatest superpowers of the world. I want him to succeed and do the best that he can in office. And I also know that he needs my help in order to do that. He needs us, all of us, to pray for him to make wise and just decisions, he needs us to share our voices about the areas and issues that are the most important to us, and he needs to know that we are behind him backing him every step of the way even when he falters and fails. I may not like Trump, but there is one thing he said when he gave his first presidential speech that raises a level of honour for me. He said that he wants to be President of all America, but that he needs our help and our counsel. He even said that he wants the counsel of those who disagree and voted against him. You may think that he only said this to appease the crowd or because it’s what we’d expect a new president to say, but I really think it says so much more about his character. That willingness to learn and that ability to reason and to hear other’s opinions is going to serve him well in office. Yes, he said a number of stupid, stupid things during his campaign that made many of us “turn-tail-and-run,” but those few precious sentences he gave recently brought out a different, softer, gentler side to him. A side that I always knew existed, but that somehow got buried underneath all the sly media coverage of his “foot-in-mouth” (speak-before-you-think) mentality.
Regardless of where you stand with this election, I hope that we will all eventually be able to put our political differences behind us and raise up as the leaders our country and our world so needs. I pray that we will find ways to work together and put aside animosity and strife in order to promote a better, global society. And I pray that through it all, both Trump and Clinton supporters will be able to see Donald Trump for the man he truly is – the 45th President of the United States of America.