After two years, after debates and debacles, after so many words and so much money spent and so much fear and so much dislike, disregard, and dissembling, nobody won last night.
Now to be clear — I’m not referring to the outcome of the election, Donald J. Trump is now our President-elect. This is not a claim of a rigged system or alleging irregularity, nothing to do with our electoral college system vs. popular vote vs. republic vs. democracy. I mean the election process itself that we’ve just been through: that to choose a new leader required that kind of election, we all lost.
We have been through 2-year barrage of harsh language, insults, spin, politicking, dissembling, outright lies, grotesque revelations, appalling behavior. Those who have been involved in and surrounding this process have behaved in ways I do not expect from my 5-year-old — and would not allow from anyone even younger than him. At the end of this grueling process our country split with a (as of this morning) 47.5% / 47.7% vote. Let me say that again: the final vote split by a 0.2% difference.
We’ve seen journalists and media ignore the truth and the people in front of them and reward the circus of this process. We’ve seen operatives assume and hold on to their presumptions, no matter the subsequent facts. We’ve seen politicians use horrific language and make horrible stereotyped pronouncements that is filtering down into our schools, language and behavior that I, for one, do not and will not allow in my home. We’ve seen people inspired by the worst in us, the worst in them. We brought forward perhaps the most disappointing electoral slate possible (both candidates among the least-trusted, least-liked, least-respected of any candidate in a long time, if not ever).
No, America, we all lost last night, because of what the election process cost us. This election season has split us, divided us, and shaped us in ways that we will be discovering for a long time just how unhealthy they are. We have been through something that has abused us. This kind of thing — this kind of abuse — leaves a mark. Maybe not visible, but it is a mark, an effect, a lasting shape that has long, lasting tendrils. We all lost last night, because the last two years have hurt us.
That’s what this election was. Here’s what it is: What this election means for us, however we feel about its outcome, is we have hard work to do. No matter how you feel about the results, no matter whether your candidate “won,” no matter who you are or how or if you voted: We have hard work to do.
For those who are elated: it is time to listen. It is time to listen to the concerns of those who are not, listen to the dreams that led them to a different decision in the ballot booth. It is time to reach beyond that 0.2% that divides us and discover what unites us.
For those who are disappointed: it is time to listen. It is time to listen to what those who chose differently were anticipating, listen to their dreams and what led them to a different conclusion. It is time to reach beyond the braying of the campaign trail and rediscover those who are with us beyond that 0.2% divide.
For those who opted out and didn’t vote: it is time to listen. Creating and keeping a healthy democracy in a world so quickly shrinking by travel, communication, media, cultural exchange requires engagement and participation. Listen to those who did participate, listen for their reason why it matters, and give them a change to listen to you.
For those who are afraid: it is time to listen. If you are a person of faith, remember that our hope is not, never has been, and never will be in a politician of any stripe, color, persuasion, or perspective. We must remember this! 2008’s election made me nervous with language that approached “salvation.” Remember: We do not need a Savior. We already have one.
For us who now have to learn how to live together after such a divisive experience: it is time to listen. It is time to hear — the hopes and the fears. The disagreements and the similarities. It is time to remember that the continuance of our country has never depended on agreement. (Actually, we never, ever have!) What matters is that we are United States of America, and for us to Unite, we need to learn to listen. Come on, people. We can do this. We really can. I know it seems hard, it seems impossible, but hard is what we do best. We are Americans, and this is what we do — we come together, United States. Listening is where that has to start.
And then, once we know how to listen, once we know how to be United States, we need to build something new. This culture of ours, this whole mishmash of politics-ethics-mythology-values-media-entertainment-individualism-marketing-economics, this whole system is what gave us that gut-wrenching two-year process. I can’t stomach the thought of going through this same kind of experience in two years. Something has to change, or we will rinse-wash-repeat. Something has to change, and it has to begin in us. We cannot continue divided this way, and we need something with more staying power than a World’s Series game.
As a person of faith and a community leader, I believe the Church has to lead the way — we who entrust our lives to a Savior beyond politics and culture must stand together as witness to the Kingdom in which we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). We must learn to insist on and embody the priorities of that Kingdom, in both our personal and our civic lives. We must learn to follow Jesus across the boundaries we keep trying to erect between us (Luke 15:2), we must reach beyond every division (Gal 3:28), we must learn to listen and love all who are our neighbors (John 13:12). This election made it very clear: politics, culture, economics, media cannot, do not, and will not unite us. They have no power, no reach across divisions. Only the One who stretched his arms out to all on the Cross can do that. And We are his Body in the world — we, too, can and must stretch out our arms.
We who believe know the deeper truth — this world is not governed by politics. This world is governed by the One who created, redeemed, and sustains it. We know the truth of things, and we are the ones who are capable of seeing beyond that 0.2% that divides us — because the One we follow already did. We are the ones, brothers and sisters, who must lead the way: to listen, to refuse division, to honor disagreement, to bridge our shared brokenness. Only we, because we are the Body of the One who already has.
We are all in this together. We have hope. And we have work to do. So let’s get on with it. This is what we do. It’s time. Now.