I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person. -Walt Whitman
My heart broke yesterday. My heart splintered off into dozens of shards, like waffle cone dropping to the sidewalk from an unwieldy toddler’s hand. And my reaction was the same, staring in disbelief at the wreckage of my goodness and weeping without consolation over the splattered disaster before me.
Donald Trump’s words of vile debasement about me, and worse, about my daughter, my sisters, niece, and mothers, were not surprising. He has revealed his character to Americans over and over and over again. He has decimated the dignity of a disabled reporter, of Muslims, refugees, immigrants. He has offended veterans returning from war – something few of us can fathom. He has threatened Mexican Americans, African Americans and beauty queens, the list continues and will continue to do so. He has hitched his wagon to hatred. There is no shred of remorse or concern for anyone but himself and his own ends. And now he has attacked me, my daughter, my people, in words I have never once heard uttered from the mouths of men. I have never once been in the company of such despicable language, around the boisterous snickering and guffaws, reducing my gender to parts and pieces, numbers and letters. Trump’s language about me, about my people, the other beautiful, courageous, remarkable women was sickening. He splayed each and every one of us upon a platter before the ogling eyes of his kind, critiquing us like slabs of beef at a backyard barbecue.
For years now I have sought to learn love through empathy. I have practiced the painstaking work of trying to build a compassionate base, focused upon individuals with different stories than mine. I have had conversations, I have been in relationship, I have asked questions and wrestled for answers. I’ll admit, I have a privileged life. I have men who will defend me, but generally they just stand by, at the ready, while I fight for myself, because I’m able. I am white. I have resources. I am healthy. I’ve got it all – which is a liability when you try to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
Except now, I have a greater understanding.
You see, when Trump called Mexican Immigrants murderers and rapists, I was mortified and angry but I did not understand.
You see, when he called for the sequestering of Muslim Americans, I was reviled and shocked but I did not understand.
You see, when he criticized veterans for their inability to withstand the rigors of war and combat upon return to The States, I again, was angered, but I did not understand.
And now, it’s my turn, it’s my daughter’s turn. He flung our bodies out on the chopping block, naked and afraid. Donald Trump is nothing new for women, minorities, disabled. He is just one more bully in a long string who get their kicks from belittling the underdog, enlivening the basest of humanity, procuring a cheer from those who have no credibility or admirers, but think they do.
And now I must speak directly to Mr. Trump:
Mr. Trump, you surprised me, I see more clearly now. I get a truer sense of the fear and loneliness and longing others have felt. I understand now when bodies are not cherished, when the stereotyped color and gender and nationality are the shoddy representatives of personhood, rather than beauty, humanity, and beloved-ness as children of God.
Mr. Trump, you have provided me with greater empathy, a greater capacity to grieve and celebrate alongside my fellow humans. Your intentions ring loud and certain and I am rocked to my core. I am speechless and quaking, not by your words, those were to be expected, but at the silence of your followers, your supporters. I am devastated by the profession of Christian faith and the defense of you by Christian leaders. And lest you believe me to be overreacting, I know to my center, I could never trust you as the leader of this nation to be alone in a room with my child.
Mr. Trump, you have revealed the hearts of fear that surround me. You have uncovered the hatred masked in ignorance and blindness. Your words have awakened me to the realities of the majority of the citizens of this land.
Mr. Trump, you have uncovered the greatest reason why many are leaving the church – hypocrisy. The support of your candidacy by many seems to be a forced choice, a quiet “yes” with a resigned shoulder shrug and accompanying eyebrow raise. These same Christians say they love Jesus, and strive to live a holy life, yet the disregard for our oppressed through choosing to vote for you, choosing to support you, is deafening. As the Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel reminds us, “The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.”
Mr. Trump, I love better today because of you. I may be more pained, as my naivete plummets headlong toward the flames, but this is good. This needed to happen in order to live my life in greater love – loving God, loving my neighbor, loving myself.
Mr Trump, you have awakened me alongside an entire people group to the reality of what so many face each and every minute of their existence. I hope you are resting well, for you have a long journey ahead. I hope you find your peace. And for the remainder of us, well, it’s going to be a long road, but it is a good and worthy road for “..the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice” (Martin Luther King). Fortunately, you and your kind are just a sorry, horrible blip in this remarkable, hopeful human narrative.
As for me, I choose goodness, I choose hope, I choose beauty and I choose what is right.