Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Uncompromising and unreconciled: Thoughts after the election

Writer's note: While this post is a largely unedited blog/vent likely to be read by like-minded readers, I welcome feedback and sources to consider in my own development.

Let me tell you a story.

I was talking with a few friends recently when I heard this story. Apparently someone had walked into a bar in the Castro for a drink. He was refused and asked to leave. Why? Because he was wearing a Trump hat. For those unfamiliar, the Castro is San Francisco's fabulous and historical gay neighborhood. Seriously, the giant Rainbow Flag flying over the Castro MUNI Station should give a pretty big hint. Anyway, My first reaction was, "duh." That's exactly what I would expect to happen. After all, you would think the warrant would be clear: Much like how a particular branch of Lutheranism will determine who you marry in the Midwest, who you supported during this election will determine that some places are socially off limits depending on who you voted for. I mean, can you imaging someone walking in on a NRA meeting with a "I'm with Her" shirt and expect anything different? I should have known the rules better two weekends ago when, at an In-and-Out in Merced, I was subjected to death stares from a big mustached man after touching my boyfriend on the shoulder (my bad). The thing is, as I see it, Trump's rhetoric isn't just embodied in his spoken words; its embodied in his followers and their actions. Now, is it completely fair to lump Trump supporters into the same category as people who are opposed to LGTB rights? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm not a fan of generalizing any group unfairly. However, when we look what he's said in the past and what his running mate has done, it's fair to say their supporters are probably in the same frame of mind. But this goes beyond what Trump or his supporters have said or done in regards to LGTB people, or even women or people of color for that matter. The divide in America right now isn't just between liberals flaunting their abortions and open borders and conservatives toting their AK-47s wanting blacks and brown people to go where they can't see them. The fact is we have become polarized to the point where we have two different cultures existing in this country.

I've been at a gradually growing loss this past year and it all accumulated this morning. Half the country woke up cheery to blue skies while the rest of us woke up in fear of imminent storms off the horizon. I've gone through feelings ranging between disappointment and generally being pissed off. For us who were/are opposed to Trump, his campaign exposed everything out country should be ashamed of. I am honestly reminded of that days after the 2008 Proposition 8 passed in California. It felt like a giant slap in the face and boy did it hurt. I, like many, was forced to ask how the hell could people be so ignorant and selfish? Well, now 8 years later, the day after the election, I have a pretty good idea. Culture.

I don't need to spell out what these two cultures don't have in common.But lets see what they do have in common. Assuming these two cultures are just huge co-cultures existing within the United States, then we can infer what the culture is made of, at least in terms of this election and politics in general. First of all, we are quick to generalize. We see images of the "opposite" team which demonstrate the "typical" behavior of "those" people and we blanket all of them. We see our liberal friend on Facebook post a meme of someone holding up two middle finders with the caption "Fuck Trump." We see our conservative friend refer to Hilary as "Cunt-on" (seriously, sometimes I want to snap back and ask 'Do you pray to God with that mouth?').  Second, while we are generalizing we are way too quick to use the "share" button. We see something outrageous about the "other" side, leave no bother to fact check anything, and automatically share it not so that we can change anyone's mind but rather as petty evidence that "I/we" are RIGHT and "they" are WRONG. Thirdly, we don't think critically, at least not on social media. We are just conductors sending out the same message with no thought.  Fourth, we do not think or act with empathy and ignore the fact that "they" are living, breathing, people with families, ambitions, feelings, and goals. Yes, this is America, uncompromising, I-take-priority-over-we, America.

Taking a step back now, I can only comprehend my side of the election. I can't understand "why" Trump won the election, but I certainly understand the how. The way I see it, both co-cultures have two competing narratives of what it means to be an American. Being a former Fundamentalist I have a slight recollection of what being in that culture was like but those years are now so far gone that I can't offer any real insight in what makes work the way it does. This, however, I do know: as someone who studies Anthropology I will cede to the fact that, when put in their contexts, both groups are equal, none is better than the other; they both have equal claim in writing their narratives as Americans. And yet, the fact still stands that we can't continue together like this. The way we've been operating will continue to hurt us and swapping out new figure heads in the government will not solve the problem. Changing laws will not solve the problem.

Recently, I attended my home diocese's Annual Convention. The theme for the weekend was "Radical, Welcoming, and Sending." The words "radical" and "welcoming" are pretty popular buzz words in Progressive Christianity, but I think the concepts of these words are rather transcending. As followers of  Jesus, who challenged the political and religious status quo by hanging out with the "other", we are called to emulate his new call to culture; the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom where we hear each other and listen and cease to treat each other like crap. Jesus reconciles humanity to God by his death, and shows us how reconcile with one another in his life. As a Christian, I can't ignore this as I mull over the polarization. So, the question is finally begged. What does reconciliation look like for America? I have my ideas which I think are worth toying with; namely, third party options. But even before we get there, the challenge of getting both groups to have an honest sit down which doesn't involve name calling and fallacies is a feat in itself.

How do we begin reconciliation? What does it look like? I don't know. I do know we have to pause, think, and cease to have the last word. We have to turn off our automated cultural responses to anything that offends us. We have to respect the other culture's values. It won't be easy. Not everybody will always get what they want. What has scared me the most of this election isn't the outcome of voting but the social damage done. Yes, many of us are hurting. But we have to find healthy ways to grieve our pain and express our anger which don't involve the "other."

I am finally left to wonder what would have happened if the bar in Castro let the guy stay? Maybe the guy was generally curious why gays feel the need to have their own space. Maybe he was generally accepting, Maybe he was one of those one-offs who is actually a gay Trump supporter. Who know's his story. But what would happen if one of these groups would take a minute and actually ask "Why" they are in the camp they are in. There have been plenty of short answers, but what it means to them to be in one camp or the other is hardly asked and hardly listened to.

A friend of mine decided to major in Psychology. She came to this conclusion after 9/11 because she knew that people needed help and would continue to need healing in the years to come. In a similar fashion, this election has helped me realize that I study Anthropology because I want to be an agent which helps heal the world and want to help humanity realize its God-given and God-created potential. So, I can say confidently that for the remainder of my undergraduate studies I am committed to focusing my research on cultures that have gone through processes of varying reconciliation so that maybe someday we can get a step closer.

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