Donald Trump was correct about one thing. He said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and his followers would stick with him. And so they did, through four years of his bullying (in spite of his wife’s ironic condemnation), his corruption, his arrogant abuse of Constitutional norms, and his blatant dishonesty, through the January 6 attack on the Capitol (where people did, in fact, die), through the impeachment and trial in the Senate where, in the end, Mitch McConnell declared the prosecution’s case against him but voted to acquit on a technicality Constitutional scholars said was irrelevant.
So, here we are, asking the same question I asked on this blog after the election in 2016: What will we tell our children and grandchildren? In that blog, I offered my attempt to answer that question. With a little editing, I offer it again.
It’s great to live in America.
In 2016, I wrote that we had been through “the most divisive, mean-spirited, relentlessly fact-free and often vulgar political campaign in any of our lifetimes.” Unfortunately, those words describe the past four years. “But now that the votes have been counted, we move into another peaceful transition of power.” Unfortunately, the transfer was anything but peaceful, and yet it happened!
I still believe in this democracy, as fragile we now know it is. After all we’ve been through, I still believe that “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Sometimes the bullies win.
In 2016 I wrote, “Our daughter, Deborah, who experienced her share of bullying in school, said it feels like the playground bully was elected Homecoming King. It’s a hard fact of life, but we can’t hide it from our children. Just because we try to be decent people who do our best to treat others the way we would like to be treated doesn’t mean that we will get chosen for the Homecoming court. The good guys don’t always win…at least not in the short run.”
As I watched Jamie Raskin leave the Senate chamber, I recalled the powerful moment in To Kill a Mockingbird when Atticus Finch leaves the courtroom where all the evidence was on his side, but he lost the case. When the Black folks in the balcony stand in silence, the old preacher says, “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Stand up, your father’s passing. ”
We can hope that our children and grandchildren might say something like that about us.
Sometimes people rise to the level of the task to which they have been called.
In 2016 is wrote, “We can hope and pray that as Mr. Trump prepares to take the oath of office he may feel called to rise above the vulgar, narcissistic, xenophobic, racist emotions that he unleashed during the campaign. If he lives into the words and spirit of his acceptance speech, it may be a sign of hope.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen but it can still happen for us. We can live into the hope that Amanda Gorman so eloquently proclaimed.
When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.
“The arch of moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.“
In 2016 I quoted the words Martin Luther King, Jr., often quoted to give hope to people during the civil rights movement. Our children need to know that the work of freedom and justice is never fully accomplished. We work toward a goal that is always beyond what we have achieved. In the words of Ted Kennedy: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
Remember who you are.
I still believe that “the thing that defines our identity is not whether we are Republican or Democrat, but that we are followers of Jesus Christ. That changes everything. Our primary citizenship is not in the USA, but in the Kingdom of God. (Philippians 3:20) We are called to live by values that are sometimes consistent with our national values but are never superseded by our national interests.”
I still affirm words that were written in 2016 by my friend, Neil Alexander, the retired President of the United Methodist Publishing House.
Welcome sorrow and defeat for all they can teach us about the depths of human experience and our reliance on the mercies of God and our need for each other.
Stand, sit or lay with all who suffer because in doing so we share a deep and wretched pain that awakens our souls and imaginations – and places us at the center of God’s graceful work in the world.
Do all of that and then by God get up, shake the dust from your shoes and start doing the things that make for genuine peace and merciful justice.
Trusting God’s promise we will not abandon hope. Instead we will boldly choose to live into hope by faith in things not seen.
We will not deny or hide our despair. But as we embrace it we’ll simultaneously turn on a dime and go to work.
We will not retreat or fade away. We will step up. We will choose life.
If we can pass on something like that to our children and grandchildren, it will be enough.
Grace and peace,
P. S. If you are looking for a word of hope, you might want to use “Easter Earthquake: How Resurrection Shakes the World” as a Lenten guide for spiritual discipline.