Dear Friends and Neighbors,
By the time I post this blog it will officially be Election Day. You see, I’ve been struggling with what to write for several days, probably months. I even held a Facebook fast since the Republican primary ended so that I wouldn’t read something that would irk me into posting something about this election. It certainly has not been easy to live through. In fact, it has often felt like watching a nightmare unfold when you’re unable to wake yourself up. I think everyone agrees that this probably has been the most brutal and vicious campaign season in American history. Experts say that the election in 1876 between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes was worse but they didn’t have a 24-hour news cycle or social media back then so I’m pretty sure we have them beat.
Regardless of who gets to claim having lived through the worst election season ever, there is something about this particular cycle that has shaken me to my core. Yes, there are many things to be concerned about coming out of this campaign and I am bothered by all of it: The ways in which sexual assault and misogyny have been dismissed by crafty spin doctors and a voting public with a short attention span. The ridicule of people with disabilities, Hispanics, Muslims and veterans, among others. The complete lack of cultural competency about African Americans, urban areas and communities that low-income workers call home. The marketing of racism, bigotry and materialism. The callous remarks about military action and obliterating other human beings. The disregard for any sense of decorum in campaign speeches, debates and advertisements. The packaging of lies, stereotypes and untruths to sell the American people on the myth that yesterday holds more promise than tomorrow.
All of this has at times made me feel physically ill.
But, the issue I’ve been wrestling with and finding hard to reconcile is how to deal with the people I know, like you, who are supporting the candidate for president of the United States who is at the center of this chaos? What kind of conversation do we have after the election? How do we live together in community after this? Even more importantly, how do I reconcile your support of a candidate endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke, the epitome of racial hatred, who has never denounced their endorsement? I mean, if you say you’re not a racist but you support a candidate whose campaign is built on racist ideologies, then where does that leave us? Do you remember who I am?
I am the descendant of slaves. My grandparents, who had less than a high school education, worked hard in the Jim Crow South to send nine children to college or trade school. They also helped people in South Carolina register to vote. This bold action led the KKK to burn a cross out in front of their home with their children in the house. How can I be okay with you supporting a candidate who is endorsed by this white supremacist organization because of their shared values when the KKK has literally terrorized and murdered African Americans and hate people like me just because we are?
You see, making America great again seems to mean going back to a time when separate was equal and lynching was sport. When women had no voice except for the one their husbands or fathers gave them. So, I’m struggling to understand and to figure out how I will move beyond this election knowing that so many of you, my friends and neighbors, supported this campaign. I know that many of you will say that you were just voting against her, that you were just tired of business as usual. But, I am having a hard time with that since a vote in his favor is also a vote that says racist and sexist ideology is okay—or, at least it’s an acceptable trade off to have an America that you think will work for you in spite of what it means for me.
To add insult to injury, my brothers and sisters in Christ who refer to themselves as “Evangelical Christians,” you seem to have completely lost your way. It’s as if you have lowered the standard of our beliefs in a stark departure from what would be considered godly character and have endorsed a candidate who is divisive, philandering, racist, misogynistic, duplicitous, idolatrous, narcissistic and crude, holding him up as the values candidate in this election. My heart breaks. You, too, have ignored the consequences your endorsement will have on others, casting aside Jesus’ words to love your neighbor as yourself and embracing a rhetoric and behavior that is not the least bit consistent with what we understand as Christian values. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You see the problem? It is entirely possible that this candidate is a Christian (God knows the heart) but what has been on display at rallies, in the debates, on Twitter and in interviews has been a complete contradiction of what we would expect from someone maturing in our faith.
This is not okay. It’s not politics as usual. It’s not a decision between two equally bad candidates. And, it’s not a vote without consequence for me, your neighbor and friend.
That’s why I’m struggling. A vote for this candidate is also a vote for the wall. It’s a vote for law and order, stop and frisk–license to profile and mistreat African Americans. It’s a vote for a ban on allowing Muslims to enter the country, although all of the recent terrorist attacks in America have been by citizens who were already here. It’s a vote for demeaning women. It’s a vote for you and never us.
As I scratch beneath the surface and consider what all of this means for you to vote for this candidate, I have a really hard time finding the grace I need to understand and to be okay with it. The honest truth is that it feels like betrayal. It feels like, indeed, Black and Brown lives don’t matter; that women’s lives don’t matter. It feels like someone is trying to engulf us in a time warp of days past that deserve no future.
But, the future is ahead of us and there is no going back. We really have come too far to turn back now. I pray that we will find a way to move forward together. That we will both be able to wash off the divisive residue of this election and work for a better future that honors us both. I’m struggling but I’m willing to try if you are.
Leslie Dunbar Walker Copeland Tune