Because it is almost official voting day, and this is an extremely significant midterm, I am going to write something to this moment in time.
I grew up in a time where the identification with the Democratic Party was becoming unwelcome, to say it lightly. I ignored it mostly and did not let people know my family is mostly Democrat—and it is because of public education. I did not internalize any of the horrible rhetoric I was hearing from people I know very well and love very much because Democrat is not and was not my identity. I just realized this morning that is why I never took personal offense, and that is important to the theme of my writing about Naming.
Let me also say this, if I knew then what I know now, I would have spoken up and said something. I knew my friends were wrong in how they were portraying Democrats, and I should not have had to hide the fact I was a Democrat. While I was not absorbing their message personally, I was shedding a part of me and what I believed at the door to not rock the boat. Belonging was/is important to our thriving.
Any time we get to the point we believe we are the good people and these are the bad people, we are in a bad place. I will admit I am struggling with the Republican Party right now in this respect. Here is where I can tap into the empath in me—I understand how hard it is when life seemed to be a certain way for you and all the sudden the rug is pulled out beneath you. Learning a lot of what you have been taught is wrong and has caused harm, it is disorienting and scary. I feel that so much with you. But let me give an example of how we might reconsider some of the things we have been taught and allow ourselves to be uncomfortable without having to create an enemy.
In 2016 I realized all the things I was ignoring—hyper-Republicanism, anti-vaxx, complementarianism, etc were far more harmful than I could have understood in the moment. But I also understand the anxiety that led to these movements because I was in it. I do not see my friends as evil. Republican became an identity, not an identification with a group, and that will change how one behaves. Jonathan Martin mentioned in his last sermon at the Table that we are living in a moment where all of our head knowledge is getting into our bones. The theoretical is becoming a lived reality. This is what is happening with the Republican Party.
This is where Christians, because these are Christians, need to remember our baptism. That is our identity. Jesus is a way of life. Jesus is not a mascot. Jesus had no desire to be famous. He was often telling people to not tell anyone about what he had done. Jesus was not a winner either. Jesus took the path of humiliation before he would give up his sacred identity as a human being. When we remember where our identity lies—in love—we can more easily see when a group we are a part of is losing its way.
I am no hero or shero. All that happened to me was my heart broke, and it made me curious to understand what happened. That is all.
I am going to give only one example, because there are many, where I can show you that no one was paying attention to how toxic we have been to women in our society. 2016 was the revelation of this to me.
First, I will start with me. In the beginning I was angry with the Democrats for making Hillary Clinton the candidate in 2016. I knew she was controversial and hated by many. I was also sort of indoctrinated with the rhetoric about her that no one has actually proven, but we act like it is true. Now I know how important it is to look at the facts and determine what is true. It is life or death. With hindsight, I am glad she was the candidate.
I am probably most proud of the vote I cast for Hillary Clinton than any other candidate. I was too young to vote for Carter. What Hillary made me see is how awful women are treated in public life by EVERYBODY! Women are some of the worst too. Never underestimate the toxicity of being taught self-hate. Internal misogyny is real and it is deadly.
What I began to see early on was how she was talked over in the debates with no recourse. Not just talked over, but abusive yelling and name-calling. No one said a damn thing—Not the moderator, the audience, friends watching from home, the school teachers still assigning the debates to their students to talk about at school, etc. I was stunned. Had the world gone mad? There are no rules for the debates and Trump exposed that.
Trump also stalked her while she was talking about her platform to the audience. No one did anything about it. We all just sat and watched it like she was not a person at all. She stayed poised though, and I almost resented her for it. I wanted her so badly to turn around and tell Trump to ”Fuck off!” That was the first time the F word started coming out of my mouth and it felt holy. Still does in the right moment.
I learned later, and it was not until Biden was running against Trump, that Hillary worked with a professional on how to debate a narcissist. She knew what strings to pull to get under his skin, like calling him Donald, and stay poised. She had to. She did not have the luxury Biden had to say: Would you shut up, man?! Or to call him a clown. She would have been crucified even more. We saw how her use of deplorable made the Trump crowd act like that cancelled all the millions of atrocious things he said. I am not endorsing her use of deplorable, but, friends, people break. Even our leaders—even Hillary Clinton—are/is a human being. When treated deplorably, it might just get named as such.
What I am encouraging is to take some time for self -reflection. I did, and still do all the time. When I make a statement, I really try to make sure I have interrogated myself fully. When I don’t, I will come in with my messy and unrefined self, and that hurts people. I do not like it when I do that, nor would my truest self ever want to hurt anyone. I believe this is true for everybody.
It is so easy to blame others when it seems like the obvious sins lie there. But y’all, it made it me look at me. It was not just to discover all the ways I had participated in wrong-doing either; although, yes. I found in me a strength and resilience that I never knew I had. I found my voice and it led me on a journey—still is. Oh, it is messy and I make mistakes all the time, but I allow them. They teach me now, not destroy me.
Sometimes the people we think of as our enemy are the same people inviting us into the human story.
I will end with this.
Cruelty has no place in religion or politics. It is never okay for any reason. Stop labeling people as evil and start discovering who you are so you can properly name the people you think are being destructive. You can only know that if you know who you are.