There’s a first time for everything, but someone in their late fifties has most of his “first times” behind him so the new ones are extra important. Today was a first time for me. The news of our election brought with it emotions that I have never experienced. I’ve felt the elation of winning and the disappointment of losing. This is different…
I have lost nothing personally. I’m a white, middle classed, middle aged man. When our new president takes office in January I will be able to walk down the street of any town in the USA and no one would ever question my right to be there. The folks that I meet on the street will assume I voted for Trump because of the way I look and the way my state voted. I will still have a good job and health insurance. No worries about war because I am too old to be called into military service. Everything is going my way.
I do not like feeling bad especially when I could easily choose otherwise. I’d rather be full of hope and joy. Yesterday, I imagined I would be consoling my right wing friends and family today and helping them understand that it’s a new day full of love and room for all. Instead I find myself quietly reaching out to a few friends who are very much on the losing side of this election. Listening to them. Affirming their longings. Affirming their person-hood just as they are. Hoping I can help lift their despair just a tad.
Why do I feel like this? I who couldn’t lose. No matter which side won, it wouldn’t much affect me. Not to say that I am immune. I have strong political views, and I’ll be affected by change just like everyone else. But neither political party has an agenda that would take away my human rights directly.
Not so long ago, my wife and I began to pour our energies into loving and caring for the LGBT community. At our local PFLAG* we are getting to know some of the bravest and most marginalized people we have ever known. These are real human people who do not fit neatly in the boxes provided by society for us to keep them straight (pun intended). I get to hear the stories of these beautiful people; stories of love, of hate, of violence, of death, murder, suicide. Their stories move me; children turned out of their homes because they were attracted to the same sex, parents of transgender children worried for their safety at school. By the way, this NC “bathroom bill” intended to protect “normal” people from a fictitious predator is a very real matter of life or death to these folks.
When the riots happened a few weeks ago here in Charlotte, I stepped out of my comfort zone a few times and risked conversations with friends and acquaintances who have darker skin than mine. I heard the fear they felt. I heard their desire to fit in, along with constant frustration that the color of their skin posed an impenetrable barrier to any hope of real justice or equanimity.
I say these things to explain what changed in me that makes me hurt. I have only just begun the hard work of self examination; finding out just how selfish and unloving I can be. My eyes are just beginning to see and my ears are just beginning to hear how the very society that welcomes me so freely is suspicious at best and hateful at worst of folk who do not look like me.
There’s a great story from the book, “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom about the holocaust in Holland and how her Christian family helped to save Jews. Her father, Casper, a simple watch maker, sewed a yellow Star of David on his coat. In his mind, if everyone wore them the Nazis would not be able to identify the Jews and they would be safe. What a naive gesture but motivated by such inspiring love.
I am a middle aged white man. I don’t have to do this. I can stop anytime I want and just blend into an easy, comfortable life. But I freely choose otherwise. I want to be more like Casper ten Boom and naively believe that I too can love the unloved. That I too can connect in solidarity where they are marginalized. That I can choose to sacrifice my comfort, my safety and my security when it interferes with their human rights when necessary. Who will join me?
*PFLAG = Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays