May There Be Grace
Election night my cellphone blew up, dozens of people wanting me to talk them off
the ledge, including women, African-Americans, homosexuals, and Hispanics. Some
of them had spent most of their lives as the “other” in this society. The last eight
years many of these people, while they recognized that racism, sexism, homophobia,
and xenophobia still existed, they felt the vast majority of Americans recognized that
they were part of the rich tapestry of this nation. They turned on the news to find
America had elected Donald J. Trump to be President of the United States, and it felt
like a slap to their face, the American people telling them they were not wanted the
Donald J. Trump, father of the birther movement that sought to delegitimize a
president because of the color of his skin.
Donald J. Trump, what we need is law and order, stop and frisk, those young black
men accused of raping the Central Park jogger are guilty and should have been
executed even though DNA evidence and a confession exonerated them.
Donald J. Trump, grab them by the pussy, look at that face, blood flowing from her
nose and wherever, bimbo, nasty woman.
Donald J. Trump, they are rapists and murderers, tweet out a picture of me eating a
taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo, I’m going to build a wall.
Donald J. Trump, I am going to have a vice-president that believes in gay conversion
therapy, shocking the gay away, opposes same sex marriage, and would love to be like
George Wallace standing in the bathroom door to prevent transgendered people from
Donald J. Trump, what we need is a bigger police presence in Muslim communities,
there should be a moratorium on followers of Islam being allowed in this country, I
saw them dancing on the rooftops when the Towers went down.
Donald J. Trump.
It is easy to understand why they would be upset. When you are on the edge, even
the slightest breeze can blow you off.
Donald J. Trump, not since George Wallace has a major candidate for the
presidency spoke to the darker impulses of this country’s nature. He not only played
the racism, sexism, homophobic and xenophobic cards, he dealt them from the
bottom of the deck. He even had trouble rebuking David Duke’s endorsement of him.
I am not saying that you are a racist or a sexist or a homophobe if you voted him, but
I am saying you tacitly accepted Trump’s usage of it. For a lot of people, white
America coming out for Donald J. Trump was telling them that they were not
wanted, that they are not seen as part of America, that all men and women are
created equal is still a long, long, long way away.
The last call of the night came from the six-year-old. Her voice in a whisper, I asked
her why she was still up and why she had mommy’s phone. She said, “Mommy is
crying in the living room. You told me bullies don’t win. What do I say to her?”
I did not have an answer.
I made the mistake of logging onto Facebook the next morning. A lot of white males
doing victory laps. There was the guy who had fifty posts about making America
great again. I know several of the women reading those posts knew that a few
months back he had put a gun in his wife’s face and cocked the hammer. I wondered
how they felt about those posts.
A black and white photograph of just the eyes of a young woman with tears
running down her cheeks.
A post by a young woman scared about what she was going to do if Obamacare was
cancelled. She needed the drugs to help her overcome certain physical problems in
order to work. If it goes away, so do the drugs and any hope of contributing to
There was a post by an Asian woman whose family had come to America when she
was young. She had become a leader of not only her people but of the larger
community as well. Her family is all that the best of America is about. Her brother is
in law enforcement. She has a niece that is at one of the military academies. It was a
simple post about how she was in prayer, and she was being harassed by a man
who, as best as I can tell, has only ever treated America as an ATM machine and
didn’t understand that it is best to leave someone in grief alone.
There was the post by a female standup comedian who talked about the crude
comments she had to endure everyday. Another post was by a man whose daughter
had married a Muslim. He openly wondered that as much as he loves to see his
granddaughter, should he tell her it is best to stay away. There were hundreds of
posts and photos. I am blessed enough that there is no risk that a Trump presidency
could cause my life to disappear into an abyss. Post after post, I began to understand
the sadness, the rage, the protests, and the hollowness of “Let’s Unite” and “Can’t we
all just get along”. It is hard to be told there is no room at the inn for you anymore.
What can you say?
I have been speechless before. I had a friend named Anthony who used to
introduce me as the whitest white man he ever met. I don’t know why he asked me,
I am the last person I’d ever ask, but he asked me if I would help out with a
children’s Bible study he led every week. It was not in the kind of neighborhood I
was comfortable in. In fact, a group of parents watched our car and others escorted
us in and out of where it was held because they believed what my friend Anthony
was doing was so important for their children’s future.
Growing up Lutheran, I asked the children assembled if they could tell me what
grace was. I had a dictionary definition ready to go. Of course, blank stares and
silence greeted my question. I was about to open my mouth when a little black girl,
so little a good stiff wind would blow her away, raised her hand. She spoke in the
same whisper as the six-year-old on election night.
She said, “Grace is what keeps me from getting shot on my way home from school.
Grace is what keeps my dad from drinking too much and my older brother from
joining a gang. Grace is what keeps a roof over my head and food in the refrigerator,
even if my mom and dad have to go without.”
I didn’t know what to say.
Whether you believe in God or not, I believe in that grace.
May there be grace so that no one has to die needlessly if their insurance is taken
away. May there be grace so that no child born in this country or who has come here
at an early age has to worry that they might come home to an empty house because
their parents have been taken away.
May there be grace so that they can become dreamers again.
May there be grace so that no Muslim child has to fear the fists of bullies.
May there be grace so no homosexual young person has to fearfully stay in the
closet or transgendered child has to worry what might happen if they walk through
the wrong restroom door.
May there be grace so that no woman has to worry about being “grabbed by the
pussy” by men emboldened by the president’s words.
May there be grace so that the planet heals.
May there be grace in Donald J. Trump’s heart so that he realizes he is president of
all the people, not just those that cast ballots his way.
May there be grace so one day we all can point to that beautiful line in our
Declaration of Independence and say, “That’s me.”
May we have the grace to see that the swamp has never been in Washington, but
lies within ourselves.
Mostly, may we become the grace so many of us as a people will need the next four
Grace. I don’t know what else to say.