riding the monsters down

Like much of America, I spent the day after the election feeling sick at my stomach. I had certainly hoped that Hillary Clinton would be our next president. But as I have sat with the reality that Donald Trump has been elected president, I have felt an odd sense of relief. Not relief that Mr. Trump will take office, but relief that our collective denial must now end. Something in our common life has shattered with this election. We can no longer ignore the incredible fissures that run through our national life. One thing this election has made clear is that there are a lot of working class white people in this country who are furious that they have been lied to, ignored, and talked down to.

Who can blame them? The anger of those who voted for Mr. Trump is perfectly understandable. The American dream is a lie. One can rarely, through one’s own efforts, with enough hard work, “make it.” There are millions of people in this country who cannot pay their bills, cannot go to college, and cannot find hope in the darkness of their lives. Some of these millions are rural white people, some are urban people of color. All have been left behind.

Please don’t mistake me. I’m not suggesting that we ought to make peace with or ignore the evils of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, or homophobia. We must resist such evil with all that we have and all that we are. But condemning the people who express such views only stokes our own self-righteous fury, further dividing us from one another. At such a time, we must first seek the unity inherent in all that God has created.

In reflecting on my post last week, I was reminded of another dragon-ish quotation that helps me to understand the one thing needed in our common life today. In her book Teaching a Stone to TalkAnnie Dillard writes

In the deeps are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us.  But if you ride these monsters deeper down, if you drop with them farther over the world’s rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power for evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for another, and for our life together here.  This is given.  It is not learned.

We have the opportunity as a nation to ride the monsters of hatred, violence, racism, misogyny, anger, and despair to our deepest levels, beyond all division. This process is not an easy one. As the recent election has shown, true unity and healing does not come from pretending that we are all one. It comes from engaging the violence around us and within us and allowing God to take us to the deepest levels of existence, where we are already one with one another and with God. This is the only way to healing. I pray that with God’s help we may take it.

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