I'm hurting, friend. I'm hurting deeply. And I'm being told to suck it up and put away my pain and move on. Rather than call those responses insensitive, I want to help you understand my lament, if I can.
My heart is so tender, and I'm praying with each word that they will be received in the manner in which I intend. I know a lot of voices are shouting right now. I hope to be a voice that pulls up a chair to chat over coffee and share my heart.
I occupy a unique space. Here is our family from a couple Easters ago.
I'm white, but four of my children aren't. I was born here into a family that dates back to the pilgrim days, but four of my children are immigrants from Asia and Africa. I have ancestors who fought under the Confederate flag, but I've been targeted online as a "race traitor" for adopting outside of our ethnicity. I easily pass as having no disabilities (though I live with chronic conditions that are invisible yet can be disabling plus I have minor physical disabilities from childhood abuse), but I'm raising children who live with autism and cerebral palsy and HIV and visual impairments, including one who uses a wheelchair. My husband and I are straight and fit into accepted gender norms, but we have dear friends and neighbors who aren't or don't. I'm a Christian, but last year a Muslim friend of mine and her son waited at the preschool until we arrived to walk in with me and Zoe because she was afraid to walk in by herself after the Paris terrorism attacks.
And I occupy one common space: I am a woman who, like 1 in 6, has been raped. I am a woman who was sexually harassed in my workspace and whispered about when I filed a grievance against the man in power who objectified me. I am a woman raised by a father who doesn't "read books by women because they aren't any good." (And I'm a writer, so the hurt is doubled there.)
I am grieving. Many are reading this as being a sore loser. But that's not how I'm feeling. I have voted in five presidential elections, and my candidate only won one of them. It's not new for me to watch election results and see that it didn't go the way I voted.
But I've never felt this way before. And I want you to understand my lament. I want to try to help you grasp the depth of and heart behind this pain.
Before that, let me be clear about what I'm not saying. I'm not saying that I feel this way because the candidate I voted for wasn't elected; that's not the basis of my feelings. I'm not saying that I don't trust God; I do. I'm not saying that I reject anyone who disagrees; I find beauty in our diversity of all forms.
What I am saying is please don't dismiss my pain or put a timeline on anyone's grief. Hold space. In the words of James 1, please be slow to speak and quick to listen and slow to become angry.
(And if you're wondering, I've confessed to God and others when I've fallen short there too. I'm not pointing to a speck in your eye while I have a log in my own. I promise. And I wrote these words today instead of yesterday because I couldn't ask others to repent yet then without words dripping with my own sinful arrogance.)
I'm not going to list every way Trump acted or spoke in hurtful ways about groups to which my family belongs. This post isn't about him. He is our next president. I am praying for him. I'm even rooting for him. I genuinely hope none of the grave concerns I have about his leadership, character, and policies will be accurate. I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong.
But I believe Maya Angelou is right when she said, "when people show you who they are, believe them." This post isn't about who Trump is. We've known that for a while. This post is what the votes of white evangelicals have shown me about who they are.
I don't believe most people who voted for him did so because of his expressions and actions of racism or ableism or xenophobia or misogyny or sexual assault or religious discrimination. I'm not saying that's who you are if you filled the bubble by his name. I want to think the best of my neighbors, so I'm telling myself you were driven by other reasons.
But? Whatever your reasons, a vote for Trump required a rationalization.
What he said on mic about sexually assaulting women is awful, but...
How he mocked several people with disabilities isn't okay, but...
His statement that immigrants are rapists and criminals was out of line, but...
I could keep going. I think you get the idea, though. In order to vote for Trump, something mattered more to you than his mistreatment or discrimination of certain groups. Whatever followed the "but..." is why you voted for him. Maybe it had to do with the economy or the Supreme Court or his anti-establishment vibe or [fill in the blank]. I trust that you had your reasons. Some policy aspect of his was compelling (or of hers was so awful to you that you felt like you had to vote for the person with the best chance of stopping Hillary).
But here's the deal: Your policy stance followed the "but..." Our personhood preceded it.
So to me, here is what I hear:
What he said on mic about sexually assaulting someone just like you were assaulted is awful, but...
How he mocked Zoe and Robbie and you isn't okay, but...
His statement that Patience, Philip, Patricia, and Zoe are rapists and criminals was out of line, but...
Can you pause for a moment and empathize with how that feels?
You can say I'm being too sensitive. You can tell me I'm taking it too personally. You can try to dismiss my feelings. (You wouldn't be the first.)
I'm writing this because I want to help you understand my lament, though. I do. But it is sensitive and personal and rooted in some valid feelings. So trying to help you understand means I have to be vulnerable and open myself up to criticisms from the cheap seats.
My heart was broken when I realized Trump had won. I didn't have much time to work through my feelings, though, because I'm a mom. Our kids had been being told by classmates that they would be sent back to Uganda if Trump was elected. I had been responding with truth and compassion, but I also didn't think he'd win. When he did, I had to struggle with how to find the words to help her feel secure and prepare her for how to respond when those kids said anything that day after, emboldened by a Trump win. (This is the same child who had a classmate yell, "go back to Africa!" at her last year after Trump's campaign had taken off with racist undertones.) I coached her white sister through how to respond and how to have her sister's back. I walked them in to the elementary school, and I spoke with my kids' teachers to make sure they were aware of these concerns.
And then I walked back to my van and wept.
And then I went on social media and was told that my grief came from being a sore loser, that I was being divisive by sharing my hurt, and that I was more concerned with the gospel of Shannon than the gospel of Christ.
And I wept some more.
I don't think most of my white Christian brothers and sisters intended their votes as racist or ableist or misogynistic or anti-immigrant acts. But? Overwhelmingly, white evangelicals voted for Trump, deciding that their "but..." reasons trumped discrimination against our family. This isn't an isolated event, though; our previous church supported the adoption of black children but then members became critical of me and my faith when I began speaking out about racial injustice, and every week I hear from families who are asked to leave their church because their children's disabilities are too much to accommodate. That makes me feel like the church - at least the white church - isn't for my family, if their political priorities are more important than our personal pain.
I knew how to handle it when my daughter didn't feel safe at school. But the church - especially the white evangelical church - does not seem safe to me right now for my family. I'm not sure how to handle that. I am listening to try to learn and love better, but what I'm hearing is often hurting me more deeply. I want to understand you, but I'm being wounded in the process. I really don't know what to do with this.
Right now, I'm feeling like the man left beaten and bloody by the side of the road, while my religious neighbors pass on the other side. A sizeable chunk of my white Christian brothers and sisters - maybe you among them - voted for a man who unapologetically disrespected so many groups to which our family belongs: immigrants, women, people of color, those with disabilities, and sexual assault survivors. It's good that my faith in God is firm, because right now my faith in his church is shaky.
I'm still for the church. I'm just not sure the church - at least the segment that looks like me - is still for me.
And that's why I am lamenting.