Reasons to Hope (Even If Trump Is President)

By the time I went to bed last night, I was pretty sure that Donald J. Trump would be my next president. When my body awoke early this morning (I had no idea the time), I pondered whether to turn over and allow myself to check my phone. It seemed unlikely I would fall back asleep with any ease, so I decided to see whether Trump had sealed his victory or if some miracle had occurred.

Like many, I am scared. Not because a Republican has won the White House but because Trump was no ordinary Republican candidate. I’m worried about international affairs and potential wars and nuclear threats. I’m worried about what it means for our diverse nation that a man so associated with bigotry and resentment and ignorance has won the presidency. I’m worried that Trump won’t respect the law or basic principles of our democracy that allow it to function as well as it does.

During the last several months, I have allowed myself to believe that a Trump presidency was indeed a real possibility. As I pondered this, I found that I needed to hope. I suspect some other people out there need a little hope right now too. So I thought I’d share the list of reasons for hope under a Trump presidency that I’ve been working on.

My tone will probably be more optimistic than some can handle at this moment (it will probably be more optimistic than I currently feel). All of us are experiencing this election differently, and I don’t pretend that my reaction is the right one for everyone. But perhaps these words will be encouraging to some.

1. My faith

Politics is not a good place to put your hope. Most of us find something else to hope in. For me, part of that something else is a belief in a God who—eventually, somehow—will ensure that justice and goodness and peace will ultimately win. Every government and every political system is deeply flawed. The question is when—not if—politics will take a dark turn. We must find something else to hope in when these moments come.

2. Our resilience

As a nation, we’ve lived through plenty of dark moments. We fled from our nation’s capital as the British set it ablaze. We pointed our guns toward one another and literally split in two as we fought to preserve our separate visions of who we were as a people. We ran to the banks and found that our deposits were gone forever. We listened on the radio to the news that the Japanese were attacking Pearl Harbor. We saw smoke rise above our cities as racial strife erupted in flames. We stared at our TV screens and witnessed the plane that hit the second tower. Throughout our history, we have seen exactly four presidents be shot and killed.

Somehow, we have always survived.

I’m one of the least patriotic people I know, and believing in my country should be more difficult for me right now than ever before. In many ways, it is. But today I know that I am proud to be an American. And I believe that spirit of patriotism is more important now than it ever has been before in my lifetime. I will not run from my country in the face of adversity. My country needs me now, and I will stand with it. We will survive this together. We will find a way. That’s what we do.

3. The federal bureaucracy

There are many, many fine women and men serving our country, in and out of uniform. They are talented. They are informed. They have great responsibility. The functions of government are far too vast for any one man (or one man and his close associates) to comprehend every detail. Yes, the president wields great power. But he is forced to rely on the expertise, the procedures, and the efforts of the federal bureaucracy. This bureaucracy is incredibly complex. It is not easy to change. It plays a major role in providing information to the president. I suspect many reckless decisions will be avoided because our bureaucracy will have a say in what happens.

4. The law

Laws are not perfectly respected in any society. We’ve seen presidents push the boundaries of their constitutional authority. But we’ve also consistently seen forces push back against overreach (though not always as strongly as we would wish). Compared to many countries, there is great respect for the law in this country, and that means that the president’s power is not unchecked. Trump may push the boundaries, but he will meet resistance. Traditions of press freedom, democratic transition of authority, and respecting the rights of personal and political enemies will not easily be destroyed. When Hillary Clinton was the alternative, many Republicans (elected officials and voters) came to Trump’s side. But I do not believe that means they will tolerate the dissolution of our most deeply-held democratic norms.

5. New awareness

I believe that the rhetoric and substance of Trump’s campaign has worsened certain problems in our society. But it has also served to reveal many pre-existing problems that were largely being ignored (for a variety of reasons) by much of society. In the last few years, we have finally again devoted substantial attention to issues of racism in our society. In recent months, the Trump candidacy has begun spawning important discussions about rural poverty, racial resentment, and intergenerational hopelessness. Despite the Internet allowing us to connect instantly with people in almost any part of the world, we’ve been so disconnected from one another at home that many have been struggling to understand what a Trump supporter even looks like. We can only hope to address our society’s issues if we are aware of them. Trump’s political success has been a major wakeup call to me and many others.

This presidential campaign has both exposed and created deep divisions in our society. There are many wounds in need of healing. Regardless of the outcome, picking up the pieces and trying to move forward as a nation after this election was never going to be an easy task. Many (including people I know and love) are relieved by last night’s results. Many (such as myself) are terrified. I don’t know what our future will look like. But we—you and I—will play a role in it. It’s our job—each of ours—to push forward and face the problems confronting our world. That was true on Monday, and it’s still true today. We have a lot of work to do.

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A Culture Worth Celebrating

Yesterday I read an article that talked about an incident at a California public school where some students were not allowed to wear American flag shirts during a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Understandably, some people are pretty upset about potential free speech issues associated with what happened. The whole situation is really messy (with some students threatening violence against the kids sporting American flags), and there are certainly complex constitutional issues worth discussing. But the legal issues are not what I want to talk about right now.

Two things really bothered me about the incident and the article that I read.

First, reading the details of the incident (as retold in a 9th Circuit court decision) makes it pretty obvious that some of the students in this school were not being at all accepting of the Mexican-American students and their culture. During Cinco de Mayo the previous year, “Some students hung a makeshift American flag on one of the trees on campus, and as they did, the group of Caucasian students began clapping and chanting ‘USA'” (9th Circuit court decision). Think about how bizarre it would be to bring an American flag to an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day (or to a Synagogue on Yom Kippur) and start chanting “USA!” How is one supposed to interpret that as anything other than opposition to St. Patrick’s Day and–ultimately–to Irish culture in the US?

Of course, there’s no popular perception that Irish people “aren’t assimilating” in the US today (though there almost certainly once was), so it’s hard to picture such an anti-Irish protest actually happening. The wearing of American flags to a Cinco de Mayo celebration happened in a context where many people (including some people I know and love) are truly concerned about Latino-American culture and how it may impact the US. I’ll say more on that in a minute. For now, I just want you to consider how unwelcoming it might feel to have other students provocatively proclaiming their patriotism to the US on a day that is supposed to celebrate the unique culture and experiences of you and your family.

A second thing that bothered me was that the article said “the 9th Circuit upheld the rights of Mexican students celebrating a foreign holiday over those of our own exercising their speech rights.” It’s certainly accurate to note that the court privileged other concerns over free speech rights. But notice the language that’s used in this sentence. It casts things in such stark us-versus-them terms: “the rights of Mexican students celebrating a foreign holiday over those of our own exercising their speech rights” (emphasis added). The wording implies that students of Mexican birth or descent who take offense at students wearing American flags to a Cinco de Mayo celebration are not part of “our own”–not part of the American identity. Even labeling Cinco de Mayo as a “foreign holiday” (despite the fact that it’s probably celebrated more in the US than in Mexico) communicates an assumption about what it means for something to be American. Why can’t a celebration of Mexican-American culture be an American holiday?

Just to be clear, I’m not in any way trying to argue that responding with violence or threats of violence is appropriate. And I’m not trying to make a statement about whether or not school officials responded in an appropriate manner.

What I am saying is that it’s a real tragedy when kids are told by others that their culture is not one worth celebrating.

That’s a recipe for producing shame. Today, I read some powerful words from a Latina woman named Noemi Vega:

I grew up wrestling with the model minority identity, as I would hear statistics about my Latino people that caused me to internalize shame. I felt embarrassed for my people who got pregnant before graduating high school or when my friends would ask why my lunch was a burrito instead of the cafeteria food. In order to overcome all of these negative stereotypes, I tried to be the “best Latina” that I could and earn the best grades that I could, but I never felt like my best was “enough.” Shame prevented me from seeing the beauty of my culture and of who God made me to be. (http://intervarsity.org/blog/importance-understanding-your-latino-identity)

For most people, freedom isn’t found in shedding the cultural identity that they inherited. Freedom is found in learning to see the beauty in who they are. Noemi Vega continues:

As I started to learn about God’s intentionality in designing our cultures, I began to see the beauty in being a Latina. We have a joyful style of worship that celebrates God’s role in our lives and a strong value for familia that helps us be welcoming Bible study members. I have also found that the more I am aware of the gifts from my culture, the more I am able to connect with my familia; instead of shame about our immigrant background or our economic status or our acculturation, I am able to feel embraced by my God who once was shamed on the cross and shamed by being born in the most humble of places. Jesus, who was supremely rejected, supremely welcomes us and calls us friend, brother, sister. We are his familia. (http://intervarsity.org/blog/importance-understanding-your-latino-identity)

Latino culture isn’t ruining America. It’s part of America.

I don’t think we always realize the power that our words can have to slice. When we talk about people needing to speak English or integrate into American society, others hear us saying that there’s something inadequate about who they are. They hear us saying that they need to be more like us. That who we are is better than who they are.

I’ll close by sharing a really powerful article by another Latina woman about the day she gave up her Mexican last name. I highly recommend that you go read the whole thing here, but I’ll also post a short excerpt:

It was sometime in fifth or sixth grade that I started looking for ways to mask my Mexican-ness. I mimicked clothing choices of the preppy white girls, attempted to play sports and tried out to be a cheerleader, got competitive with academics, and tried to maneuver social circles to prove to everyone I wasn’t like those “other Mexicans.” It worked to some extent; I was told multiple times throughout junior high and high school that “Oh, you’re not really Mexican, you’re white,” which I wore like a badge of honor. Because Mexicans got pregnant in high school, Mexicans did drugs and dropped out, Mexicans didn’t go to college, and I was not one of them.

But it didn’t matter what I was or what I wasn’t, because my last name wasn’t something I could hide on an application or a résumé. Years of striving to be different from a stereotype didn’t matter. The minute someone read or heard the name “Rodriguez” they made assumptions – that I’m not educated, that I’m poor, that I’m promiscuous, that I’m unable to write well, and that I’m someone who can’t be trusted. . . .

So when push came to shove, I changed my name to Angela Prilliman.

I saw the opportunity to appear “more white” and finally receive some of the advantages that come along with that change.

And I immediately was disappointed with myself.

(http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/6454-i-gave-up-my-mexican-last-name-for-a-white-name)