Friday, November 11, 2016

After the Election

Fifty nine million people.  Fifty nine million people.  That is the number of people, at a minimum, who are unhappy with the results of Tuesday's election.

I’m sure there is a similar segment of the population that is perfectly ecstatic.   It’s a slightly smaller crowd, because while Donald Trump amassed the needed total of states to win in the Electoral College, Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote.  But there is indeed a group that is happy, and I honestly congratulate them, and Mr. Trump, on this electoral victory. 

To some degree that's the nature of elections, and the democratic process.  One group is going to be elated at their candidate’s victory, and the other is going to be disappointed that the sixteen months or so of energy that they’ve invested in an individual did not bear fruit.

I’ll be perfectly honest: I fully expected that after the election, I would be consoling Donald Trump’s supporters-- not myself and my fellow Democrats.  That’s what the polls had led us to believe, and though I don’t like to become overconfident in such situations—and I don’t personally think that was the Clinton campaign’s intent either, by the way—the math simply did not work in Secretary Clinton’s favor.

It’s no small feat to get fifty nine million people to believe in you, to trust you and share a vision with you, and we can admire Secretary Clinton for amassing that great following.  But that doesn’t change the fact that, come January 20, she won’t be the one getting inaugurated.  Again, I congratulate Mr. Trump on this achievement, and I pray with all my heart that he will prove to be a unifying president.

Some have asked whether I would be writing the same sort of messages if my preferred candidate had won, and Mr. Trump had been defeated.  And for the most part, yes, my message would be the same.  The shading of the map on election night, the pie charts and graphs and constantly dissected images showed wide chasms between various groups in our country.  And unless we make a concerted effort to close those gaps and heal those wounds, the rifts can only grow wider.  More than a century-and-a-half ago, Abraham Lincoln stood in Springfield, Illinois and proclaimed, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  Today, it once again falls to us to shore up the very foundations of our house, these United States of America, and to ensure that our house continues to stand.  We owe it to our past, we owe it to ourselves, and most significantly, we owe it to our children…our future.

On this Shabbat following the election we read the portion known as Lech Lecha.  Abraham- at this point named Abram- is called by God to leave his homeland, his birthplace, his father’s house and to go forward into uncharted territory.  The story is for us, and indeed for all of the Abrahamic Western religions, the start of our national story.  America, too, has a national story and both those who rejoice in Tuesday's results and those who mourn them are—and must be-- included in that story.  This has been one of the most fractious elections in recent memory-- perhaps in all of American democratic history-- and so we must ask ourselves what steps must we take to ensure that this grand experiment, which is of course only 240 years old, will long endure.  We must ask ourselves what steps must be taken to make sure that the principles of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness continue to be available for all, and how we can come together and heal as a nation when so many people have different views of what that American promise really means.

We've all got work to do.  We don't get to be citizens just once every four years.  The right and the obligation of citizenship carries with it the imperative that we remain involved in the electoral process.  If you're celebrating, go ahead and celebrate, but come January 21 you’ve got work to do.  If you’re mourning, that too is understandable.  I personally am feeling deeply saddened and unsettled.  But come January 21 we've got work to do.  If you held your nose and voted for the winning candidate, or even for the losing one, then come January 21 you’ve got work to do to put politicians’ feet to the fire to demand of them better options.  If you voted for a third-party candidate you've got work to do on January 21 to help elevate those third parties to be mainstreamed choices so that in future elections you have a fair representation of your voice.   And if you stayed home from the election, well I'm a bit disappointed in you, to be honest, but you, too have work to do to restore your faith in the electoral process.  And, of course, our work can start right now; we need not wait until the inauguration.  Get out there and advocate for the change that you wish to see in the system.  We must not be a nation of blue states and red states, we must not be a nation that pits extremes against one another.  Rather we must find a way to come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Most of you know that I prefer not to live my life as an alarmist.  Some of you respond to world news differently than I, but I have not typically been one who likes to always be looking over my shoulder.  When we were debating whether to post a sign for for our synagogue that would be visible from the road, some expressed concern about making ourselves so publicly visible.  I felt that it was appropriate to express pride in our existence, and I continue to do so through my involvement in the community and my devotion to interfaith work.  But the embrace of candidate Trump by white supremacists and anti Semites cannot be ignored.  There already have been isolated reports since the election of swastikas and other Nazi symbols appearing on public property throughout the country, of Muslims and people of color being harassed and physically assaulted, and of people of foreign descent being cursed at and told to “go home.”  Jewish journalists and public figures have been targeted with grotesque Holocaust references and have been vilified on social media.  Not all of this hate can be verifiably traced to Mr. Trump’s supporters, but his failure (thus far) to reject the language and ideologies of his alt-right supporters has tacitly given permission for such sentiments to fester.  Mr. Trump, as the newly-elected leader of this great melting pot of a country, should reassure all of its people by coming out firmly and strongly against such hate.  Because even for an optimist such as myself, it’s feeling pretty scary out there.

At the same time, I recognize my privilege as a straight white man who is not outwardly identifiable as a Jew when I walk down the street (save for the fact that my communal involvement has, perhaps, made me more recognizable).  If indeed there is an after-effect of this election, and it becomes more acceptable for racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and the like to be expressed openly, then it is incumbent upon me—incumbent upon all of us—that we stand up for our friends of color, the women in our lives, our LGBTQ friends, and our Muslim brothers and sisters in addition to standing up for ourselves.  We must remain firm in our resolve: this is not us.  We will not cede our country to the path of hatred, fear, and violence.

I pray that Mr. Trump can lead as a unifier, and that he can repudiate the nasty rhetoric that emerged from some of his supporters throughout the campaign.  I hope that calm can prevail throughout our nation and that we can be united by our common humanity rather than being divided by our decisions at the ballot box.

Ani ma’amin b’emunah shleimah b’vi-at ha-mashiach.  V’af al pi she-yit-ma-mei-ah, im kol zeh achake lo.  I believe with full faith that a messianic age will come when all shall live in harmony and peace and be recognized for their innate goodness—and “God-ness.”  And even though that time may seem long-delayed, I continue to wait for it, and to work for it.