Sunday, November 13, 2016

Post-Election Blues, Vintage 2008

Like others, I have been accused of over-reacting to the Presidential election results. Some have tried to call me back to 2008 and 2012 to be reminded of how I then was telling people “Get over it! You lost; accept it! Stop whining. You need to chill!" 

I don’t remember expressing those sentiments, but my memory sucks. Fortunately I have an actual record written days after the 2008 election. I don’t think I actually published this anywhere. But here it is.

For the record, the extended conversation I report below took place in our small Baptist church’s only adult Sunday School class the Sunday after the election. I was the teacher, as I had been for the past 10 years. I was also the white congregation’s only black member. Here is my record from that week in 2008:

“I am sad. I have been wondering about my friends who did not vote for Barack Obama. How were they feeling about the outcome of the election?

Some of my McCain supporter friends have rejoiced with me because of our friendship or because of the historical significance. At church one person changed her perspective just because she learned that I once knew and now trust the President-elect. She started to see the President-elect differently even though she did not vote for him. Another sister expressed that she was both “excited and a little fearful.” Another McCain supporter called me to say that she is open to whatever is coming and that she hopes I’m right about how this President will serve the US.

I expected these sorts of responses. I also expected disappointment, maybe bordering on despair or despondency. I have felt this myself after many an election when my candidate (Republican, Democrat or independent) has not won.

I wasn’t expecting the reaction I got from another group of Christian friends. Against Laura’s advice I decided to ask this group: “Regardless of how you voted, how are you feeling about the outcome of the election?"

These people have known about my high school friendship with Barack Obama since before he announced his candidacy. They have also known about my passionate support for him, although as a group we haven’t directly discussed politics.

When I asked the question, Laura answered immediately. Others were more reluctant, but just as I was about to move into Bible Study, people started speaking up. There were a few moments of insight or compassion or possible hope, but this was not the tenor of the conversation. When they finally spoke, they started expressing great anger and intense cynicism.

One person, having heard Oprah say, “Hope won,” replied, “No, hate won!” Other people characterized the President–elect as a heartless baby killer. The “socialist” label came up. One person said he was surprised that Obama apologized to Nancy Reagan for an off-handed séance comment. He said that the apology showed humility, something he hadn’t seen from Obama the whole campaign(!). Some were angry that 97% of black people voted for him (ignoring the fact that this is roughly the same percentage of blacks who support ANY Democratic candidate). Several people said that it didn't really matter who we voted for or who won since God is the one who determines the leaders of the nations, but they were not happy with the outcome.

Someone eventually asked me about my feelings. They said they could tell that I felt hopeful. I told them that I also felt proud, partly because here is our first black President--and he's not just any black guy. He's a man of ability and integrity. I was proud partly because he was my friend, partly because he was from Hawaii like me, but mostly because it is the first time I was truly excited about what this President could do for America. I also said that I feel disappointed that my brothers and sisters are feeling this kind of anger and cynicism at the prospect of their brother in the Lord becoming President. One very intelligent, godly man said, "What's George Bush, chopped liver?" I refrained from reminding him that George Bush wasn't in this election.

Not wanting to get defensive, I did say that they (the whole class) were misinformed about Obama’s abortion sentiments. When someone came back at me with the horrors of abortion, I reminded them that I am pro-life. I am in agreement with them on abortion. I do not agree with them regarding Barack Obama's abortion sentiments.

I eventually reminded them that a President is not a king. He does not have all authority. And he has only 4-8 years to do whatever he plans to do. They all plan to "support" him because they are loyal Americans and because Christians are supposed to support their leaders. I told them that I am praying that the new President will earn their respect.

It saddens me to see the President-elect through the eyes of these brothers and sisters. They see him as lacking humility. They believe that he wants to see babies die, that he promotes decadence, and that he is a socialist. And they are afraid of what he wants to do to America.

Some of them were cynical--intensely cynical. They said they were initially afraid, but were reminded that God chooses who the leaders are. The cynical ones were questioning whether voting matters and whether who is elected matters.

I saw an anger and almost hatred that I've never seen in these my beloved brothers and sisters. Despite the surprise, I had invited it. And while it was not pleasant, I don't regret the question.”