I write this before the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is called, but at a point where it’s all but certain that Donald Trump is the President-elect.
I’m no longer sure who is reading me. I’ve been a strong Clinton supporter, and given the divided state of our politics, it’s possible that I drove away any of my Trump-supporting readers a long time ago. It’s possible that my readership are all liberals or progressives of some sort (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, curious non-believers, and none of the above). I hope that’s not the case, and I write this based on the possibly false assumption that people of all religious and political beliefs are reading. I write this, knowing that some of you will be frustrated that I’m not targeting the side you feel deserves my scorn. I apologize in advance for my failure to be partisan.
During the election, I felt the need to finger-point. I found it appalling that a substantial majority of white Christians (in particular, white Protestants) supported Trump, some with great enthusiasm. I also found it appalling that any Jew could support Trump, and I was disgusted beyond words when the Jewish establishment offered him a forum and a measure of respectability.
Most acutely, I felt that for the most part, people of faith failed the country, each other and themselves. Sure, I know there were exceptions. But with all the talk of American greatness, I didn’t hear enough about goodness. Mostly, the religious figures that appeared most prominently in this campaign seemed more interested in whether the candidates were on their side, or on the side of their congregants and constituents. As a result, religions presented themselves (or were represented) as “interest groups,” as in, “We need to win the Jewish vote,” or, “We need to win over the evangelicals.” I saw relatively few people ask which candidate was on the side of the Torah, and the Gospel, and the message of holy scripture.
At least, this is how I saw it. A political campaign is an opportunity to teach and promote religious values. I think, for the most part, we squandered that opportunity. You might disagree, but if you do, ask yourself: are people more likely, or less likely, to embrace religion after this election season? I think to people on the outside of religion looking in, we people of faith (for the most part, on average) came across looking more hypocritical and self-serving than ever before.
But the election is over. There’s no changing the result. And my mood has changed, from the nervous anxiety I described in a previous post, to something more like a nauseous but grim determination to face what is to come. No, I don’t have any better idea what is coming than any of the pundits I’ve seen on TV. But it is the Jewish experience to take seriously the things our leaders and proposed leaders say they’re going to do, no matter how fantastic, improbable or horrifying those things might be. I assume there is some terrible stuff coming. Mass deportations? Religious discrimination? Will we turn our backs on victims of war seeking refuge? Will we compound our failure to cure the sick and feed the hungry? Will we abandon our fledgling efforts to heal an overheated planet? Will we persecute people based on their race, religion, ethnicity or who they choose to love? These questions address MY Torah values; your religious values may differ, and if your candidate won this election, your values probably DO differ. But my guess is, whatever your values might be, you might not be feeling so good about how well they’ll fare over the next four years.
In the face of what strikes me as an all-out assault on the values of Torah, Gospel and the Qu’ran, not to mention the sacred books of all other faiths and the greatest ideas of philosophy and humanism, it seems stupid to waste my energy assigning blame to this-or-that demographic or denomination of voters.
It’s a new day. We people of faith (and that includes whatever power or ideal you hold faith in) have a renewed opportunity to show our faith and put it into practice. I get that this is the slimmest of silver linings in what seems (and may well be) the darkest of clouds.
My first action will be to call my local mosque and offer my services, see how I can help. How will you demonstrate YOUR faith tomorrow?