“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5:13-15
About 12 months ago I was in the car with my kids and, I don’t remember how the topic came up but, I recall uttering the words, “If Trump is elected President we’re moving to Canada!” Maybe not my finest parenting moment, but it was an honest reflection of how I felt at that moment and continued to feel over the coming months as I watched events that led up to the election in November.
During that time our kids asked a lot of questions of my husband and I about who we planned to vote for (spoiler: we did not agree on this) and why. In the past, I have mostly kept politics out of conversations with my kids, but 2016, as you know, was one big media frenzy and even 11 and 13 year olds without phones or social media knew what was going on. They heard talk at school, and caught bits of sound bites on the TV. So I tried to be honest with them about my views and reasoning in a manner that was both age-appropriate and processed through a lens of kindness and fairness, and not the fear or anger that had fueled the moving to Canada comment.
Still that comment stuck with my kids, and they have asked several times over the last two months if we were really going to move to Canada.
I have struggled to find a suitable response for my kids, not because I’m not sure if we’re moving (we are not) but because I don’t know how to express my thoughts and feelings in an honest way while also ensuring they will not be filled with fear or doubt about the security of their future.
To be perfectly honest, I have spent the last few months trying to process my feelings about what the next 4-8 years will hold. My Facebook news feed is pretty well split down the middle between people who are angry and scared, and people filled with hope and satisfaction. I’ve tried to take nothing personal. I haven’t unfriended anyone, or posted any scathing commentary on my wall or anyone else’s. I’ve read the articles and watched the videos and just tried to understand what is fueling each person’s feelings. People I truly love and respect on either side of the coin…and I’ve been trying to look for the common ground…the meet in the middle. And it’s been elusive.
I’ve read posts from those who are scared for their futures, and that of their children, called to protest and exercise their free speech. And I understand the why behind that fear and celebrate the passion and drive to exercise their Constitutional freedoms, but still struggled with whether it is a step toward solidarity and a better tomorrow or just fueling division.
I’ve read commentary from those with high hopes and expectations, waiting to see the change they expect and have hoped for. And I believe they truly want the best and right things for their children and for this country. But I have struggled with whether frustration with status quo hasn’t allowed too many to believe change at any cost is still needed change, or that the ends justify the means.
I’ve read heart-felt articles from others who felt there was no good option available and, feeling let down by their country they have decided the best thing to do is pray and leave it all in God’s hands. While I have agreed with the importance of praying and remembering who is ultimately in control, I have still struggled with whether that approach will lead to apathy and give people permission to withdraw and hide.
And so I haven’t been able to find where I fit, to which camp I align. They all seem to be missing something. And call me naive, but I’ve felt, deep down, surely there must be a place where we can all come together and figure out how we take that next step toward tomorrow, a step toward good and right and fair, and a better tomorrow for our children, even if we disagree with one another on exactly what that step should look like.
Then today, I read this article from the Chicago Tribune citing President Obama’s final thoughts as President, thoughts on what tomorrow and the future will look like for his daughters. And this was it. This was what I had been feeling but didn’t know how to articulate. In particular, this quote is what stood out to me: “They need to be active citizens, and they have to be in a position to talk to their friends and their teachers and their future coworkers in ways that try to shed some light as opposed to just generate a lot of sound and fury.”
He was, of course talking about his daughters. But it could really be about all of us. About every American becoming an active citizen and doing something to elicit the change they desire. Every person being willing to talk openly and honestly in a way that is respectful and kind, instead of belligerent, arrogant, or defensive. Every person wanting and striving to be a light of hope and unity instead of a cloud of anger and division.
So to all of my friends and family who are scared about the future and angry that our Presidential office is not being held to higher standards, I say: Call your congressman and senator, sign petitions, write letters, go march. Let your voice be heard (and not just on Facebook and Twitter). Exercise your right to be an American. But remember while you are doing it how it is a right, but also a privilege many don’t have and that makes us lucky to live here.
To my friends and family who are excited and optimistic about what tomorrow will bring and hoping for great change, I say: Keep being optimistic! We need hope and optimism right now. But just remember that while there might be drastic changes needed to our overall political system, change should not come at any price. And what’s more, change never happened at the hands of just one person, so we should never put all of our hope in one office.
And to my friends and family who feel they have no choice but to leave things in God’s hands, trusting Him as sovereign over all men, I say: Yes. Yes He is. So let’s keep praying. But also, let’s go serve at a soup kitchen, pick up a hammer and help build a house, sign up to be a big brother or sister, and buy a cup of coffee for the person in line behind you. Let’s trust God has this, but not use that as an excuse to hide in our homes waiting out the next four years or become complacent about the realities around us.
To my children, I say: No, we are not moving to Canada. Because there is a lot of work to be done to keep America great. In our home, at school, and in our community there are things we can do every day to show love, compassion, and acceptance. Because that is where the heart of our nation beats…not in a big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue.