4 AM again. The Honest Hour.
There’s been so much written already by so many, so I hope you’ll forgive me for loading up the Internet with more. People have all sorts of ways to process information – for me, I write.
Like many, I’m reeling.
Like many, I’m in disbelief.
Like many, I’m angry.
Like many, I’m afraid.
But, I’m honest. Or I try as hard as I can to be. I work for the YMCA and one of our core values is Honesty. I’m a Scout leader, and the very first point in our Scout Law is “Trustworthy”. I am a person of faith, and the root of my faith says to love one another, and love cannot exist where honesty is absent.
So, here I am again at the Honest Hour, trying to make sense of all that has just happened.
I came home from work on Wednesday evening and spoke to my wife for a long time, telling her how fearful and angry I was at the election. She listened patiently, because she is a wonderful person and that’s what she does, and when I ran out of words said “I know you’re angry, and I know you’re scared, but I also know that when you’re done being angry and scared your hope and your heart will come through again.” And I know she’s right. And, no, you can’t have her – I saw her first.
I’m done being angry and scared. I’ve learned over the years that fear and anger are basically the same emotion and that they both thrive when honesty is absent. One of the greatest things my father ever taught me was that we all have the ability to choose how we want to act. And I choose to look honestly at what scares me, what angers me, and what caused me to miss the hurt others were experiencing.
What baffled me the most in this election was how people I know to be good and kind and Christian could accept someone who shows so little evidence that he shares their values. I was frightened by how easily it seemed they could support someone who fans the flames of sexism and racism. But I’m also learning that there was nothing easy about that choice. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but it was the only pill they saw suitable for their experience.
And I’ll be honest: I had not realized what their experience was. The recession of 2008 left me and my family relatively unscathed, and I had turned my focus on championing other groups who I believed needed championing. I’m a firm believer that all men (people) are created equal, and I am doing all I can to broaden my understanding of race, gender and sexuality because my faith calls me to address suffering wherever I can find it. But as I did so, I was not looking at the people most similar to me. I live in a part of the country where economic recovery came fairly quickly, so nobody who looked like me seemed to be in much distress.
And I’ll be honest: I am guilty of accusing the people who look and act like me that weren’t enthusiastically supporting the championing of those who don’t of being sexist and racist. And I’ve learned that calling someone a bigot or a hater is just as hurtful as calling someone a nigger or a Nazi. And while I won’t apologize for using the “N” word just now, a word that greatly offends me but I needed to use to make my point, I will apologize to anyone who I mistakenly slighted by implying that they must be some sort of lesser person for the choice they had to make. I was unaware of your situation and your true attitudes and I ask you to forgive me.
I’ve learned a lot about privilege in the last few years. It’s a concept I was completely unaware of until recently, and was blind to the fact that I have a lot of it. I’m a male Caucasian Christian. I can travel wherever I like without any fear. I’m relatively educated and gainfully employed. We’re not what I would consider rich, but my family is comfortable and has good insurance, a broad safety net and enough disposable income that we can pretty much choose to do whatever we like, within reason, so in the perspective of much of the world, we’re loaded. My sons have never experienced a single day in their life where they didn’t know if they would have food, shelter or health care.
I’ve learned something else about privilege, now that I’m aware that I have it: I can choose how to use it. I can choose to deny that it’s there. I can choose to hoard it and protect it, and feel like I can’t let anyone who doesn’t have it share mine, lest mine get decreased.
But I can also use it to lift others up. I thought I was doing so by trying to extend it to those who don’t look or behave like me but I had ignored those who do. The thing about privilege is that the more you try to hang on to it the less useful it becomes, but the more you give it away the more it multiplies. My heart tells me to use my privilege to help all, regardless of faith, race, gender or sexuality. My heart now tells me to turn around and help those that look like me, too.
And I’ll be honest: the road ahead does not look easy, but again, I have hope. I have faith. I believe in us, so long as we continue to strive to be honest with each other and call out abuse, suffering and injustice wherever we find it. As long as we’re honest with ourselves, and allow ourselves to be held accountable and corrected when we’re in the wrong. Dishonesty on the part of many brought us here; honesty will lead us out.
I’d like to share with you a quote I have returned to many, many times over the years when life was rough:
“But when it comes to putting broken lives back together – when it comes, in religious terms, to the saving of souls – the human best tends to be at odds with the Holy best. To do for yourself the best that you have it in you to do – to grit your teeth and clench your fists in order to survive the world at its harshest and worst – is, by that very act, to be unable to let something be done for you and in you that is more wonderful still. The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed by the Holy Power that life itself comes from. You can survive on your own. You can grow strong on your own. You can even prevail on your own. But you cannot become human on your own.” (Frederick Buechner, “The Sacred Journey”)
I believe in us.