Reject discord, embrace love

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Last night we held a truly historic election with many firsts, some of which we should celebrate, some which we should lament, and some that just are. The first female candidate of a major party is a first we should celebrate, regardless of who that woman may be or what she may represent. The first president to be elected without prior service in either government or the military is something which may be cause for celebration, lamentation, or neither. Only time can tell. And while far from being the most divisive election in history it has been a rough road these past many months. (For more on the history of divisiveness in politics, read up on the elections of 1800, 1828, 1860, 1884, and 1928; the feud between Vice President Aaron Burr and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton which ended in the death of one; or the tumult of the 1960s, when political assassinations were all too commonplace.)

For many, this election did not go the way they had hoped, but for all of us, whether enjoying victory, grieving loss, or just wondering what happened, we should all remember that politics is still local. The president is still just one man and while that man may be, in many ways, the most powerful on Earth, his power still pales in comparison to the power you have over your own life and even the power you have over your community. If you seek change, let it begin with you.

And I plead most dearly to what I hope is a tiny minority so filled with anger that you are willing to lash out with violence, be it physical or even just verbal; resist that urge. Many, whether rightly or wrongly I will not judge, opposed our next president on the grounds that he would promote hate and violence. This may or may not be the case, but know that, whether he will or will not, you alone have the ultimate power over your own actions. You do not have to give in to your own desires to be hateful or divisive. Meet hate with love. Meet violence with peace.

In the history of the world, the men and women we admire most are the ones who have risen above the fray; Jesus Christ, Susan B Anthony, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela. Be like these men and women. Continue to fight for what you believe in and fight hard, for it is spirited debate that makes us all better. But fight civilly. Fight graciously. Fight respectfully. Fight peacefully.

Perhaps my greatest joy is that President-Elect Trump, Secretary Clinton, and President Obama all delivered some of the best speeches of this campaign season the day after the election. They were messages filled with magnanimity, unity, and support made all the more powerful because of the rancor that existed over the past many months between them. We should all take heed of their call.

And know that, whether you “won” or “lost” last night, things are not going to be as great or as dire as you hoped or feared. The sun will come up tomorrow and the day after that. Our nation will get through the next four years, and in the decades to come, this day will be largely forgotten. I promise you there are more important things happening today than what the news is reporting on; things so wonderful they give me great hope for our nation and our world. Children are being born. Young love is blossoming. Mothers and fathers are celebrating a child’s first steps of the final moments together before their child goes off to start a life of their own. And people are rejecting violence. Blacks and Whites, men and women, immigrant and native born are setting aside what are truly paltry differences and working together to better their communities with deeds as large as million dollar fundraising campaigns and as small, but equally important, as a smile or a door held open. These are the things that truly impact our lives. Let these be the things you build your memories upon. Let these be the things you celebrate today and in the weeks and months to come.

And for those of you who are in despair, know that I grieve with you, not because I despair over the outcome of last night or even the future, but that, simply, you despair and the fact that you suffer, regardless of wthe reason, grieves my heart. To be sure, we are in trying times and the divisiveness which we have thus far experienced and the uncertainty many have about the future serves as a catalyst for fear. And while that fear is not for all the same reasons – some may fear what measures President-Elect Trump and our new congress will pass and how those measures will directly impact their lives while others may fear whether those who have already called for violence against our next president are truly serious or simply venting as they process what was a shock to their expectations – I urge you all to join with me in choosing not to give in to that fear and its resultant divisiveness.

Tangibly, seek out a friend who differs with you and let him know that, despite your differences, you know that there is far more that unites you in friendship than could ever divide you in opposition. Tell her that, regardless of how she views our collective path forward, you understand that, like you, she only has the best of intentions and that, regardless of who may be in power, his power will never have the power to overcome your bond of friendship or the power of love.

Finally, take heart for the future, for I know that our best days are ahead. I know this because, while presidents, kings, and even capitals may come and go, Jesus was, is, and always will be Lord and as long as that is the case, we never have reason to despair.

May God bless you all and may He bless this nation and this world, for it is His blessing that has charted us through the past 400 years of our history and His blessing which will chart us through the coming four.

Hillary Clinton’s Nomination is not Indicative of Success

“I’m so excited! Finally, a woman is the presidential nominee of a major party in America! I get choked up just thinking about it! Now we can tell little girls they can be ANYTHING they want to be!”

This is a deeply tragic statement and has nothing to do with the political views or reputation of the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee. Were this statement referring to the most upstanding, moral woman in the world, it would be, perhaps, only slightly less tragic.

I’m not going to say these are the worst of times or that the nation or world is going to hell in a handbasket. We’ve certainly seen more strife in the course of world history than what is happening now, but things could certainly be a lot better. And the real tragedy isn’t the lack of character of the two presumptive presidential nominees; it’s the character of the nation, for the candidates we elevate are only reflections of the national zeitgeist.

We’ve always been able to tell little girls they can be anything. Certainly, at some point, someone told Mrs. Clinton that she could be president. Perhaps that wasn’t when she was a little girl, but the fact remains that the idea always precedes the reality. If we tell ourselves that the reality must precede the idea, not only are we being illogical, we’re halting any progress.

In 1867, just shy of five years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and two and a half years after the end of the Civil War, while the South was still very much a slave culture, a woman named Sarah Breedlove was born. Sarah’s mother died when Sarah was only five and her father left her orphaned just a few years after that. She was abused by her brother-in-law and later widowed at the age of 20; not the makings of a success story and certainly not the sort of privileged childhood Mrs. Clinton had, but Breedlove worked hard and from “the cotton fields of the South… to the washtub… to the cook kitchen” she rose to being the head of a multi-national hair product business that employed tens of thousands of women and was later eulogized as the first female self-made millionaire in America.

Now, while Breedlove was unquestionably motivated, she didn’t do all of this on her own. No one ever does. In particular, she had her second husband and business partner, cheering her on the whole way. To have told 7-year-old Breedlove or even 20-year-old Breedlove that she’d one day rise to such heights would have seemed ludicrous. Even if she’d been a white woman born into better circumstances, her success would have seemed quite unlikely in those days, but that didn’t stop her or those around her telling her she could succeed. The fact that there had never been a woman who had achieved what she did, didn’t matter either.

And the list goes on: Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; Nellie Tayloe Ross, the first female governor in the U.S., elected in Wyoming in 1924, just four years after suffrage; Oprah Winfrey, born to a single mother and raised in rural poverty. More importantly, one could argue, are the millions of unsung heroines who make the world a better place every day, be it one classroom, one community, or one household at a time and against the odds.

Little girls can grow up to be anything they want but if we’re waiting for one of them to achieve some certain status before we can tell the rest that it is possible, it will never happen. Furthermore, if we wait until something is achieved before we begin telling our children that that thing is achievable, how does that further progress? Accomplishment without risk is no accomplishment at all.

So point to Hillary Clinton as someone who achieved her goals if you must (although I can name a thousand women more deserving of emulation than she is), but don’t let her success be the marker for our daughters. Whether she wins or loses her bid for the presidency she should not be the reason they strive for their goals. In fact, regardless of her political views or character, the arc of her life, which could best be summed up as her pursuit to become the first female president of the United States, should not be lauded. Instead, we should be teaching our daughters, lo, all of our children, to strive for something much bigger than that. While anyone can be “the first (fill in the blank: woman, black, Asian, Hispanic, gay, etc.)” anything, it is not the census form box we check that matters, but what we do with the opportunities we’re given. I’d much rather that my children grow up to be the best janitors or convenience store clerks they can be than senators or CEOs without integrity.