Hi. Listen, I know you are feeling confused and maybe a little nauseous. I don’t know what your trigger was for realizing something was wrong, but I want to applaud the sense of independence in you that led you to pull back and reassess.
I wanted to first say that you are not a pariah. I don’t believe anyone should be if they are willing to examine their choices. And I believe there are many like you, and that you have an important role to play in the health and survival of everything we believe in about this country. You are going through something that’s profoundly disorienting, and I want you to know that you are not alone. The solution is not to avoid politics. Here are some things to consider and to do to help you take stock, and then to help you feel better and help other people:
- Know that you were duped by a news machine that extends into the community where you live. The 20th century notion of journalism is that news is “impartial” and “objective,” but it turns out that so much news is subtle propaganda–paid for and sometimes even published on news sites that have political agendas. That’s a scary thing to think about, but it’s true.
- Admit your feelings first to yourself and then to one other live person. This will help all of us. This will help you make amends to people you’ve never met. The ripple effect of thousands of Trump voters admitting this instead of hiding in shame or stuffing the feeling into denial will be very powerful. It’s a hard thing, but do it. The response you hear back may very well be, “Yeah, me too.”
- Find a group that is an unbiased protector of human rights. Some good ones include the Southern Poverty Law Center or the American Civil Liberties Union. I know, you have probably heard terrible things about one or the other. But all they do is to track infringement of rights and lobby for people to be treated fairly. Look through the sites and maybe give $20. Or give to some other place, whatever looks right. Just google “Human Rights.” This is for your sake. It will help you feel like you are doing something, and that will give you momentum and also help you feel better about yourself.
- The major undertaking for the next year is going to be a personal media cleanse. You might have been surrounded by Fox News. Literally, it is on wherever you go. Bar, restaurant, hair dresser, friend’s houses. The first thing to do is to turn it off in your own home. You can watch another channel, or even local network news. But not Fox. It does not present things in an unbiased way; it tends to whip up fear which then is channeled into anger against specific groups that are supposedly to “blame” for a problem.
- The next thing to do is to gather the strength to ask someone in a business like a bar if they would change the channel when Fox News is on. The reason for this is that it is seeping into not only your consciousness but the minds and hearts of everyone around you. You turn it off for even five minutes, and there’s five minutes of peace. I know this is a big deal, as I come from a place where Fox News is blaring all the time. Be proud of yourself if you do this, regardless of the effect.
- Subscribe to a major newspaper that is available in your area. USA Today is fine. Anything is fine. Read it.
- One of the scary trends that has been well-documented is the number of hate crimes that have taken place in the few weeks since the election. I know, I know–you’re not burning crosses on anyone’s lawn. You might consider racism to have multiple forms, as I’ve written about here. But even if you’re not yet ready for that, one simple thing you can do is that when you hear someone making a racist statement, just stand up. I mean literally just plant your feet on the ground, get up from your chair, and take a step toward that person. Just make eye contact and look at them. I think that’s enough as a first step. You don’t have to make a big confrontation until you are ready. Just move your body, and then walk away.
- Do a faith audit. How’s your pastor or priest? How’s your congregation, and were they part of the deciding factor in your choice to vote? Did you hear politics coming from the pulpit that equated Hillary with the devil or Trump with the way of the faithful? I know you might have been in this congregation since birth along with all of your friends. But there are a bunch of churches out there. You might just commit to visiting another church one Sunday a month. Keep going to your own if you’d like, but see what else is out there.
- Pray and reconnect with whatever spiritual values you have. If you haven’t actually read the text of your faith tradition in a while, go back to the source and delve in. It will give you sustenance. In some ways this is a great spiritual journey that will make you a stronger person who is more connected to the tenets of your faith. If you are in an evangelical congregation, you can consider getting support by reading something by Jim Wallis or other progressive evangelicals. A magazine like Sojourners might be a good support. If you are Catholic, there are a number of progressive Catholic congregations and supports for progressive Catholics–including our current Pope. Check out Call to Action.
- When you see people getting angry at anyone who has been targeted as the “enemy”–liberals, disabled people, the poor, those who receive food stamps, professors, immigrants, Black people, Mexican people, Muslims, the population of the Middle East, women, Hillary, Hillary voters, socialists, union members–stop and just tell yourself that you are witnessing anger. Reflect and pray on where that anger might come from. This is a huge open spiritual question.
- The culture that supported Trump has pockets of violence that you might not have been exposed to, as they tend to target only those who disagree with them. But be prepared for the fact that once you admit what you are thinking, you will be targeted with scorn and the same condemnation they have reserved for all the other “out” groups. This will be profoundly unsettling, but know that you have many many allies–everyone else who has been targeted.
- Contact your local representatives to urge them to stand up for decency and democracy.
- Consider, during the next election, whether you should choose a candidate based on their stances about multiple issues rather than a “hot button” issue like abortion, which has been used for decades to manipulate people of faith into voting for unsavory candidates, and whether you might re-evaluate the criteria by which you vote.
People make mistakes. Your faith and my faith all teach that mistakes can be recovered and redressed, but action is important. We are happy to welcome you into the fold of people who want to protect and rebuild the country.