Ever since Donald Trump entered the USA presidential race, I haven’t been able to look away. And I said from the beginning that I thought he had a chance of winning. I really don’t want to debate my own political tendencies here (the equivalent of Trump’s party in NZ would not get my vote), but I do think there is a lot to reflect on for us all in this election.
This election was about money, sex, and power. The Christian tradition of spirituality, with its large thread of poverty, chastity, and obedience, has a lot to inform that perspective. And, as we head towards the Feast of the Reign of Christ, the election, thread by thread, has a lot that stands in contrast to Christ’s Reign.
I was, and still am, surprised by people’s surprise at the result. The polarisation and siloing of perspectives is something that calls for careful reflection. And action. Each side of supporters so demonised the other side that there appeared little to no communication. Neither side seemed capable of getting into the skin of the opposite perspective, of walking a mile in their moccasins. Nor could either side acknowledge the deep flaws in their own candidate – seen from the other’s perspective.
This election highlights the shift from the modern to the post-modern, and from the fourth estate to the internet and web 2.0. The media bias and the inaccuracy of the polls are resulting in a rearguard response trying to explain why they got things so wrong. The dearth of content and policies fits in with the trend that people not only have a right to believe and express whatever they like, but every belief is equally valid. In NZ, for example, to have a canon of content in many/most subjects in our education system is highly frowned upon and absent from our curriculum.
Furthermore, the triumph of internet-culture was also evident in the election. Any glance down, say, the comments of an even-slightly-controversial YouTube clip shows people playing the person rather than the ball: variants of “You’re a #$%^&!” “No, you’re a *&^#@!” And a lot of the election mirrored that approach.
Both psychological and spirituality wisdom emphasise that our ‘enemy’, our ‘shadow’ may tell us more about ourselves than we realise. And may be more similar to ourselves than we acknowledge. The riots, anticipated if Trump’s supporters did not win, have begun to happen now that Clinton’s didn’t. The controversy that Trump might not concede on seeing the election results was mirrored in Clinton’s no-show and John Podesta sending her thousands of supporters home from Jacob K Javits Convention Center with Clinton making a private phone call to Trump some minutes later. Melania Trump’s plagiarising Michelle Obama’s speech should cause us all to pause and note the interchangeability of so much empty political rhetoric.
Yes, we may be in for a rough ride.
Those on the liberal, politically-correct, inclusive end of the spectrum (including in church) may not have been paying enough attention to what others are actually saying. In this internet age, those who are insiders in the political machinery, whatever the organisation (including in church), your time may have passed. The DNC chose not to go with the outsider. The GOP did.
I pray for more real listening between people who hold opposing positions. I pray for a swing back from every opinion is equal to some honest presentation of facts and content. I pray for humility when facts are disputed. And I pray for us all to grow in living simply, in relationship with one another, and in service – the very opposite of abusing money, sex, and power.
Clinton and Trump cartoon illustration | Image by VectorOpenStock.com