Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Morning After

I wasn’t in Colorado when Amendment 2 passed, though I remember hearing about it and watching with interest as the results rolled in on election night. I was positive it wouldn’t pass. Surely the good people of my home state would not vote to embed  homophobic bigotry and intolerance into the State Constitution.
The next morning I read with disbelief that, while Colorado had passed legislation protecting bears, that had also passed Amendment 2, taking protection away from their LGBTQ citizens.  Safe in the comfort of my apartment in Long Beach, CA, living, as I did, on the cusp of the Gay Corridor there, I was astounded.
Indeed, it was precisely because of the passage of Amendment 2 that I felt the strong call to go to the heart of the “hate state” as it was then known when the pulpit of Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church became open. As a queer minister in a queer denomination, I felt passionate about going to
my own marginalized people in Colorado Springs and being a voice of hope and justice and love and acceptance. A voice in the wilderness, calling, if you will, “prepare ye the way of Love.”
When folks asked me why I would want to go to a place where intolerance had been legalized, where tax-paying citizens were being denied their full and equal place at the table, I would always say two things. First, I would say, Dorothy Day said go where you’re least wanted because there you’re
most needed. Then I would add, and if I have to combat Nazi fundamentalism, at least it will be in a scenic place.
What struck me most was how demoralized the queer community was in Colorado Springs. New congregants and friends struggled to tell me about how it felt, the morning after the election, to wake up and realize that half of their neighbors thought they didn’t deserve equal rights; that half of their
state decided their rights didn’t matter. They told me how it impacted how they moved their days. Wondering did the nice clerk at the store vote to take away my rights? Did my co-worker? Some people they didn’t have to wonder about because they were actively, ardently vocal in the support of Amendment 2. Some of my friends, closeted at the time, had to endure conversations with not only co-workers, but with family members and friends who were also quite vocal in their support of Amendment 2. Some of my friends, loudly and proudly out also had to endure those conversations with families and friends.
It was a dark time in the history of Colorado, and of Colorado Springs. Ultimately the US Supreme Court overthrew Amendment 2, rightly calling it unconstitutional.
Many things have changed since then. I made the transition to being a Unitarian Universalist minister because my theology and ideology have changed to be more inclusive than believing true religion is one god, one savior. My son, who was born in the midst of Amendment 2’s  long weary journey to the SCOTUS is a grown man now, 21 years old, his own ideas and beliefs having been forged in the fire of this conservative town in which we live. And yet, today, I awoke feeling much the same as my friends did on that November morning in 1992.
With the election of Donald Trump as president, I feel that sense of demoralization, only on a national scale. Not only is Trump completely unqualified for the position of leader of the free world, not only has his campaign been littered with the victims of his hate speech—so many bodies that the New York Times devoted a full two page spread listing the groups of peoples and individuals he has insulted, demeaned, and just plain lied about, not only is his impulse control so poor that his own campaign had to take away hisTwitter account to stop him from those 3 AM tweets that said Saturday Night Live should be taken off the air because they made fun of him, not only did he dismiss his talk about sexually assaulting women as just "locker room talk"-- which caused he has made a mockery of this campaign process and faced the most qualified person to run for president and he still won.
Half the people of this nation said, essentially, “We’d rather have a man with no experience who blatantly lies about virtually everything than a woman with 30 years of experience in actually making a difference in people’s lives. We’d rather elect a man who has active criminal and civil cases pending than a woman who used a personal email server while serving as Secretary of State." It doesn’t matter that the Republicans spent millions of our dollars investigating her and found no wrong-doing; it doesn’t matter that Republicans serving in that position did the same thing; hell George W, Bush "lost" 22 million emails when he was president without any consequences--but that doesn't matter, either.
And worse, they say, we want a man who wants to build a wall on the border of our neighbors to south, who wants to deport all Muslims—or at the very least have them registered (how very Hitler-esque), he will overturn the marriage equality the SCOTUS gave us, and this isn’t mentioning the people he’s mocked—the disabled, the veterans, the poor saps who actually pay their federal income tax.
And this is why I spent the morning crying. Not because of Trump’s ineptitude but because half of my neighbors voted for him, knowing how racist and misogynist and xenophobic he is. Half of my neighbors—including family members and friends—voted for him knowing that he wants to take away my place at America’s table. People who I love, and people I don’t know said, essentially, “we don’t care about your rights or your safety, or the rights and safety of so many disenfranchised citizens. We’re going to vote for him because—“ well, frankly, I’m still trying to suss that one out. The only reason I can think of is that there was an "R" by his name on the ballot or that he pees standing up and Clinton does not, Certainly, research showed that hostility to women was linked most closely to those who chose to vote for Trump. Clearly, Clinton has been raked over the coals throughout her long history of public service for daring to think she could inhabit what had previously only been men-only space. Certainly, even when fact-checkers showed Clinton’s inherent trustworthiness while noting Trump’s consistent stream of lies, people adamantly refused to be moved. Their minds were made up; no need to confuse them with the truth.
At the end of day, yesterday, on, ironically, what would have been Dorothy Day’s 99th birthday, our nation decided to go with the candidate that rejects a significant portion of our population,myself
included. In fact, he only seems to embrace those who look just like him—white, straight, successful with a bland form of Christianity that bears no resemblance to Jesus.
I’m at a loss. My son, Sam, wisely counseled me and others with his early morning facebook video today. I’ve watched it twice; it’s a message I need to hear. And it’s a message I want to pass on to each of you: You are beautiful, you are worthy of love, and I am here for you. Tomorrow I will dry my eyes, gather with colleagues and friends and others who still believe we can change the world.
Tomorrow I will once again pick up the gauntlet of justice and equality and human dignity. On Sunday, I will preach a message of hope going forward in the wake of the election; it is a sermon I wrote on Monday, before knowing these results. Tomorrow I will recall again Dorothy Day's wise words and the wise words of Unitarian minister Theodore Parker from an 1853 sermon, quoted by both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Barack Obama:  "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice."
I will do all that tomorrow; I promise.
Today, I grieve. I grieve for myself and for all of us whose lives have been discounted and devalued by this election; and I grieve for our nation that has shown us how deeply the divide of racism and sexism cuts.
Tomorrow, I will work to eradicate that. I hope you will join me.