"So may the outward shows be least themselves: The world is still deceived with ornament. In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt, But, being seasoned with a gracious voice, Obscures the show of evil? In religion, What damned error, but some sober brow Will bless it and approve it with a text, Hiding the grossness with fair ornament? There is no vice so simple but assumes Some mark of virtue on his outward parts." -- Bassinio, The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 2
There is no greater joy than in letting go of pain, particularly when the source of that pain is evil.
Every single legitimate religion teaches that. And I was finally able to touch this revelation 2 weeks ago while I was on holiday in Scotland, where my husband and I spent some time getting away from the everyday in our lives. We connected with old friends and made new ones. Key to the spiritual uplift of the trip were the numerous conversations I had with people from across the world while we were in Edinburgh.
I used a well-worn line when I introduced myself to new people during our vacation. "On behalf of the rational people of the United States, I apologize for Donald Trump". I would usually get a polite laugh and an appreciation of my candor. We would then move to lighter topics. But we would connect far more easily once they were assured that I wasn't one of those Americans. One of those who believes that the human-activity caused climate change -- that was making for the hottest summer in Scottish history -- isn't real; one of those for whom $700 billion in military-industrial spending isn't enough; one of those who believes that one's inherent value is determined by the colour of one's skin and how much money one has. When they realized I saw the rest of the world as it was, and hadn't been deluded with the illness of "American exceptionalism" in my mindset, each person I met overseas would calm down.
It is clear that the entirety of the rational population of the planet has never been more afraid of the irrational population. And we have good reason to be mortified. In the U.S., every day is an exercise in fear when one reads the news. From the dehumanization of recent immigrants, to the assault on gay rights, women’s rights, civils rights, basically an assault on all rights to all who are not straight, white, male, and relatively wealthy, to… you name it. The news just sucks.
But I realized during this last escape from the reality of the current misery in the U.S. that that fear is no excuse to destroy my own happiness.
My mission in this life is to serve those in need. And I cannot serve when I feel suicidal because of the news.
Between Trump, Brexit, and the rise of far-right populism across the world, the values of inclusivity and justice that modern schooling teaches as universal have been proven as anything but universal. In the last 627 days since the presidential election in the United States, people I once treasured as confidantes have been exposed as sympathizers with fascism and authoritarianism. I have witnessed hatred and so many phobias creep out of people I once deemed rational and thoughtful. The minister in me sees the hurt and fear in their eyes and words. But the human in me sees something sinister and dangerous in them
So I have to let them go.
I am a minister. I am an activist.
I am not a superhero.
I am fundamentally programmed to defend the values of my faith by any means necessary. And I have been living in fear since American democracy was forever damaged on November 9, 2016. So many people I know now believe that 62 million is a higher number than 65 million. So many former friends of mine believe that the establishment of concentration camps for children is an affirmation of liberty. And so many people I have known for most of my life think that poverty is a choice. But my affiliation with people who think like that is a choice. And I choose, finally, to let them go.
I am neither strong enough nor interested in attempting to argue with this evil any longer. For nearly 2 years, I have been reaching out to these ill people in an effort to rationalize with them. "Surely, if you hear the facts, you will be persuaded" uttered my inner hopeful child. I kept waiting in vain for someone, anyone, among them to respond with "Ohhhhh. I got it. Now that I see the facts, I realize I was wrong." Not a single one has.
What is the virtue of continuing to argue with people who will reverse-engineer their reality to match their worldview? There is none. I am not one of those who says that we need to compromise, because there is no way to compromise with fundamentalists. I believe we need to hold each other through this dark time. We need to build the communities we seek for the world, and treat each other as the examples of love in which we are called to do.
There is no escaping that the work will get darker and more frightening over the next few years. But we can hold hope that the light will come. The fundamentalists in power will eventually tire out their welcome by their cult followers. And then we will be able to rebuild what they have destroyed.
I pledge that I will start anew to be the light the world needs. Rather than post stories that emphasize how dark things are getting, I will reflect on the ways good people can shine light. It’s the only thing to do that can work.
Join me in the struggle. We are not called to hope because we believe things will get better. We need to hope because there is no other choice.