Advent is the great liturgical season of waiting. We yearn, we search, and we reach out, and we dream of Immanuel who will walk amoung us. We spend much time preparing our homes and our churches for the holiday, and we wait. This season of waiting with expectation is the perfect time to work on our relationship with the Divine, to focus on drawing closer to our beloved Creator as the time draws near. All of that sounds very good, very appropriate for Advent.
But how in the world do we balance this sacred time of waiting with the trepidation of this post-election world?
I identify spiritually as a Native American Traditionalist / Christian. I attend and lead worship in congregations of the United Church of Christ, as well as attend and lead rituals, ceremonies, and gatherings with a local group of Native American Traditionalists. Two Spirit is my gender, an ancient Indigenous non-binary gender identity that articulates both queerness and indigeneity.
What this intersectional identity means in this post election world is more than a little bit scary. It feels like each of those facets of myself may draw contempt and/or violence in a culture of the impending Trump/Pence regime. There are times when I wonder which of those things will trigger someone to commit an act of violence against me. As a queer Hoosier, I can honestly say of that disastrous duo, the one that gives me the most trepidation might be Pence.
The atmosphere of fear and concentrated emotional tension was nearly paralyzing for me the first week after the presidential election. The stories that were coming through the media, both broadcast media and social media were horrifying. People of color, people of faith, queer and trans people were being targeted for harassment and violence.
I had to just stop reading stories of that nature for a while.
Some people believed that Donald Trump’s status as President Elect had given the green light to their own hate-fueled agendas. While this might not be true, given the hate-filled campaign rhetoric, it is understandable why some folks would feel emboldened to act with violence towards anyone they personally viewed as a threat to their vision of an America that is “great.”
People who perpetrated violence had certainly seen and heard enough along the campaign trail to believe that a culture where such hate based violence would flourish was at hand. But the truth is, that the election of Donald Trump has and will continue to serve as a catalyst for the deterioration of fractures that have existed in our societal infrastructure for decades.
The only story I can tell is my own. As a queer person of Native American heritage, as a Native Traditionalist, AND as a Christian, I am hurting profoundly, and I am afraid. Why am I afraid? Given the horrific things said by the President Elect, I am afraid he will put into action the things that had up till now merely been menacing words.
My fears are rooted in policies the President Elect has promised to enact in office.
I fear that he will care more about oil and coal interests than he does about the planet. I fear that he remove all barriers for the pipelines to go through the sacred lands of our ancestors, valuing oil and money more than water, more than the life, more than the rights and health of people, more than endangered species, and more than our Sacred Sites.
I fear for the Water Protectors at Standing Rock under this regime. I fear that people of color—particularly black and brown people, whose lived experiences have been horrifying beyond comprehension, will have more vitriol aimed at them. I fear there will be more profiling, more violence, and more actions that scream that black and brown lives do not matter.
So yes, I do have fear—however fear is not all that I have. I also have fierceness; I also have tenacity, I also have voice, and a deep well of compassion in my spirit that goes to my very core. I also am totally committed to being actively involved in resisting hatred, violence, and ecological devastation. While recounts are unlikely to change the results of the election, I think the proposed recounts need to happen. However, I am not counting, on re-counts.
So what am I counting on?
People. The amazing community of activists that I know, as well as the many that I have yet to meet. I count on them, and I place my hope—in us. I know that we cannot move forward if we self-isolate in silos of fear.
I put my hope for diminished fear and increased justice on all ages, all genders, LGBTQIA people, clergy and laity, people from all walks of life, and every demographic, people from across the country who unite. When we form powerful coalitions, we are equipped to push back with the energy of our combined resources.
When we push back against tyranny, side by side and shoulder-to-shoulder, we have the potential to show that our focus is far beyond the ballot box. We carry the potential to usher in a country where equity, justice, and accountability are REAL characteristics of our society, not merely slogans.
We need to engage with one another, and we must have hard conversations.
Talking with honesty about issues that threaten us, such as racism, sexism, privilege, homophobia, Islamophobia, and religious intolerance, is hard work that requires we hold each other as we embrace honesty and mutual respect as core values. We need to engage in these conversations, in our organizations, our congregations, and our communities about the real issues that threaten this country.
As we work to confront the large systemic issues that have fractured our nation and continue to oppress so many, we shine light into the margins and widen the center to accommodate us all. We need to vision together. We must collectively articulate what we as a diverse society want the future to look like, and we must decide where we will begin through our unified work to move from vision to reality.
Ah Advent, the great liturgical season of waiting. But this is not a passive waiting! As we wait, we organize, we work together for change, we resist oppression, and we dismantle systems—one peace at a time. We provide safety for others as best we can, and we actively and fiercely—wait.
While we are waiting, try looking a stranger straight in the eye.
The more we see the Presence in each other’s face, the less we see the “other.”
Photo via flickr user Marissa Elkind