My daughter voted in her first presidential election yesterday. She called late last night, a few minutes after I'd turned off the election returns and dragged myself to bed, feeling as though I might vomit.
"Are you watching this train wreck?" she asked. She'd spent hours watching her hopes for a woman president crumble, and the DOW drop, worried that the economy will crash again, and that she'd lose the job she'd just started after graduating from college.
"I can see voting Republican," she said, "for the policies, but he's a terrible human being."
I have a visceral response to yelling, to finger-pointing, to name calling. I know what it is to be sexually harassed by a boss, to be unable to speak out, and not believed when you do. When I see our President elect, I see a bully and a predator. I see someone I would cross the street to avoid, who sets all the alarm bells in my head ringing.
I know too, that no one comes to politics as a saint; that there are issues of ego and saving face and compromise and questionable decisions and character flaws and impossible choices.
But what do you say to your child when your country has chosen a bully and predator to lead it?
I did what mothers do: I set aside my own fears and anxiety and comforted her. I told her I didn't understand why Trump was winning, and that even though he was winning, I didn't believe that the majority of Americans think it's okay to name call and bully and label people as if they are objects and have no worth. I told her I didn't think the majority of Americans want to build a wall along the Mexican border, or that the majority of Americans want every Muslim deported, or that the majority of Americans believe it's okay for a man to grab a woman's body, or that the majority of Americans living through record droughts and record breaking storms think that climate change is a hoax.
I told her this wasn't a landslide victory and it wasn't a mandate, and that our country is built on a system of checks and balances designed to prevent the rise of a tyrant or dictator, preventing any one house from having absolute power. I told her I hoped that by electing someone so extreme an opportunity has risen for legislators to return to an era of compromise that bridges party lines. I told her that yes, such a time existed (Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neil), that my husband and I had seen it in action when we were college students.
She wanted to know if President Trump really could repeal the EPA on Day 1. I said no. I told her that many people will oppose the erosion of environmental protection, and that people have always spoken up for injustice and will continue to do so.
We were on the phone for over an hour, and I don't remember everything I said before we hung up at 3 a.m. her time.
But I did tell her I would pray for Donald Trump, and that I would pray for our country. I know for many people, that sounds like platitudes, and like nothing more than wasted breath. But, for me it means, that I'm not going to give into fear and anger.
I'm not signing the petitions flooding my inbox this morning, urging me to refuse to accept the results of the election, and to demand that Senate Democrats filibuster every Republican bill that comes before the Senate. I have faith in One who taught the opposite of an eye-for-an-eye.
Healing does not come from entrenchment, and forward progress doesn't arise from fear.
So, I am praying that everything I told my daughter is true. That those who've chosen different parties and different candidates can be reconciled to one another, that we can behave with decency and civility to those who share differing views. That we do not wish to demean and dehumanize others, and that we will not allow our future president to do so with impunity.
It may not be easy, or expedient, but I choose to be part of the mending we so desperately need. Here is my prayer to that end.
Prayer for Our President-Elect and Ourselves
We lift today this man our nation has chosen to lead us,
this president elected to represent all Americans--
rich and poor, young and old, the myriad ethnicities,
traditions, identities, languages, and faiths that constitute
“us” and our country from the smallest towns to the largest cities.
We have selected this man to speak for all
to be the voice of the United States in our communities
in our states, in this nation, in international affairs,
in this one world that is our home.
For our President-elect we pray for wisdom and compassion
that he will indeed promote the greater good,
that he will be guided in his public and private actions
by a moral code of integrity and compassion
that he will strive always
for right relationships between people
for stewardship of the Earth
and for justice that places in the forefront
the needs of the hungry, poor, sick, and oppressed,
those who cannot advocate for themselves.
May our future president become worthy
of the power we have placed in his hands,
and may we as citizens do all in our power
to act in the best interests of our nation
to set the welfare of our future generations above
our own self-interest.
We give thanks for the government
our founders framed that provides
for the peaceful transition of power
and the absence of absolute power,
and yet our democracy is ill
in need of healing from the polarizing division
that has consumed us,
not only in this long season of campaigning
not only between political parties,
not only in the daily decisions of those who govern
but in our daily interactions with each other.
Today, for many, is one of hope for a brighter tomorrow
Today, for many others, sparks anxiety and fear.
Our one nation indivisible is deeply divided.
Let us not sweep our distress quickly aside
but rather let us look straight on
at our country’s shameful wounds
and at our own darkest thoughts--
for only by seeing our shadows clearly
can we diminish their power over us.
Grant us the courage to listen deeply
to hear another’s truth with civility and compassion.
As citizens, friends and neighbors,
let us engage in the difficult work
Keep us always in prayer and in goodwill
for one another,
for the success of our new president,
and those who dedicate their lives to service.
I am a writer who, in December 2011, fortified by a new MFA, empty nest, and changes in my husband's employment, relocated from my native California to Washington state to see what would unfold next.