Next week, Americans will gather around dinner tables with loved ones and guests to pause and offer thanks for the blessings of another year. This season, I am reflecting and giving thanks for the ordinary things of life that I often take for granted. Let me explain.
A few years back I lost my job which had been a source of blessings for two decades. I lived a fairly comfortable life and took a lot of my blessings for granted.
Now, I work for a Hospice company and pastor to folks who I would not necessarily have come into contact with in my previous vocation - the inner city poor of Canton, Ohio and the good farm people and blue collar folks of central Ohio. Working and conversing with these amazing individuals remind me daily of never taking the ordinary blessings of life for granted. Blessings such as running water, the sunrise, a refrigerator filled with good food, the laughter of a neighbor, a moment with a dog and a cat who welcome without reservation, the beauty of the seasons, friends who love and support you in the good times and in the struggles of life, a ripe piece of fruit, health care, a blossoming relationship, the warmth of home.
Saint Ignatius wrote about seeing God in all things. In other words, seeing with the eyes of the heart. Perhaps this is what Therese of Lisieux meant when she recognized that everything is grace. "These saints - and many others - knew what it was to see behind and beyond the commonplace, and to recognize that the commonplace is no less than the extraordinary and dazzling presence of God. It's really all we need." (Rosalie P. Krajci, Benedictine Oblate)
I encourage you this week to pause from the daily grind of your life and give thanks for the ordinary things which bless you each and every day. It is in these daily ordinary blessings where you will find the Holy One.
Blessings to you.
“Let us neither express, nor cherish, any harsh feeling towards any citizen who, by his vote, has differed with us. Let us at all times remember that all American citizens are brothers of a common country, and should dwell together in the bonds of fraternal feeling.”
I have been quiet the last few days; reflecting on the events of the week trying to find meaning and pondering the future. Not sure I have gleaned anything of importance; but here are some random observations about what I have experienced as an American over the course of the last five days.
1) The result of this election should not have come as any surprise to those of us who live and toil in the Rust Belt. I work for a Hospice company and drive each day in and through rural counties in central Ohio. Trump/Pence signs were everywhere – some were homemade and viciously degrading of the Democratic candidate. The anger and hatred of the so-called “establishment” were palpable. Chris Arnade in a valuable contribution entitled, “What I learned after 100,000 miles on the road talking to Trump supporters” expressed (better than I) what I had experienced daily. He writes,
“As Trump gained momentum, as he marched towards the GOP nomination, his message started to resonate with these entire communities – including those that were doing well economically. Many solidly middle-class Americans have friends, relatives, or congregants who are suffering.
“More than that, supporting Trump has become a way of showing support for their failing communities. It had become tribal: entire communities were joining the back-row kids.
“This was the case in communities like Clarington, Ohio, an all-white town of less than 500 laying in a small break in the hills along the Ohio River.
“Lori Ayers, 47, works in the gas station. She was blunt when I asked her about her life. “Clarington is a shithole. Jobs all left. There is nothing here anymore. When Ormet Aluminum factory closed, jobs all disappeared.” She is also blunt about the pain in her life. “I have five kids and two have addictions. There is nothing else for kids to do here but drugs. No jobs. No place to play.”
“She stopped and added: “I voted for Obama the first time, not the second. Now I am voting for Trump. We just got to change things.”
“I found a similar viewpoint in communities such as West Cleveland: Donna Weaver, 52, is a waitress, and has spent her entire life in her community. “I was born and raised here. I am not happy. Middle class is getting killed; we work for everything and get nothing. I hate both of the candidates, but I would vote for Trump because the Iraq war was a disaster. Why we got to keep invading countries. Time to take care of ourselves first.”
“These communities are dealing with lost and changing jobs, which are no longer a sources of pride, but simply about getting by. Life for many has become a constant anxiety over upcoming bills. They are also dealing with social problems that always follow economic loss, such as families broken apart, children struggling with little support, eroded institutions, and substance abuse – a quick salve to either forget or numb the pain.
“Compounding the anxiety, and helping to morph it into humiliation, is the false national narrative that the US is a meritocracy where anyone can advance with the right education, and hence failure is because of being dumb or lazy.”
These folks feel forgotten and betrayed. The government offered many empty promises over the years. There are ‘no jobs’, no place ‘to play’. Just drugs and a sense of hopelessness. If the newly elected leadership is serious about making “America great again”, then it must begin the process of restoration in places like West Cleveland and Clarington where hope has almost faded.
2) Every American should consider turning to their fellow patriot at this moment in our common life and listen – not to respond; but to understand. The Quaker, Parker Palmer wrote: “The spiritual life is lived in a balance of paradoxes, and the humility that enables us to hear the truth of others while standing in the creative tension with the faith that empowers us to speak our own.”
For example, I have never been a fan of Michael Moore. However, he was right about the state of Michigan, its people, and the election. Why? Because Moore is one of them.
What can I glean from listening to someone who may express viewpoints that are contradictory to mine? Moore does not have a monopoly on truth – but there is truth in what he has to say. How do I discover that truth? How do I recognize that reality? How do I accept that truth even if it is contrary to what I believe?
Moore had some interesting points to share on his Facebook page the day after the election. Here is what he had to say…
Morning After To-Do List:
1. Take over the Democratic Party and return it to the people. They have failed us miserably.
2. Fire all pundits, predictors, pollsters and anyone else in the media who had a narrative they wouldn't let go of and refused to listen to or acknowledge what was really going on. Those same bloviators will now tell us we must "heal the divide" and "come together." They will pull more hooey like that out of their ass in the days to come. Turn them off.
3. Any Democratic member of Congress who didn't wake up this morning ready to fight, resist and obstruct in the way Republicans did against President Obama every day for eight full years must step out of the way and let those of us who know the score lead the way in stopping the meanness and the madness that's about to begin.
4. Everyone must stop saying they are "stunned" and "shocked". What you mean to say is that you were in a bubble and weren't paying attention to your fellow Americans and their despair. YEARS of being neglected by both parties, the anger and the need for revenge against the system only grew. Along came a TV star they liked whose plan was to destroy both parties and tell them all "You're fired!" Trump's victory is no surprise. He was never a joke. Treating him as one only strengthened him. He is both a creature and a creation of the media and the media will never own that.
5. You must say this sentence to everyone you meet today: "HILLARY CLINTON WON THE POPULAR VOTE!" The MAJORITY of our fellow Americans preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Period. Fact. If you woke up this morning thinking you live in an effed-up country, you don't. The majority of your fellow Americans wanted Hillary, not Trump. The only reason he's president is because of an arcane, insane 18th-century idea called the Electoral College. Until we change that, we'll continue to have presidents we didn't elect and didn't want. You live in a country where a majority of its citizens have said they believe there's climate change, they believe women should be paid the same as men, they want a debt-free college education, they don't want us invading countries, they want a raise in the minimum wage and they want a single-payer true universal health care system. None of that has changed. We live in a country where the majority agree with the "liberal" position. We just lack the liberal leadership to make that happen (see: #1 above).
3) The Media. I am in the car for approximately four hours every day so I have plenty of time to listen to the pundits on both sides. I freely change stations, depending on the time of day and who the anchor is, from CNN to MSNBC to FOX to Rush Limbaugh to NPR and finally POTUS radio. What was fascinating about the election is that the Media created Trump giving him a platform and approximately 3 billion dollars of free advertising over the course of the primaries and general election (source: FOX NEWS). When it looked like he might actually win the election, the Media set out on a “seek and destroy” mission to eradicate the very monster which they had created. But their attempts failed.
John Ubaldi, blogger, wrote:
About 184 years have passed since French diplomat and political scientist Alexis De Tocqueville wrote “Democracy in America.” De Tocqueville commented on American journalism. He stated, “The characteristics of the American journalist consist in an open and coarse appeal to the passions of his readers; he abandons principles to assail the characters of the individuals, to track them into private life, and disclose all their weaknesses and vices.” De Tocqueville continued, “In the United States, each separate journal exercises but little authority; but the power of the periodical press is second only to that of the people.” As in De Tocqueville’s day, the same principle applies to many modern journalists, but now it’s been placed on steroids in the digital age. Basically, “what sells” continues to drive the media narrative; the news is devoid of actual substance.
The fatal flaw in this year’s election cycle is that the media coverage focused more on the disputes between the two candidates than the actual substantive policies of the nominees vying for the presidency. The media’s insatiable appetite for sensationalism won out over substance and investigative journalism.
4) Why did half of the eligible voters in this country not engage their right to cast a vote? Heavy.com reports:
“Over 231 million Americans are eligible to vote, but, based on early results from the 2016 Presidential election, just over 130 million of them voted for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. In some of the key battleground states that decided the election, less than a few thousand votes decided the result, proving how important every vote really is and how important it is to motivate your party.
“As of Thursday afternoon, projections from the United States Elections Project show that there were 231,556,622 Americans eligible to vote, but 131,741,000 voted. That means that 43.2 percent didn’t vote, while 56.8 percent did.”
I surmise that the real problem with voter turnout is apathy. How can an electorate become apathetic with so much on the line? I understand that voters were repulsed by the tired rhetoric, the name calling, the finger pointing by both candidates, and the disgusting lewdness of the Republican nominee. Researchers have concluded that the biggest group of apathetic voters were the 33-55 age group. What are the reasons and roots of this apathy? How can the tide be changed? What must be modified in the political process to engage more of the electorate? What is going on in the psyche of the American voter?
A friend of mine posted a quote on his Facebook page from the French political philosopher Joseph de Maistre: "Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite." ("Every nation gets the government it deserves.")
In my opinion, you do not have a right to complain or whine about the country and the government if you did not exercise your constitutional right to vote. I don’t get it. The right to vote is one of the greatest privileges of being an American.
5) There was no “rigged” election. The Republicans won fair and square. The Grand Old Party of Eisenhower and Nixon, of Reagan and the Bushes, now control all three branches of the legislature. I think the last time this happened was 2005. So, let’s see what the Republicans have to offer. The leadership is theirs – they better get busy!
My questions for the Republicans: What is your vision for making America great again? What is your plan for making sure that every American is provided the opportunity for a worthy education, for quality healthcare, a decent job, a good wage, and a safe environment in which to live?
There is no one to blame now for not getting the job done. If we do not like what we see in two years or four years, Americans have the opportunity to make additional change by our vote.
“Let us not seek the Republican answer, or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
John F. Kennedy
6) In the two days following the election we have witnessed college students so demoralized that classes have had to be cancelled. Protesters have taken to the streets. The shouts of “Not My President” have become a slogan for the demonstrators. Opportunists and thugs are taking advantage of the emotional distress of others for their own selfish gain.
My gut response to these reactions is “Grow up!” and “Why did you not protest weeks and months ago?”
We have coddled our young people to the point that if you say, “Boo”, they dissolve into a puddle of mush. We have insisted and raised up a generation that believes everybody is a winner. It is a lie! Life happens, people. You cannot always win the game. You strike out more than you hit the home run. You don’t always win!
To my young friends who are distraught over this election, I say to you that you are experiencing what REAL life is like. There are ups and downs. There are setbacks, disappointments, and failures. These can last a day, a week, a month, perhaps a year or more. That is the reality of the ebb and flow of life.
I was very disappointed by the results of Tuesday’s election. But the world is not coming to an end. We have serious work to do! We have a choice: to sit in our ‘puddle of mush’ or to roll up our sleeves and ‘accept our own responsibility for the future.’
This moment is an historic crossroads for this nation. It is time for many of us to rise up and recognize that our communities are in pain and suffering which can only be met and solved with somber, consistent, diligent and conscientious effort. How will we as a nation proceed?
I saw a quote this week attributed to Don Freeman which spoke to me. He wrote: “We need to stop looking to politicians to make our world better. Politicians don’t make our world a better place. Everything that’s ever made the world a better place has come from inventors, engineers, scientists, teachers, artists, builders, philosophers, healers, and people that choose love over hate.”
If you want to make a difference for the future of this great nation, choose love. Jesus commended it. So did Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Julian of Norwich, and many other of the great mystical and spiritual masters.
If you want to make a difference for the future of this great nation, choose love. When you see a person wearing a hijab, sit next to them on the bus. If you see a person of color stopped by the police, stand with them. Hang out with an immigrant and help them with documentation and resources. If you meet a refugee, welcome them and listen to their story. If you see somebody that is hungry, offer them some food. If someone is without the proper clothing, offer them your coat. Go to the local jail and spend time with a young person who is incarcerated. If you meet a veteran, thank them and if they break down show them some compassion. Tell a member of the LGBTQ community that they are beautifully and wonderfully made. Tell a survivor that you believe in them. If you meet a woman, respect her and honor the divine in her. When Donald Trump becomes the President, pray for him and the leaders of our nation daily.
If you want to make a difference for the future of this great nation, choose love!