This was probably one of the most brutal elections many people remember. Often it seemed to be characterized by anger, and a constant demonizing of the other. It was not pretty. Many simply hoped that it would come to an end. In one way, it has. The election occurred and Donald Trump is the president-elect. But in a completely different way, the election exposed deep and ugly chasms between the way we see and think about each other. For some, it is not so much that racism was exposed, for example, but rather that it was more extensive than previously believed.
And so what is to be done, now that the election is over? What is it that we are supposed to make of the current state of the country? Because the results of the election also demonstrated just how complex everything is. There were people who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 who voted for Trump this time around. If conversations around Facebook and other places are any indication, there were many instances of anger and painful insults.
It does seem that what is not understood is how is it possible that someone could have voted for the candidate running against the person we support. And often without understanding all of the reasons we mimicked the vocabulary that was used. People were ignorant, stupid, “lib-tards” and racists. A criticism of one candidate often let to the assumption the other was supported. But the bottom line is that perhaps the chasm between us in this country has never been greater.
Pope Francis addressed this when he identified the illness and disease of the day. “I believe the greatest illness of today is cardiac sclerosis,” he said. In other words, the hearts of people have simply become too hardened to see or hear the word of God in their lives. Is it that this election exposed this cardiac sclerosis present in each one of us?
It is so easy to see the shortcomings of others. But what the political process revealed is that too many of us simply cannot see the face of Christ in others. We ignore the face of Christ in the unborn child whose dignity and rights become less important than that of the mother who chooses to abort her child. We ignore the face of Christ when we label entire groups of people as rapists, criminals or murderers, with not understanding of the reality of people seeking a better life. We classify people of one faith as terrorists, because a small number of their membership does really awful things. We fear accepting refugees fleeing the very terrorists we ourselves are afraid of seeing.
How many undocumented immigrants have we gotten to know? How many Muslims have we actually met? How often have we listened to the pain women who have had an abortion feel after it is over? How many refugees have we come to meet to hear their story and learn their plight? Is it that we admire Pope Francis, that we like the idea of Pope Francis, but not enough to imitate Pope Francis in his commitment to serving the poor?
If nothing else, this election asks the prodding, prophetic question about whether or not we believe Jesus said what he meant in Matthew 25, when he told us he was the unborn child, the immigrant, the refugee, the one in prison, the hungry, the homeless, indeed the person in need? Do we serve Jesus by serving these people, or do we ignore them?
It seems important to understand that we need to seek and find the dignity of Christ in all people. We need to be open to listen and hear people with whom we profoundly disagree. We need to find again the compromises that do not dismiss other people’s opinions and beliefs, but to hear them, and by doing so allowing our hardened heart to become softened. While listening to others may not cause us to agree with them, at the very least maybe it will help us in growing in our own understanding of an issue. Providing a variation of the inisight of love from Saint John, is it possible for us to hear the voice of God if we cannot hear the voice of each other?