She looked like hell when I answered the door. The sun was not yet fully up and a lady was knocking already. This day was not to be one for the normal rules of politeness. All the rules had been thrown out the night before, and she appeared as the embodiment of how so many felt in the immediate aftermath of the election. Confused. Disheveled. And tired. So tired. So damn tired.
She wanted something warm to eat, and fast. There was no time for pleasantries. She was not interested in small talk or even exchanging names. She was cold and tired of waiting for what I might think was a reasonable hour. Her words were rushed and her voice pierced the crisp air with a tone that said, couldn’t I just heat up a sandwich for her real quick because it had been a long night and she had been dozing at a bus stop since midnight and the only thing she had in the whole world was the blanket wrapped around her and why am I not moving toward the kitchen yet.
I fixed her a sandwich, of course, plus some fruit as well, but I’ve been answering the door for long enough to know that a little food won’t do much in the long term. That lady — I assume she was an angel, though I cannot be sure — faces really long odds in terms of securing a hopeful economic future. She knocked on the door as the elephants were wrapping up a sweeping victory full of promises — economic promises they will never fulfill, especially for her. Which is not to say that there is much reason to think that things would be different for her if the donkeys were the ones giving the parade. It’s not that there is no hope, but that whatever triumph she wrestles out will be won in spite of, and not because of, the parties that rule the day.
A second knock came while she was still eating the sandwich. A friend wanted to talk about his dream of carving out a new space for resilience and mutual support. He had just learned of an extraordinary asset that was being made available to him. “What if we build a space where love and interdependence are part of the structure?” he thought. His voice was filled with the energy that woke the sun up and started it rising on a day where you couldn’t have blamed it for staying in bed. Imagine, he was saying, that I take what is rightly mine and use it to build the common good. On a day where there was every reason to fear and to grasp onto anything and everything, especially for a black man like him, he was already dreaming dreams.
Such work of taking our own assets, our own sweat, our own security, and using them to build spaces of common wealth is what it means to be hopeful. Creating the kinds of spaces that can resist the lure of meanness and greed is precisely the work we have to do. This task is daunting, but it is not that much more daunting the day after the election than it was the day before the election. The reds and the blues have been re-sorted, but the system remains the same. Not all Pharaohs are created equal, but Pharaoh is still Pharaoh, and Pharaoh’s economic strategy is still a pyramid scheme.
I am not saying that the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was about choosing “the lesser of two evils.” Engaging in a fantasyland that equates racism, xenophobia, misogyny, bellicosity, and unbridled avarice with email servers will do us no good. I only mean that both tickets, however different, were built on the same crumbling foundations of supremacist ideology and the economics of scarcity. The outcome of the election has not fundamentally changed the work we have to do. As families, neighbors and communities of faith, building imaginative spaces where all of God’s children can flourish has always been our calling, regardless of which Caesar is in power.
What is different now is the context in which we will do the work of living hopeful lives. The vulnerability of those on the margins is only increasing, threatening bodies, minds and spirits. Health care, intelligent immigration policy, freedom of the press, and equal educational opportunity are now in jeopardy for everyone. Naked white supremacy is ascending to some of the highest policy staff positions in the White House. The environment in which this is happening is toxic, both literally and figuratively. Behavior our children would never get away with is becoming normative for adults. Fear in such a time seems quite appropriate. The world is scary.
I remember an old story told about living in a time of fear. There was One who was about to be crushed by a domination system. The old Rome (not ours, the new one) was quaking at the thought of political upheaval. There were protests and parades in the streets. The order of the day was being challenged, and so a backlash was to be expected. Following the backlash, there would be many dreadful days to come. “You will have trouble in the domination system,” the One said. “But be brave. Love has already overcome the domination system.”
The days ahead necessitate bravery, to be sure. Massive resistance is required. There are tables that need to be turned over, beginning with the desk in the Oval Office. There are walls, built and unbuilt, that must come tumbling down. There are more than a few demons yet to be cast out, and not just a few hungry lions to be faced. Our love will have to be fierce. Luckily, there is precedent for such love.
Resistance is rooted in love. It is founded in the deep imagination that we can do better for our children, and for ourselves. The kind of love that animates resistance is the love that can’t wait until the sun comes up to knock on the door and conspire about creating a more beautiful place. That love refuses to be afraid of a neighbor, refuses to be silent about state violence, and will not accept anything less than justice. That love casts out fear, regardless of the insanity of the domination system. Lucky for us, there is ancient precedent for such love.