It has been one week since the election but ‘We the People’ has felt more like them and those people.
- Those fostering an environment of intolerance have been elevated
- Acts of hate and intimidation have increased nationally
- A synagogue in Montana (Har Shalom in Missoula, MT) was targeted with Nazi fliers
- Vandalism in our own community has increased (Burning Tree Elementary, Westland Middle School, Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Silver Spring)
- The white nationalist alt-right movement is at the center of conversation with the appointment of Stephen Bannon as a key aide to President-elect Trump.
And it has only been one week.
Psychologists have told me about deep anxiety patients are expressing. People have told me of friendships which have been strained or broken. Fellow clergy have shared they feel their years of building bridges and preaching tolerance was wasted.
I have asked Trump voters within our synagogue to describe what they found compelling about Donald Trump. Their answers focused on his ‘change agenda’, anti-Clinton feelings, and ‘pro-Israel’ policies including moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and expanding settlements.
President Trump’s election is different than past elections though. We previously had close elections (Bush v Gore). We had significant policy differences between candidates (Bush v Dukakis).
People’s despondency though seems to stem from a profound disappointment in our country allowing intolerance to win.
The Founding Fathers codified in the preamble of our Constitution:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence (sic), promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
To me, this week did not feel like we made the nation more perfect or established justice or promoted the welfare for all.
As we move forward, we cannot demonize or generalize about each other though.
For Republicans, be the important moderating voice within your party. For others, become more engaged in causes essential to you. No matter who you voted for, we must assure the policies of our next President and Congress reflect our highest values and push away hatred, bigotry and intolerance.
In our daily routines and circles of influence, we must make sure intolerance is not acceptable. Speak up if you see something. Talk with your friends, family and children about doing the same.
Our sage Hillel said: Do not separate yourself from the community. (Pirkei Avot 2:4)
So, join the broader community at a unity vigil against hate at Westland Middle School, Thursday night at 7pm.
It has only been one week… but we can already feel the tectonic shifts.