Musings of an Ethnomusicologist on Unrelated Topics
I arise in mourning today. As my Facebook feed, comprised of friends from many cultures, nations, races, and religions, grows ever-populated with responses to the election, I’m faced with a common refrain: that the electorate has authorized the triumph of exclusivism in the shape of white supremacy.
My Christian faith calls me to a belief that God, creator of earth and all that is in it, breathed a blessing on every living thing and left an imprint there. When we look upon the face of the other, God is there. In the wake of this moment, I hold out hope that we might work tirelessly to uphold the sacredness of all people, educating on behalf of love, advocating especially on behalf of the marginalized, and holding our systems accountable for the myriad ways they concede the violation of other sacred bodies and beings. I hope we will listen to our dissenting Montanans and call them into relationship with those whom they fear and reject.
But today, I pray especially that we might be emboldened by solidarity, love, and vigor to embrace and uphold our refugee, immigrant, LGBT*QAI, Latinx, African American, Muslim, Jewish, disabled, and female-bodied people in our group, our families, our state, our nation, and our world: those whom Trump has named specifically to exclude and violate. May we be bold in doing the work of justice, even and perhaps especially when we face risk.
“What does the Lord require of you? To speak justice, to love kindness, and walk humbly with God.”
I’m angry, Trump supporters, most of you white Christians like me, for the ways you have chosen to sell out your fellow Americans. You have said clearly and unabashedly that you believe some lives rightfully trump others. For all your talk of patriotism, you have shown that you include only a sliver in the promises of our nation.
But I’m also sad, Trump supporters, because the segregation for which you fight has, in turn, bred this in you.
When you have known and loved someone who is Muslim and/or LGBT*QAI and/or disabled and/or an undocumented immigrant and/or Native and/or Black and/or Latinx and/or Jewish and/or chronically ill and/or a refugee and/or any other axis of other, this sense of stark division evaporates.
It takes time.
But when you share that inside joke that makes you both shoot coffee out your noses, when you plan and participate in worship together, when you stay up until three a.m. talking, when that class they taught changes you forever, when you cleaned their feet and offered a meal at the receiving end of their deportation, when you went to that concert together that you both just hated and proceeded to make fun of for the next year, when you recall those games and dances you made up as kids, when you took that vacation together where you spilled your secrets and put your feet in the ocean on another continent, when you met their families and shared that meal, when you lived under the same roof, when you made that crazy piece of music with them that surprised your sense of the bounds of creativity, when you babysat them and heard some of their first words, when she’s your sister and he’s your brother and they are amazing and beautiful, when he’s your nephew and his whole existence makes your world brighter and better, when you see their eyes light up when you walked in the room, when your eyes light up in turn—you never walk back to hate from there because hate no longer lives in you for them.
People who are different from you become grafted in you, and you begin to realize that you might miss out on the spark of the divine in any person you diminish. You can’t abide a world where they’re crammed into margins, shot dead in the street, forced back across the border into gang violence. You grieve their light confined to the darkness of closets because their light is what illumines you. Indeed, they are no longer they, for you can no longer imagine yourself devoid of them.
I’m sad because your vote shows that you never had those experiences, or you never had enough of them where they stand front and center. I see you stand in pride for the diminishment of people who, in my experiences vast and varied, burn with a glorious brilliance, and that has proven over and again to me that the diverse people of our world possess an unshakeable goodness and sacredness. I pray for you to know that the diversity is, itself, so sacred, you begin to feel that, in innumerable ways, engaging with difference gives you better access to God who is in all and through all.
I hope, for the sake of us all, that you will walk out and build relationships like these that grow and burrow into you, infuse you forever with the suture of solidarity, infest your fear with irreducible hope, overtake your hate with the love born of our greatest God, wholly Other, who surpasses all understanding.
My faith in God and in Jesus is my very breath, the orientation of most of my life’s work. Even while my relationship to God stands at my heart, God’s ways are vast and I do not claim to know God’s plan. There’s much to say about this. But, in short, I find it hard to believe that Jesus, Prince of Peace whose Kingdom is not of this world, bestows national rulers with Divine power.
That said, I do believe God will be at work during a Trump Presidency because God is always at work. God’s work, as I see it, will be to protect the vulnerable. But it has always been so.