When I was a boy, I scared easily.
Haunted houses, roller coasters, horror movies – I couldn’t handle them. Most times I would close my eyes tight, cover my ears, or just walk away…hoping that what would scare me would be over soon. I hated the way I felt, and couldn’t understand why everyone else around me didn’t feel it too.
Last night, I felt like that boy again.
I got home late from a movie (try to contain your shock), and tuned into the news to see what was unfolding. At first, I thought about it being a long night…about waiting until the final penny dropped. But I’d been following your election too closely. I knew what the numbers were saying. The movie was getting very scary, and this little boy couldn’t handle it.
I turned the channel, put on an old James Bond movie, drifted off to sleep hoping that what was scaring me would be over soon.
It wasn’t. It’s not. It won’t be for a very long time.
But here’s the rub: That fear that I felt…That fear that many of you are feeling today? I realized that fear is actually a good thing. It needs to be felt. It’s what brought the world to this point.
The hate that spurred the result of your election came from fear like this. Half of your population has felt this afraid, this sad, this disenfranchised for a long time. Their fear was turned inward for too long, so when an outlet came along to channel that feeling outward, they took it. Can you blame them? Think about how you feel right now…then imagine feeling this lousy day after day…year after year.
Let the fear of today wash over you, and never again forget what it feels like.
For anyone who doesn’t support the leader that was elected last night, you have to consider your role in his election today. You have to consider what it means to dismiss those who feel afraid and left behind. You have to consider the consequence of not rallying behind a candidate because she wasn’t “something enough” (progressive enough, authentic enough, transparent enough, take your pick). You have to consider the role your media outlets played in getting your new leader elected, and the way the cherished ratings over truly holding a man accountable.
A wise woman said this year that when they go low, we go high; but there’s a responsibility with going high…you still have to reach down, and pull-up those that are stuck down low. Perhaps the lesson this morning is to recognize the heights you reach, and bring others up there too. They are afraid, the same feeling you’re feeling right now.
But no doubt, you are already considering those things and more. The last thing you need is a foreigner reminding you of where you went wrong, and why you should be afraid.
Instead, let me offer you thoughts of comfort and prayers of peace.
If unrest is coming, then let it come. No great change ever came without great struggle. What’s more, times of deep unrest have often given birth to some of the very best art. Don’t believe me? Look at the films of the 1970’s – the last time your country was as divided as it was now. Vietnam and Watergate gave birth to NETWORK, THE GODFATHER, APOCALYPSE NOW, NASHVILLE, TAXI DRIVER, THE EXORCIST, DOG DAY AFTERNOON, ERASERHEAD, and so. many. more.
Perhaps all of the incredible art to come in the years ahead will say things you want to say; only clearer, and using a much bigger microphone.
You have never achieved anything without a fight. Not civil rights, not equality, not even your own independence. The time has come for you to fight again. You will fight with each-other and you will fight with yourselves. It will be big, brutal, and bloody. There can be no ally left aside – no division between city and country, between haves and have-nots. It will take all of you working together to ease the fear.
But if I believe in anyone, I believe in you.
I believe in the idea of America – that all are created equal. That from many comes one. America is complicated and contradictory in the way that so many of the greatest things in life are. The idea of America didn’t arrive at this point without being tested by fire, and the fire is hot again.
This is the low point: the uncertainty. The feeling that this rotten feeling is just the beginning of a long, rotten feeling. It’s not though.
That boy who used to get scared so easily? What eventually got him past it was the understanding that eventually, the terror ends. Nothing lasts forever, not even world leaders. As the song says, “oceans rise, empires fall; we have seen each other through it all”.
One day in the future, things will change once again. I believe it.
I believe in America.