Somehow, it’s been four weeks.
Four weeks and one day ago, I spent my morning eagerly knocking doors in rural Southwestern New Hampshire. Things felt great – everyone we spoke to had either already voted or had a solid plan to go vote. They felt so great that when we hit a wall in the afternoon, we took a leisurely lunch – it had been a long few days, and we knew it would be hours until we ate or slept again. I spent the late afternoon at Keene State, where it seemed like every last student had already voted. The mood all day was victorious – we were about to elect our country’s first woman President. One of the most qualified people to ever run was about to win over a racist, homophobic, unexperienced television personality, and we played a part in it. When I returned to the field office, there was a table with chilling champagne bottles – the celebration was imminent. The mood was cautiously celebratory.
As time crept along, the atmosphere changed. One by one, exhausted staff and volunteers took a seat. By 11pm, the room was almost silent, save the occasional expletive. My phone was full of texts from friends seeking reassurance – things would turn around, right? They HAD to. I suddenly desperately needed to be in my own home, alongside my community. I looked at the friend (another former Obama ’12 FO) I had driven up with and asked if he wouldn’t mind heading back to Boston sooner than we had planned. We got in the car, turned on NPR, swung by McDonalds for sustenance (I gulped down a large chocolate milkshake; he left a hamburger untouched in the bag, where it sat for a few days), and drove in almost complete silence all the way back to my apartment. My roommates greeted us with long hugs and beers. The rest of the night is a blur (and not because of the alcohol). Suddenly John Podesta was on TV encouraging us all to go to bed. We hugged each other close, then crawled in bed hoping something would change overnight.
Four weeks ago this morning, I woke up, and began my morning routine of scrolling bleary eyed through email, facebook and twitter. The first thing I saw was “Say Goodbye to Obamacare”. I switched off my phone, rolled over, and heard my friend tell my roommate that it was over, Trump had won. My heart shattered into a million pieces. Somehow I got myself to Marsh Chapel, where we cried, prayed, worshipped, and held each other in our grief. I spent the next few days in survival mode. I was exhausted from the week (and month/year/election cycle), lost, hurt, angry, and scared. I had known I would require some amount of healing and recovery after Election Day (sitting out this cycle was one of the hardest – and best- things I’ve done, and I knew I had a lot to process/figure out), but never expected this. What ultimately got me through was community – former campaign coworkers, classmates at the School of Social Work and School of Theology, my family, my roommates – we took care of each other, we debriefed, we hugged, we cried, and we planned. For these people and sacred bonds, I am forever grateful.
It’s been four weeks. I feel like it’s been four years. Or four seconds. I’m still as lost, hurt, angry and scared as I was, but I’m maybe a bit less broken. I question whether I, someone who will be so much less affected by Trump’s administration than others, am even allowed to feel these things. I may be scared for my rights, but others are scared for their lives. However – I’m scared for other people’s lives too. I’m scared for my Latino brother, for my disabled brother, for all of those I know and love who aren’t straight, white, and male, as well as all those I don’t know, but still love deeply. I do have a right to feel this grief – as long as I move that grief into action. I can be here, but I cannot stay here.
The other day, a friend asked what role my faith has played over the past few weeks. Monday, my spiritual director asked where God is in all of this. My snap reaction to both of these questions is that this is faith shaking – how could God possibly be present here? How could my Christian faith, the professed faith of so many who elected Trump ever sustain me during this time?
But deeper down, my faith and the God I believe so fiercely in (or want/try/need to believe so fiercely in) have been everything to me during this time. My Christian faith is one of liberation. It is one that calls for the end of oppression, the lifting up of the voiceless, and the radical reorientation of all of our lives. I believe in a God who came to us as a vulnerable baby, born to unwed, impoverished parents in a hostile political environment.
My spiritual director pointed me to the first Chapter of Luke this week – specifically, Mary’s Annunciation and Magnificat. Mary was scared – and rightfully so. An angel showed up and said that she, an un-wed virgin, would be giving birth. And that baby would be the heir to David’s throne. Mary was scared. She was uncertain. She came around to things a bit quicker than maybe I would have, and set off to visit Elizabeth. She set off to be in companionship, because community is where we hold each other dearly. God is with us all of the time, but God is especially present in our sacred bonds. In verses 49-53, an exalting Mary finds light in the situation and gives a preview of things to come:
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
Mary sees light in the darkness. She trusts God, seeks comfort in community, and recognizes the arc of history towards justice.
I am so glad Election Day falls so close to the beginning of Advent. I need Advent so badly this year. I need this period of holy waiting – I need to embrace the darkness, but search for the light. It feels like we’re in a double waiting period. Yes, we’re waiting for the birth of Christ, but we’re also waiting for inauguration day. This is a much less hopeful waiting, it is full of fear and trembling. I have to remind myself not to set too strict of a timeline (with that whole God doesn’t work according to my schedule/I can’t control other people thing), but I’m hoping this double period of waiting will lead me to understanding, action, and, on some level, peace.
I’m scared – terrified. I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m sad. I’m ready to fight. I am a privileged, upper-middle class, white, cis-gendered female, and I know that my place in the coming years is much more secure than that of my friends, family members, classmates and beloved community. But I also know that I can use that place responsibly in order to help move us towards justice. That will involve some really hard work of listening, soul-searching, and giving up my privilege, but I’m ready.
I wish you peace, love, justice, and understanding in this time of holy waiting. May you embrace the darkness, then find the light. Find your community, hold it tightly, and get ready to fight back. This is only the beginning of what I imagine will be a long four years. It’s going to be hard, but this isn’t the first time humanity has faced such terrors – nor will it be the last.
Kate Froehlich is a M.Div/MSW dual degree student passionate about feminism, coffee, reproductive justice, politics, President Obama and ice cream. She is a proud Minnesota native and champion of snow days.