On the 538 political podcast yesterday, after the US election result, presenter Jody Avirgan sounded stunned. In the immediate aftermath of the result he and his panel were struggling to make some sense of what had just happened. At one stage someone said that on that morning half of all Americans were waking up feeling that they had lost something. Too right.
Here’s the thing, if the result had gone the other way, half of all Americans would be waking up feeling that they had lost something. See the problem?
I watched Jonathan Capehart, renowned Washington Post journalist, break down in tears on the Channel 4 news. My social media feeds were and are filled with incredible emotion and shock. And not a little anger. Like many, I am astounded that anyone could cast a vote for Donald Trump. The same was true in the Brexit aftermath. How could anyone vote for the exit? But that there is part of the problem. I simply can’t grasp the thinking of the other camp.
Now I have spent my whole working career, that’s nearly 30 years and counting, working with marginalised groups and communities. I like to think I understand, can emptahise, will advocate. But with these two votes I learned I am actually one of the liberal elites.
And that the politics of the zero sum gain has failed.
I feel for my American friends, many of whom seem angry, confused, hurt, or fearful today. I understand that. I felt much the same in June. But what I think we may need to do here is recognise that what we are feeling today, is what the other side has felt for a time too. Can we learn empathy from this and find healing? Rather than labelling our political opposite as stupid, uneducated, racist, misogynist, or arrogant, disconnected and distant and so on, maybe we all need to address the log in our own eye before calling out the speck in the other’s.
We Christians are called to stand with those on the margins. In the book of Hebrews the writer says,
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.
The outsider-suffering and alienation of Jesus is our model. We go outside to those people who are being crucified every day. We stand with them and we meet Jesus out there already with them. We don’t ‘bring’ Jesus, we find him there. Maybe we have been on the inside so long that we don’t even know that Jesus has moved on.
For the margins are constantly moving. And we must constantly be looking for those who find themselves there. The Brexiteers and the Trump voters, by their electoral success have now created a new marginalised group and deepened the alienation of some of the more ‘traditionally’ marginalised groups. It just happens that added to this group now are those with white skin, an education, and a little money. Maybe all is not lost if elites like me can learn a little bit about being an outsider. I might even meet Jesus while I’m here. And likewise, if those who now find themselves on top of the heap can remember what it was like when they were pushed to the edge.