Don’t worry: it makes my stomach turn, too, the near-reality of a Donald Trump’s presidency. Sometimes I clutch my sovereign uterus and say some preliminary goodbyes. This polarizing fear of Trump and his radically violent policy plans is not resident in only me. It’s everywhere, among all of us, at Kalamazoo College and beyond. And it is nearly as damaging as what we are actually afraid of.
In place of fear, or anger, or moving to Canada, I propose compassion.
We don’t have to side with Trump, or politically sympathize with him, or in any way vindicate his skewed values. Having compassion for someone doesn’t mean their flaws or failures are justified. Having compassion means seeking first to understand. Having compassion means believing that the best is possible. Even if that hasn’t always worked in the past.
Compassion is how I survived growing up in my bright-red hometown, where now the Trump signs in people’s driveways are about as populous as pine trees. This includes my own neighbors. My teachers. My coworkers. My friends. Compassion is how I return to a county filled with Trump’s supporters. Compassion is how I love them, despite it all.
Supporting another candidate with a different agenda doesn’t make me better or smarter or more worthy than these neighbors and friends of mine. Their belief in Trump is rooted in their reality. My support for Hillary Clinton is rooted in mine. Rather than separating myself, I choose compassion.
If Donald Trump is elected as the next President of the United States, then what our nation will next require is a revolution in compassion. We must hold the hands of our enemies, of our racists, our sexists, our perpetuators and perpetrators of abuse. We must claim them, as well as our social justice activists, our volunteers, our doers of good. We must have compassion and let it guide us forward. We must ask why. We must ask how. We must go from there.
I don’t mean we should tolerate violence. I also don’t mean we should exile those with beliefs apart from our own. Instead, we must have compassion for our differences and how they came to be and why they persist in dividing, hurting and sometimes killing us.
I charge the Kalamazoo College community to have compassion for this election and its candidates. I charge us to stand, sit, or dwell at the hems of justice and peace, and, rather than to let our sometimes violent differences divide us, work to understand and build bridges between them. I charge us to have compassion.