Results of election speak to the depth of our disunity

Whatever else our recent election means about the state of our nation, it has revealed the depth of our disunity. The disharmony within the body politic is almost as stunning as Trump’s unconventional success. Unless the depth of their vision is limited by an uncompromising partisanship, even supporters will have to be as concerned as anyone else about the breadth of our division, and what the angry dissonance portends for our future. In the last presidential election we were invited to consider that we are “not one America but two.” The drama brought to a climax on November 8 made it too clear that “our name is legion.” We are Native American and black and white and Latino and Asian, native born and immigrant and undocumented worker, LGBTQIA, rural and urban, educated and not formally educated, blue collar and white collar, liberal and conservative, Green Party and Democrat and Libertarian and Republican and Independent, Southern and Northern and Midwestern and East and West Coast, rich and poor, and we are secular and atheist and Jew and Hindu and Baha’i and Unitarian and Muslim and Buddhist and Wiccan and Mormon and New Age and Christian (fundamental and evangelical and mainline and progressive), and “none.” Just to name a few. My complaint has never been with the president-elect’s partisanship, but Donald Trump’s irresponsible and dangerous language frightens me. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes, has logged more than 700 attacks since the election. Black teens have been threatened with lynching, women have been groped publicly, Muslim women have had their hijabs yanked off and Mosques have been vandalized, elementary children have threatened the deportation of classmates of color – all with justifications related to the president-elect. The KKK has scheduled a “Trump Victory Celebration” for Saturday. Of course he isn’t responsible for every evil act committed in his name. He is only responsible for his own words and actions. But America won’t be great, for the first time, until we can benefit from our diversity, and no leader will be great whose words only incite angry factions. Life is more complicated than “us and them,” and our rich diversity more beautiful. I am the offspring of four native born, white, blue collar, not formally educated, southern, Christian, rural, poor, conservative, democratic grandparents. I’m proud of their brains and brawn, their faith and fortitude. Though I’ve never walked into a working textile mill or down a row of tobacco, I have glimpsed an understanding of their hard lives, the challenges and the joys – and I’m grateful they labored so I could have a different life. Those are my roots. I’m proud of them, connected to them, grateful for them – but I live in an affluent urban neighborhood in a metropolis whose pluralism looks nothing like a small southern town. I’ve benefited from 25 years of formal education and encounters with ideas, people, and places they never knew. As a result, I’m the minister of a Baptist church that also has a female pastor and openly gay members, whose identity, formed in the Love of God and the Way of Jesus, gives us a focus on social justice (not just personal righteousness) in cooperation with an interracial, ecumenical, interfaith network of colleagues. My grandparents didn’t know my world, my neighborhood, my church, my theology, but I have no doubt they would have loved – and respected me – all the same. We must learn to extend that same respect beyond the lines of blood kin. If you’re a patriot, base that respect in the fact that we’re all Americans. If you’re a historian, credit our daring constitution. If you’re a person of faith, celebrate that all are children of God. If you’re a secularist, revel in the great cosmic accident that evolved self-consciousness onto a tiny little planet in the backwater of one of infinite galaxies, and be grateful we’re at least walking through this pointless life together. Whatever it takes, we’ve got to acknowledge the humanity in each other, learn to respect all our differences. The mosaic that is the result of our daring national ideal will either lead us into a bold, new future or we will be known to history as a shattered disaster, the nation that was not great enough to hold it all together. And leadership will make the difference. (Dr. Russ Dean is from Clinton and co-pastor with wife Amy Jacks Dean, a native of Clinton, of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte.)

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