America’s citizens are divided, nearly split down the middle when it comes to politics, our perspective on any number of issues and the current president. Red and Blue States, there are no signs of anyone waving a white flag. No signs of surrender. No middle ground, there are only two sides. Pick one.
Some persons find it hard to think of Donald Trump as president and he is called “occupant of the White House” or “45.” So disgusted with his behavior or unable to get over one offense or another, they won’t even say his name. I don’t even have a name for how disappointed I am in American politics and the leaders of it. I thought they knew better and better than me, that in the end, they would do what is best for you and me. I was very naïve but am no longer. The curtain is down and the veil removed. I see what’s going on here.
What is most troubling for me is Trump’s continued support among so- called “white” evangelicals and the absence thereof from African Americans. The Hill reported back in October that “an overwhelming majority of black voters (that is, 85 percent) back any 2020 Democrat over Trump.” I am not interested in why these persons continue to support him as I have heard the reasons, which include the appointment of conservative judges and his pro- life position. They held their nose and voted for him—though they told their friends they wouldn’t. The reason and not the way in which America is divided is the problem. And by this, I don’t mean a neat little “us versus them” race problem but what is underneath it.
This is not about sides or parties. This current state of politics is about change, what that looks like and means for many Americans, namely European Americans who identify as “white.” It has been argued that Trump’s election was in response to the first African American president, Barack Obama’s, election. For some, that was too much change. There was a need to reclaim the American narrative and the image of white identity as supreme, which is why Trump’s questions around Barack Obama’s citizenship was so popular. It was called “white lash” by some political commentators.
I would argue that Donald Trump has called into question most if not all of the positive stereotypes associated with socially constructed white people, that is they are innately good, honest, kind, pure, smart and the like. While Barack Obama has turned all of the negative stereotypes associated with socially colored black people on their head. If you are not convinced, judge them by the content of their character and not the social coloring of their skin and then get back to me. I thank them both for this as they have done more to shine light on the absurdity of these racialized identities which assert social worth and contribution based on physical attributes.
The election of Donald Trump reminds me of churches that have had a long- tenured pastor. For Americans, it has been hundreds of years of socially colored white presidents. The members know who they have been and are afraid to even discuss the changes in their congregation or the community outside their doors. The same is true for America as persons complain, “They are taking our jobs!”
As with multicultural churches, persons are comfortable with the diversity in America so long as the president is European American, so long as they are the leaders. I would argue that this is plantation politics, that it maintains the positions of master and slave. As long as the socially colored white people are in charge, they are comfortable with the presence of other cultures. But, when the numbers change and European Americans are no longer in the majority as will soon be the case in America, then there is anxiety around identity and belonging because who are we if we are not in control? There is a desire to preserve their history and to champion the past as perfect. Everyone needs to just “go back to where they came from” and all will be right in their world.
This is why America needs an interim president. We are simply not ready to call another one. Americans are too afraid and too angry right now. This is the wrong combination of feelings when making any decision but it is certainly true when electing a president. When persons will vote for anyone but Trump or consider candidates “the lesser of two evils,” it is time to sit down and not talk about who the candidates are but who we want to be as Americans.
We have not come to terms with our history when there is still debate about the meaning of Confederate monuments in public spaces. We are not in a position to discover our new identity when there are Americans who believe we need to make America great again, which some hear as a call to return to a past that was unjust and unfair to African Americans. We will not allow for new leadership changes when the majority of leaders in the current administration do not reflect the citizens which they are called to serve. We cannot renew our relationships to institutions that have double- meanings, send duplicitous messages and whose work is rendered on a sliding scale depending on the kind of American present. We will not find our new selves in a new president.
If we are to continue to call ourselves the United States of America, then this divisiveness cannot continue. To be sure, we have never really been together—master and slave, black and white, Northerner and Southerner, Confederate and Union soldier, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative. Like most multicultural churches, we like the sound of diversity, unity and inclusiveness. We can share a pew or a workspace but then go to our separate corners of the community. We want to believe that we love everyone, that we are a Christian nation, that America is the promised land while seemingly ignoring the separation of church and state, the attempted genocide of the indigenous people of the land, American slavery and its progeny, Japanese internment camps and the cages at the border, used to house immigrants in search of refuge.
Trump didn’t get the majority of the votes. Most congregations require two- thirds, seventy- five percent of the vote before they will call a candidate as pastor. Anything lower is not a consensus and is likely to split the church. The same is true of America.
When Trump campaigned for the presidency, a good number of people didn’t like what he had to say. The cultural representation of persons who attend his rallies is telling and it should be troubling. But, it’s not. If there was hope that Americans were finally coming together under the former president, Barack Obama, that has been stomped out now. It is all for one and one for all segment of America.
And I, for one, would like to call for a timeout now. I don’t want to vote for a president. We haven’t done the work needed to call the next leader of America and we need an interim period to do it. Otherwise, America will need to close its doors and its mouth, touting itself as the best and the strongest while appealing to its basest and weakest self.