When Trump came to power in the Republican Party, I knew I had a choice to make. I knew who Trump was and what he represented; the worst aspects of white America. Entitled, lawless, selfish, consumed with lust for the things of the world, and everything I had tried to think I wasn’t was embodied in the person of Donald Trump. I wasn’t like him! He didn’t represent me and “real conservatives.” We are good people, I told myself. As my illusions have been stripped away this past year or two, I have become conscious of the true depth of our predicament and my own enabling role in what has happened.
Rick Wilson wrote the book, “Everything Trump Touches Dies,” which has been shortened to #ETTD, an enduring hashtag on Twitter. The truth is, even those of us who have fought Trump the hardest have been touched by him. Some of us fought off his assault, and some of us froze and let him, some of us invited him in and revelled as he defiled us and others. The truth is, all of us have been touched. The question is, will we die? Will we pull together and cast off the evil that has overwhelmed us? Is it too late to heal the deep wounds that have been self-inflicted on the body politic? The defiling and desecration of the capital was the physical representation of what has been spiritually happening for the last five years. The breaking forth of white supremacists and their hateful bile spilling out into the sacred places of public trust, defiling our public offices, and wounding the soul of the nation parallels what has happened in the hearts and minds of our citizens. It is clear for all to see if they will open their eyes.
And still many refuse to see it. The Republican Party has been poisoned. That poison has been distributed throughout the nation into our churches and schools; our homes and families. Perhaps forgiveness is the path Christ wants me to take, but I am loathe to put my foot on that path until I have fully processed the trauma of what has happened to me and the deep feelings of betrayal and disillusionment I feel. To deny the reality of the awful state of the church is sin to me. It is up to the leaders of the church to address the poison within it and I pray that they can. It is up to them to make it safe for me and others who suffer from the sins of this plague of disinformation and sin. I will retreat into the core of my own soul and rebuild the shambles of my own belief system.
I wrote a few days ago a post called, “Confession.” I am exploring and reflecting upon my fears of black people; fears that had been seeded and nurtured by bigotry. Bigotry I had mistaken for culture; a culture I needed to learn to operate in and survive in. Perhaps that was true fourteen years ago when I moved into an apartment complex full of beautiful black faces. I wasn’t afraid of them until white people told me to be. I learned fear. But today I can choose to unlearn it.
Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday. I thought about the schema I have erected in my mind about the civil rights movement, the red scare, the position of my church on black members and hundreds of other interactions I have had with black people since I moved to the south. I remember my dad telling me about his mission in Virginia and South Carolina where he saw horrible racist attacks on innocent black victims. He said one experience that stood out in his mind was when he saw two well dressed black women walking down the road in the rain. A car drove past and purposefully swerved into the gutter to splash the women. He told me he would never understand the kind of hatred that would inspire that kind of behavior. He said the black people he met were always kind to him as a missionary. He was not allowed to preach the gospel to them.
As a girl I read every book from Ezra Taft Benson I could get my hands on. His words spoke into my mind as though he was there next to me. His warnings about communism and socialism awoke in me a fierce desire to protect my nation and bring freedom to those who suffered under communist regimes. I read about his trips through the iron curtain to meet with members who lived there. His commitment to the principles of freedom inspired me. He lit a flame deep within my soul to fight for freedom all the days of my life for every child of God under heaven. Ezra Taft Benson didn’t say much about the civil rights movement except that communists had tried to take advantage of the racial divides in the nation to overthrow the government and institute communism.
I had always viewed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with ambivalence. I felt like I needed to respect him, but not too much. I couldn’t be a liberal. I think I read his “I Have a Dream” speech in school and I liked it. I thought he wanted to heal our racial divide and I wanted that too. After all, the communists couldn’t use black grievance to overthrow the government if the black people aren’t grieved. It was my view that black people just needed time and patience and that eventually they would integrate as other cultures have into the fabric of America.
Moving to the South I have seen that it just isn’t that simple. Segregation still exists. The schools are integrated, but more often than not, there is a divide between black and white. Black people in our community talk differently, interact differently, and worship at different churches than white people. Even at work, my husband seemed not to work with very many black people. I’ve encouraged my sons to be kind and accepting of all people who are different. I’ve tried to be an example of friendship and compassion. But I see that there is more I can do.
The Savior wants me to look forward and not obsess about my sins which he has paid for. He also wants me to face the uncomfortable truth and change to live in accordance with it. I bought the book Strength to Love by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I think perhaps if I listen to him and others who brought the civil rights movement into existence, that maybe I will have some subjects to talk to black people about. Maybe if I take the time to see Dr. King’s vision, I can see myself in it and find a new path to Zion.
The end of one road is always the beginning of another one. The Savior tells me to keep the faith and put one foot in front of the other, like my ancestors did as they crossed the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. I have a dream that one day I will sit down with the suffering and feel the embrace of true fellowship. I have a dream that one day I can be surrounded by people who value and love me. I have a dream today.
They have rights who dare maintain them; we are traitors to our sires,
Smothering in their holy ashes Freedom’s new-lit altar-fires;
Shall we make their creed our jailer? Shall we, in our haste to slay,
From the tombs of the old prophets steal the funeral lamps away
To light up the martyr-fagots round the prophets of to-day?
New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth;
Lo, before us gleam her camp-fires! we ourselves must Pilgrims be,
Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly through the desperate winter sea,
Nor attempt the Future’s portal with the Past’s blood-rusted key.
The Present Crisis by James Russell Lowell