A few weeks ago, I visited Mother Emmanuel Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina. It is the site of a terrible act of violence, a gunman who killed nine people who were there for bible study. The minister addressed us, sharing their reaction: tikkun olam, heal the world. It’s God’s challenge to us, to make the world better. The minister told us about the decision they made that day, when faced with the question of how to respond to so much hate, so much violence, this act that been conceived from the darkest part of the human soul, and designed to tear them apart. He asked, how does one counter darkness? With light. How does one counter hatred? With love. And so that day, they fought back by wrapping their arms around each other and by inviting the community to share their grief.
When I woke up this morning to the election results, I was in shock. Deeply disappointed and sad, numb, dumbfounded. I see Donald Trump as representative of the worst parts of us, the dark parts of our soul; he’s a divisive minsogynst, a racist, an elitist. I simply could not fathom how he could possibly win the Presidential election. How could so many smart, good people vote for him? Because, you see, they did. His supporters are not all a bunch of dumb hicks; they’re you and me. They’re teachers and lawyers and mechanics. They cross every segment of society. And they’re not all wearing “Make America Great Again” baseball caps…and they could be living next door, or be the person who held the elevator for you this morning, or who let you cut in front of them in traffic. They are everywhere, and they are us.
My daughters were angry and sad and disillusioned this morning, and even more so when they came home from school. I struggled to dig up an explanation that would be authentic and also make them feel better, and so we began to talk about tikkun olam. Healing starts here, now, with us. We will seek grace, and act with compassion. We will be an example of the best parts of ourselves, and will fight darkness with light, and hatred with love. We will double down in support of our community, and look for opportunities to be kind. We will accept the results of the election, and will respect the office of the presidency. We will wrap our arms around each other, and around our community, and we will have faith. We will not allow this divisiveness to divide us; we will push back with an embrace.
Gandhi advised us to be the change we wish to see in the world. I know the change I wish to see, and it will start here, and now. Heal the world. Be the change.