Election Blues

This week, as I’ve processed the outcome of our Presidential election, I keep returning to my lifetime go-to Bible verse:

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.” Philippians 4:6-7

th-1I am sad. I am disappointed. I am angry.  And I think I will continue to be for awhile. After I’ve allowed myself space to grieve, I’m going to think hard about positive things I can do. In the meantime, I find things to be thankful for:

God is in charge and has a plan. Regardless of the outcome of the election, I know a gracious and merciful God is in charge. I believe there is a greater plan. With that assurance, I can choose not to be anxious and afraid.

The election is over.   During the campaign, although I had a strong opinion about who I believed the better candidate was, I increasingly chose to keep my thoughts to myself. I found social media to be a toxic environment, and even personal conversations could become confrontational, even threatening. The most disturbing aspect of this election, for me, was the rupture of relationships. I read with horror vicious personal attacks launched on social media based solely on differing political views. The tone of discourse was upsetting. It seemed difficult, if not impossible, for people to “agree to disagree” on the candidates. This election depressed and exhausted me, stressed me out, and I’m relieved that it is finally over.

The candidates’ closing speeches.  I am grateful for the conciliatory tone Trump struck in his victory speech, and I hope that his supporters follow his lead. I listened to Hillary’s concession speech, and I was astounded at her grace, strength and composure in the face of such crushing disappointment. Her charge to young women to carry on the fight was an inspirational model of determination and fortitude. I believe that, even though she fell short in her bid to become the first female President of the United States, Hillary Clinton’s legacy will include the significant advancement of women in this country.

A peaceful transition. The election has been likened to a “movement” or a “revolt.” Whether or not I agree with the direction, the electorate spoke through an orderly balloting process, and I am thankful that we live in a country where such extreme directional changes can occur without bloodshed. I am also thankful that the portion of the electorate that feels deep concerns about the outcome has the constitutional right to peaceful protest. I was almost more anxious about the immediate aftermath of the election than the election itself. It is also remarkable that we have a nation where bitter political rivals Trump and Obama have already met to discuss the transition of power amicably. My prayer is that our democratic process continues to be a beacon to the rest of the world.

Group therapy. I believe this election presents an opportunity for healing in our country.  Like a dysfunctional family, I’ve been reflecting on how poorly we’ve treated one another, how misunderstood we all seem to feel.  I pray that all sides can learn to listen to the concerns of the other, to find common ground and not turn every issue into a zero sum game. My personal challenge is to better listen to and understand those I don’t agree with. In today’s sermon, our pastor preached on Luke 21:13, which is an admonition for Christians to, in the midst of suffering and persecution, look at these circumstances as “an opportunity to testify.”  In other words, to tell my personal story, not a point-by-point argument for my opinions and beliefs. Likewise, I should be curious and open to hear others’ stories, particularly those with whom I have the most differences.  It is at that level of personal dialogue that bridges can be rebuilt.

Marijuana is now legal in California. Last but not least, though I’m not a pot-smoker, the next four years could just make me one.  (Just kidding.)

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Our Trip to Washington, D.C.

We just returned from a weekend in the Washington, D.C., area, specifically Annapolis, MD, where we experienced some of the best and the worst of our country.  The purpose of the trip was threefold, to: (1) visit our son, a Midshipman at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis; (2) attend the Navy-Air Force football game; and (3) participate in President’s Circle Weekend at USNA.  The Presidents Circle is comprised of donors to the USNA and the weekend is intended to honor, entertain and provide information to PC members.

The Tuesday before our trip to Annapolis, the federal government shut down due to the inability of elected officials to agree on a funding bill.   Subsequently, it was announced that all service academy sports would be suspended and civilian employees (including instructors) at the service academies would be part of a larger federal government employee furlough.

There have been government shutdowns in the past, but never have the service academy sporting events been affected.  I also learned that Navy uses no appropriated funds and Army and Air Force only minimal amounts to support their football programs.  Basically, some of America’s finest student-athletes who are under already enormous pressure to fulfill their academic, physical, athletic and military obligations were being used as a political football (literally and figuratively) to impose additional pressure on the partisan process. After 36-48 hours of wrangling, it was announced that the Navy-Air Force as well as the Army-Boston College games would be played.  Future academies’ sporting events, however, are still in limbo.

With all this as a backdrop, we landed late Thursday evening at Dulles airport and drove through Washington, D.C.  I was reminded of how beautiful the city is, particularly at night with all the floodlit monuments.  I feel very proud and patriotic when I visit Washington and see the Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, but this time I felt a profound sense of shame and sadness as I considered the resident stupidity superimposed on a city resplendent with beautiful tributes to our democracy.

On Friday, we participated in a full day of President’s Circle meetings.   The Superintendent of the Academy addressed us, barely containing his anger and frustration with the shutdown beneath his usual impenetrable and optimistic cheerfulness.  He reported that, for the first week of the shutdown, the military instructors were pulling double-duty shifts, covering as best they could for furloughed civilian professors. Even so, about 20% of classes were cancelled, and that number would rise to 50% if the furlough extended into the second week.  Midshipmen (who must finish their schooling in four years) that are majoring in certain areas where departments were hit especially hard by the shutdown, including Chemistry, are in danger of not qualifying for specialized degrees if the shutdown continues much longer.  It was clear that the Superintendent had spent a significant portion of his week not focused on strategic direction, but instead at the Pentagon negotiating for a football game and resources and throwing together contingency plans to provide basic needs to the Brigade of Midshipmen.  In fact, the technical crew that should have been at Alumni Hall to run the sound and media had been furloughed, so members of the Navy band were filling in.

In contrast to our experience of the bad and the ugly, we also experienced the good.   I had lunch with two female Midshipmen who refused to be discouraged by the shutdown.  They shrugged it off, expressing confidence that things would work out and, in the meantime, described how the entire USNA community was banding together to help each other, including tutoring, coaching, and mentoring.  In larger terms, they spoke of their excitement and pride at being at the Naval Academy and their desire to serve their country.  I asked about their experience being female at the Naval Academy and both found the Academy to be a more supportive environment than they had anticipated.

Saturday was game day and, as usual, my husband and I attended his USNA Class tailgate before the game.  At the tailgate I met two gentlemen – one a USNA classmate of my husband’s who had been a Blue Angel, and the other, an USAFA graduate who had been a Thunderbird.   They had met during their concurrent Blues/T-Bird tours of duty and have been fast friends ever since.  Unexpected encounters like this are what I love about visiting Annapolis. As a bookend to the Mids with their whole career in front of them, I love hearing the veterans describe with love, sadness, excitement, wistfulness, regret, but always pride, their military careers.

We put cares aside and foam ships hats on our heads and enjoyed a great game

We put cares aside and foam ships on our heads and enjoyed a great game

And then it was time for the Game That Almost Didn’t Happen.   A sellout crowd, setting a home game record, poured into Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on a beautiful balmy day in Annapolis.  We took a break from partisan bickering and all of us, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, watched the young men from Navy and Air Force play a game of football.  A game that means a lot to them and to service members around the world.  A game that likely will determine which Academy wins the Commander in Chief Trophy and a trip to the White House.  A game that should not have been used as a bargaining chip by warring factions in Washington. We watched the Midshipmen; wearing goofy yellow foam ship hats, jump for joy as their team defeated Air Force 28-10.  And in the end, I resolved that I’d like to find a way to use my time and talents to provide constructive reform to the political process in our country.  I want to support our young people in the military who are putting their lives on the line every day to protect us, and I want to support the future leaders of our country to whom we are handing a very broken world, and, mostly,  I want to feel proud again when I drive back from Annapolis through Washington, D.C., to Dulles airport.