Our nation is set to welcome Donald Trump as President tomorrow, and everything in me mourns- not because I fear him but because he’s become a catalyst to unleash the ugliness within.
I felt concussed most of November trying to sort through what had happened. I felt betrayed by those who share my faith, scared for those whose well-being and lives were being threatened because they were seen and labeled as outsiders. I was despairing and felt hopeless that a nation that boasts of progress is still so backwards.
I can no longer look at people the same way. Now when I see a white person, I wonder what they think of me, what they see. Do you see me as a person, a fellow citizen, or do you see me as a threat? Does my very existence, my presence in the neighborhood we share, bother you? And behind all the doubts, all I want to know is: Are you with me or against me?
I watched Obama’s farewell speech the only way I knew I could- alone with a box of tissues and a cup of hot tea. I was expecting to be inspired, to hear him call us to justice, to get me riled up and ready to face what’s to come. But his speech wasn’t a fiery sermon. It didn’t get me on my feet shouting hallelujahs and amens. Instead it was a heartfelt reflection of where we are and how we can move forward from here, and though it was inspiring, it made me wonder if having hope in people is too naive.
For most of my life, I trusted what my teachers, doctors, and parents told me. They were the authority figures in my life, who I assumed always knew the right answer, the right way, the right truths. But life showed me that adults are human, that ignorance blinds, and that power can be used for evil. It seemed wiser as I got older to question everything, to keep my guards up and even fists up just in case the other side caught me unaware and knocked the air out of me.
So being hopeful turned foolish to me, and since November I’ve swung mostly toward anger and disgust, fear and cynicism. It seemed pointless to put my faith in the idea of “our” nation, “our” people anymore. I settled into cynicism, and slowly it hardened me, threatening to kill any inkling of hope I might have had left. Cynicism made me want to give up and give in, to fall in line head down and follow the leader for the next four years or (God forbid) more.
But then Obama gave his farewell. Though I was cynical at first, the hope in his words lingered in my heart for days, and it wouldn’t let go of me. It took root and began to soften what cynicism had calcified.
The words of the prophets and psalmists comfort and inspire me the most these days. They cried out to the Lord for deliverance, for righteousness and justice to prevail, for rescue to come, and I think about the years, decades, and generations that passed with the Israelites not receiving the answer to their prayers. I think about their lament, their anger and grief, and I can feel their ache. I understand it more now. Nothing new is happening today that hasn’t happened before in history. So we look back and see all those who came before us both in our country and in our faith legacy. We read their stories, soak in their spirit of grit, and become empowered to persevere, to stand up, to sacrifice.
One day, evil will lose and good will win even if all hell breaks loose today. One day, rescue will come. One day, every knee will bow to the One who is a refuge for the oppressed and a stronghold for the weak. One day, justice will be for all people. My hope isn’t in us. My hope is in that one day that is promised to come.
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