12 November 2016

Five-fifths human: My reflections on cruelty and a call for confession

Prior to the 2016 election, emotions ran high. People across the nation expressed strong feelings about their preferred candidate and why the other candidates were unacceptable, unelectable, or deplorable. People seemed at least as committed to the defeat of the opposition as to the election of their own person. We now stand five days post-election and tempers run hotter than they did in the weeks leading up to the election.

Since Tuesday, we have been the unfortunate witnesses of so much hatred and violence. Crimes against people of color, gays and lesbians, and different religious backgrounds seem much more abundant than normal, and they already occur entirely too frequently. These incidents are not only happening among adults, but are infecting our children and schools too. The KKK has been circulating and recruiting with increased fervor.

Yet, that's not all. Multiple videos have surfaced of those who have been assaulted for their stance on Trump. One heart-wrenching video of a mother emerged. She packed her elementary-aged son's suitcase and kicked him out of the house amidst his flood of tears for voting for Trump in a school election.  Flags burn. Cities burn. None other than Garrison Keillor, author of the Prairie Home Companion, wrote an article for the Chicago Tribune entitled, Donald Trump won. Let the uneducated have their day. "Don't be cruel" he urged readers--his fellow "liberal elitists"--after he had devoted several paragraphs to maligning the intelligence of who he perceives to be the uneducated Trump voters, or as he suggests, "those without books on their shelves."

My fellow Americans, this isn't okay.

In 1787, a compromise was reached between the Southern and Northern states called the "three-fifths compromise." For purposes of taxation and representation, free citizens were counted as a whole person whereas "all other persons" (in other words, slaves) were counted only 3/5. They were considered less than fully human.

Are we coming again to a place where we have lost sight that human dignity is endowed by the Creator? Are we living in a time when we deem others to be "less than human?" Thankfully, on a federal level, each person (at least each person born alive and at least on paper) is recognized as fully human. One's citizenship is not reduced due to color, creed, or character.

Sadly, as individual Americans, I am not sure that we believe in equality anymore. Recent words and actions betray our beliefs that others are less than human, that there are people less deserving of dignity, respect, and kindness than others.

Again, fellow Americans: This. Isn't. Okay.

I am calling upon all who read this to take an honest inventory of your heart. Ask yourself, which people do I think are inferior to me? Who is less deserving of my respect? Who, in my thoughts and feelings, is less than fully human? Ask yourself, does my disapproval of another's behavior end up infecting my view of them as a person deserving of dignity?

Be honest. Pretending you are sinless in this not only harms others, but it harms your own soul. Healing can only begin with honest confession.  King David reminded us that God doesn't despise brokenness and contrition (Psalm 51).

From there, please stop acting as if you are better than others. In your disagreement, seek to listen and understand. Seek to comfort and restore. And, as Tim McGraw has so recently reminded us, "always be humble and kind."

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