Dear Reverend Billy,
I can’t wait for the election to be over, hopefully with Trump being trounced so badly we never hear from him again. But then I see news reports that the election could be dragged out for weeks or months with prolonged vote counting, lawsuits, protests and counter-protests. Ugh! When can we become a semi-normal country again? Four years of this is enough.
Upper West Side
What you want to return to, the way it was before? – WE CAN’T GO BACK, REBECCA! That wasn’t “normal” then and won’t be now. After all, that paradise you are nostalgic for was the world that created Trump.
You want to return to the semi-normal country again. Remember that we live in the bizarre and violent world that uses $400 billion a year in advertising to persuade us that all of this is normal. We are immersed in seductions. Thousands of products are singing to us that our lives are normal. They dare us to be unhappy.
And we are persuaded. The permanent wars — that’s normal. The murderous police — normal. Racist landlords killing neighborhoods — normal. Meth despair and death — normal. Suicides among vets, teens, native peoples — normal. Accelerating extinction around the world — normal. Trump — normal.
• • •
When I look back on the past four years one of the things that most disturbs me is that Trump has maintained the support of roughly 40 percent of the country no matter how badly he has acted. What kind of person is drawn to Trump? Or even worse, what kind of person knows he’s a vile human being but still supports him despite their misgivings? Will more than
a few of them ever change for the better?
Most of your letter is exactly Trumpian. The intolerance of fundamentalism is on display. But I will address the one word in your letter that is compassionate, reasonable, imaginative and healing… and that would be “Perplexed.” If we are truly confused, then we should go further into it — relax into the contradictions that baffle. Now we can change for the better.
The election is scheduled to create a nation of bitterness. The losing half will be bitter, and the winning half will be bitter. We will be talking like your letter, but without the window of fresh air that you opened when you signed off with “Perplexed.” But over the coming months we as a community, the United States — we will need to see clearly the systems of hatred that we have inherited and change. We have to give ourselves a break. We have lived in myriad forms of forced labor, from the old Chosen People to the latest technological chauvinism.
I believe that we will realize this in the next months. We’ll be at the edge of the cliff. We will look down into our death, and we’ll step back and look at each other. We will make a choice, to bring humor and music back to our national commons. We are definitely taking it to the brink, but let’s remember that this is where we always were, with the violent suppression of perplexity that raised us from childhood. What is more truly evil than the idea of the chosen people? … The greatest nation and greatest species and gender and race … We have been raised with forces of judgment in us that have to arouse compassion.
We are good people, if only we take our perplexed self all the way, till we are laughing with each other, touching each other.
Reverend Billy is pastor of the Church of Stop Shopping. Have a question for the Reverend? Just email email@example.com and unburden your soul.
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