I’ve spent the last 24 hours in a daze. At 9:56pm yesterday, I incredulously texted my wife on my way out of a meeting, “Trump might win this election.” That was when the New York Times had just updated their prediction, giving him a 51% chance to secure the presidency. But even then, I didn’t really believe what I was texting. I assumed the votes would keep coming in, the states would start turning blue, and any possibility of a Trump victory would prove to be short-lived.
But, of course, that’s not what happened. Sitting on my couch later in the night, I watched in disbelief as Wolf Blitzer and John King puzzled over an electoral map that refused to turn out like all the pollsters had predicted. North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida. All red. Was this really happening? When I finally ran out of stamina and went to bed in the wee hours of the morning, the election had been all but decided. Donald Trump was going to be our next president.
Since then, I’ve spent the day in a fog of amazement and disbelief. And although I still need some time to process this whole bizarre turn of events, here’s what I know for sure: I’m sad.
Now don’t get me wrong. When I say I’m sad, I’m not talking about “my-best-friend-just-died” sad. It’s not the piercing sadness of overwhelming grief or personal loss. It’s more of a general sense of despondent heaviness. I’m just bummed out. And in trying to make out why exactly that is, I’ve come up with a few specific reasons. Perhaps you can relate.
I’m sad because I’m tired. You know that feeling when you’ve spent a long time investing emotional energy into a pursuit, and then suddenly it’s over? You find yourself in an immediate emotional vacuum, trying to adjust to a new reality. The day after Christmas. The last game of the season. Well that’s exactly how I feel right now. This election has been long. And grueling. And long. And full of twists and turns. And long. And frankly, it has worn me out. I’ve tried to maintain a reasonable, principled outlook throughout all the mudslinging and accusations, but that has taken a lot of work. And now, all of a sudden, it’s over. On the one hand, I’m happy it’s behind us. But on the other hand, it’s hard to adjust to life where infinite speculations have given way to one (surprising) reality, all in the span of a few hours.
I’m sad because many of my friends are sad. It’s not fun to hear about people close to me who aren’t just disappointed by the results of this election, but devastated. Many people are heartbroken. They feel blindsided. And regardless of how you may have voted in the election, you can’t help but feel bad for those who had so eagerly anticipated a Clinton victory, only to see it fail to materialize in the most shocking of ways. I mourn with my friends who feel a sudden sense of alienation from the country they love (and thought they knew). Van Jones almost had me in tears last night when he spoke of the pain that many Muslims, immigrants, and black families were feeling. That’s heart-wrenching. And so, naturally, I’m weighed down for those whose hopes have been dashed.
I’m sad because the church has taken a hit. Here’s a term I’m not real fond of right now: “white evangelical.” Apparently, some 80 percent of that demographic voted for Trump. And while I’m sure there were many of good reasons for that, here’s how it seems to have come across to much of the rest of the country: “White Christians are only worried about their own agenda. Who cares if Muslims experience religious persecution? Who cares if immigrants get shipped out? White Christians just want to preserve their own privilege and comfort.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not okay with that. I don’t want to be seen as little more than a self-interested voting bloc. I want the church to be known for its love and service and message of good news—not its political jostling. Unfortunately, I fear that our collective reputation has already been established. This grieves me.
I’m sad because national unity seems more distant than ever. In their respective speeches, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton called upon Americans to come together in unity. And I certainly hope this can happen. But let’s be honest: if we look at the trajectory of recent years, the divide is only getting bigger. We’re not moving toward each other in a spirit of respect and goodwill. We’re just biding our time until the next election cycle when it becomes once again politically acceptable to hurl venomous insults at each other. And barring the intervention of God himself (may it be so!), these insults will only get more and more divisive as our country descends into a state of distrust and animosity. Even as I write this, protests are taking place around the country in response to our new democratically elected leader. This is grievous to watch, and no American should be glad to see such deep-seated anger between people of different political persuasions.
I’m sad because I feel stuck. Being a political centrist is difficult. On the one hand, I empathize with my liberal friends who feel as though they’re about to watch their country march off a cliff. And on the other hand, I empathize with my conservative friends who feel as though the country has just been saved from going off a cliff. I can look either direction, and I can relate to what I see. But it’s discouraging to know that although I may relate, I don’t in any way belong. I desperately want to pop some champagne and celebrate. Or dust off some whiskey and drink away my pain. But instead I’m just awkwardly sitting in the middle, trying to make sense of another election in which I’ve had a hard time truly feeling at home. Maybe someday this will change. I certainly hope it does. But in the meantime, I’m stuck being a political nomad, wandering to and fro across a political wasteland that is neither red nor blue.
So yeah, I’ll admit it: I’m sad. You might think that’s silly and juvenile. But I’m not ashamed. After all, if Inside Out taught me anything, it’s that sadness can be a blessing. So I’ll embrace it and learn from it. But then I’ll move on from it. There are simply too many opportunities ahead—as a neighbor, as a citizen, as a Christian—to stay gloomy. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how I feel. What matters is what I do to help cultivate a peaceful, just, and unified society. Who’s with me?