“Trust your love instead of your fear.” I wrote those lofty words back in November, on the heels of President Trump’s election. Now, a few short days after President Trump took office, I’ve been asked whether I stand by the sentiment. Shouldn’t I be afraid for my daughter, who has an intellectual disability? Shouldn’t I be afraid for my friends who don’t fit into favored identity groups? Shouldn’t I be afraid on behalf of freedom and justice? Despite the many ways in which I disagree with Trump’s cabinet selections, executive orders, and particularly his policy on immigration so far, I continue to advocate for love as the critical agent in overcoming fear.
Trump’s policies themselves emerge out of a place of fear—fear that America is no longer “great,” fear that immigrants steal jobs and bring terror, fear that women and people with disabilities and people with different racial and ethnic backgrounds than his represent the incomprehensible and threatening “other” rather than a diverse and glorious array of beloved humanity.
We are seeing fear in action right now. It is chaotic and cruel. It is also irrational. Fear of radical Islamic terrorism on American soil has been the cause of big scary headlines, but not the cause of many deaths (According to the Huffington Post, an average of two people die each year in this country as a result of radical Islamic terrorism enacted by immigrants. 21 die due to “armed toddlers.” 69 due to lawnmowers. Over 700 due to falling out of bed. And, a number that raises its own terror: over 11,000 die due to being shot by another American.).
So if you are with me in feeling concerned about the chaos and fear in our nation right now, I want to offer a few ways to persevere in love. If you want to “trust your love instead of your fear,” perhaps you will join me in:
- Talking with our children about kindness and forgiveness and love, teaching them how to share, showing them what love looks like in action so that they will become citizens who grow up with love as their default response, even their default response to chaos and fear.
- Finding small but meaningful actions that demonstrate love towards others and love towards creation. For me, this includes actions like recycling. It includes writing emails and making phone calls to local legislators. It includes advocating for inclusion of children with disabilities in our schools.
- Challenging ourselves. As a white person in Northwestern Connecticut, it is easy for me to feel insulated from people of color, from the problems and possibilities of my neighbors who live in cities, from people in other states without the same access to health care or education. For me, this means reading books that expand my world (I recently read The New Jim Crow, which deals with problems related to mass incarceration, for example. I also have Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, about the decline of white America, at the top of the queue for books up next.) and my kids’ worlds (We just finished reading The Birchbark House, a beautiful story about the Ojibwa tribe of Native Americans). It also means I am scanning the headlines of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to try to balance my understanding of the political scene.
- Considering ways our circles of influence—family, community, work—can support love. For me, this means writing a new book to acknowledge my own privilege and how it operates and to look for ways to respond to that privilege with hope and love rather than guilt and fear.
- Praying and fasting for justice in our nation. I recently purchased a book called Praying for Justice, which offers daily passages from the Bible as a prompt for prayer. I have also joined a group which invites fasting for one meal on Mondays in order to direct attention towards prayer for our nation in general and for racial reconciliation and justice in particular. (You can join this group here.)
The political process is at work. Judges and lawyers are challenging Trump’s decrees. Individual citizens are giving money towards organizations that defend freedom (the ACLU raised 24 million dollars in the past few days—six times what it raises in a typical year!). People are protesting and praying.
Trump’s actions have shown us what fear of “the other” looks like. It looks like despotism, chaos, injustice, and pain. Now it is our turn to show what love looks like.