I am scared.
|Elk City Lake State Park Trail Crossing, Kansas, November 4th, 2016|
There you have it. Probably high school kids, but the swastika was still there on November, 10th. Less than six months ago I was standing on the top of Mt. Everest in very cold conditions, with an awareness of the risk, a fear of the danger, but I was not scared. I’m thinking of leaving the country. New Zealand maybe? I’ve never been. My company has an office there. In the time I’ve been writing this, two friends sent me links to New Zealand resources and several for Canadian immigration information. The only two other countries I really have felt like I could live were Germany and Brazil. Although, I really should explore Central and South America more. Even Rwanda though would have great start up business costs, and I already have connections there. I don’t mind a little corruption, I believe everyone is evil (you might call them sinners), and I realize that politics is frequently ugly… but this is the most dramatic I have ever seen.
I understand working people and Christians are mad at the establishment. Gay marriage and abortion seem to be thrust upon us, and it’s hard to find support in the Bible for those things. As Christian congregations shrink and the media celebrates sin, it is easy to feel like our country has “left God”, regardless of whether it ever actually followed God. While I don’t think that Christian would be the best way to describe our country throughout history, I am a Christian, and I feel Christians build bridges of love, not walls of war. I have been comforted recently by the Bible story of Jesus being asked which are the greatest commandments, and him answering that first is to love God, and second to love your neighbor, and the entire law hangs on those two. That story is recorded in Mark 12, Matthew 22, and Luke 10. Loving God is something that cannot be measured by other humans, however, loving your neighbor is something that often is visible. I am struggling to see the love in our new President Elect. I really struggled to see Obama as a Christian, with his liberal interpretations of love, and I never voted for him, yet I did vote for Hillary. However, I do feel in part like the pharisee, the hipocrite with my own problems, the one who doesn’t share God’s love with others nearly often enough. All Christians need to take this opportunity to share God's love with others rather than deepening the hate. I'm seeing Christian Trump supporters on Facebook demeaning people and spouting vitriol. Christ didn't rub his authority in the Romans or the Jews faces, he sometimes said nothing.
I understand why people voted for him. It’s about change. It’s about wiping away abortion, which is something I am passionate about getting rid of too. I was a one issue abortion voter less than a decade ago, but I realize now you really do have to answer the question: what do you do when it’s illegal? Do you jail the women, the doctors at the inevitable black market clinics, what about women that go to Canada for “vacation”? How do you deal with the coat hanger self abortions?
A common theme I have heard from Trump supporters is that he will bring back jobs, and they mean those high paying, not college educated jobs, like in a factory at $25+ an hour. THOSE JOBS AREN’T COMING BACK. For two reasons, automation, in the not too distant future, many factories will be “lights out” factories, and second, in textiles you can’t compete with people making $0.21 per hour. Taxes on clothing in the United States just will not get high enough to offset the cost of people getting paid a quarter of a dollar an hour. As a concrete example, I spent the last five year in Dubuque, Iowa. At that factory’s peak in the 1970s they employed over 7,000 people. Today they employ around 2,500, and produce just as many machines. Those 4,500 factory jobs aren’t coming back to Dubuque, Iowa. Now I live in Montgomery County, Kansas, which in the last few years has seen the closure on an Amazon distribution center that I drive past every day, and a local hospital, not to mention the closest liquor store. The county population has declined from over 51,000 in 1930, to a little over 35,000 in 2010 while the USA total population has gone from 123 million to 308 million in those same 80 years.
There are jobs available, but you aren’t going to want to hear this, they are lower paying, and more labor intensive. My first job out of college, with a masters and bachelors degree in engineering, was working for $7.25 an hour for my uncle in Minnesota and living in my grandparents basement. It was depressing, but more importantly, it was the humbling I needed. I like to think highly of myself. Sometimes I joke I have trouble fitting my big head through doors. It’s a problem of mine, and while I now might think higher of myself for starting at $7.25 an hour with two engineering degrees, I don’t take my success for granted because I have been humbled. Which is to say, if you want a better job, get an engineering degree, even if it takes you seven years because you ain’t so good at school. The more skills you have the more employable you are. Life is hard. Now, I’m closing in on making $100k a year, I’ve climbed Mt. Everest, I’ve traveled around the world, I’m starting my private pilot’s lessons, I’m a USATF national champion and ran on Team USA at the world championships. What have you done to improve your situation? Do you want a better life? Do you want to make America great again? YOU HAVE TO WORK FOR IT! No politician is going to hand you a great job.
Many Trump supporters say they voted against Hillary. Yes, she certainly had some issues. Her email server at her house was a bad idea, and there were some donations to the Clinton foundation that were shady, but they are disclosed. Trump hasn’t disclosed any of his taxes. Trump is due in court in California for a fraud case against Trump University, in late November. I believe that’s the first time a president elect has had a court date between being elected and taking office. Since his kids will be taking over the family business, there will obviously be discussion of travel plans and why people are traveling and what they are up to, probably causing a conflict of interest, is that illegal for a US President? I know my company would fire me if I didn’t disclose a conflict of interest, but then again, I’m not the guy that appoints the guy to investigate me. Maybe conflicts of interest, and double dipping, really isn’t that bad?
Bullies… I have been on both sides of bullying. I have stood there as the short one, the derogatory “smart” kid, the last one picked, and told I have a funny face, daily for weeks. When you get to the other side of bullying, where you aren’t the one being bullied, it’s so easy to stand on the side line and laugh at the victim, instead of standing up for the underdog, and that’s where my fear comes from. I’ve been bullied, and I’m a runner, not a fighter. When the situation gets bad, I run, I don’t fight, and I think a lot of females and minorities feel similar to how short little Isaiah does. Which is to say, for all of the white males, and handful of white females, I have seen on social media calling for people to calm down, just be patient yourself, people will calm down.
Here is where I am asking for your help. Please pray for our President and President-Elect, and pray for the people of our country, that we would have peace, because I don’t feel safe. I feel like our country just said that racism, bigotry, and sexism are okay. I know that that is not actually what happened in this vote, but it FEELS like it is. For those of you that are around me, please encourage me and tell me of the many ways that he is not authoritarian. Please tell me of the actual specific ways he is going to make the USA great. Beyond my own fear, encourage women and minorities to not be afraid. Rape culture took a big step out of the shadows this past week, at least in the eyes of many women, who are the people it matter most to. If I was a Muslim woman in the USA right now, I would be terrified.
As a note to Trump supporters, people do change their minds and their habits… but it takes about 18 months or so. Which is to say, there are millions of antagonistic liberals right now, but when America is great about this time next year, you can call them on their negative skepticism, and hopefully most will admit at that point, yes, they were wrong. Mike Rowe had a worthwhile read on the election, there are jobs out there, people want better jobs, they are going to need different skills than they have.
People have been bashing the “losers” who have mentioned moving to Canada or New Zealand on social media. First of all, as I mentioned above, people are legitimately afraid, myself included. Second, the vast majority of people in the USA immigrated here or their ancestors did in the last 400 years. The world has reached a level of development where you can move to a country that is not the biggest economy in the world, and still have a high standard of living. It is only natural that people will move out of the USA. In fact, net migration between Mexico and the USA was 140,000 people that left the USA and went to Mexico between 2009 and 2014. In the years 1995-2000 we had 2.27 million Mexican come to the USA, and already 2005-2010 there was a net loss of 20,000 people to Mexico. Which is to say, Mexicans aren’t streaming over the borders any faster than Mexican-Americans are going to Mexico to reunite with family.
In a way it all makes sense. The United States has always been great for me, but over the past decade I’ve felt less and less normal. I mean, I run a lot, I climb, I travel, I was vegan for 10 weeks once, and while the parking lots are often full at the trailhead, anywhere else the people are sedentary and think the USA is the greatest. I do think it is the greatest… but I don’t know any more like I used to know. So I’m thinking of leaving. Oh I probably won’t leave, that would be crazy. But seriously… The USA is headed for a recession, and who knows, maybe a revolution. At Everest this year, while blogging from Gorak Shep I met an American who had lived abroad for 8 years, the last five in Australia and he had no plans to go back, or ever date another American woman. I was somewhat surprised by his opinions. It was a new idea to me. I wrote him off as an outlier, but I have thought about that many times over the last five months and I’m starting to wonder. I don’t want to grab women by the pussy. I don’t want to shoot anyone. I like diversity, whatever diversity actually means. I don’t want to stop peaceful people from crossing boarders, especially peaceful people with money who help our economy.
When I was at Everest this spring I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a Lutheran pastor in Germany in the 1930s who stayed and tried to change Germany from the inside. He was hanged by special order of Nazi high command in April 1945, only a few weeks before the end of the war. He stayed in Germany because it was his country and as he wrote in a letter, “to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people… Christians in Germany will face terrible alternative of either willing defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization will survive, or willing the victory of their nation, and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose; but I cannot make this choice in security.” I had trouble relating to him. While I was away at Everest, Trump went from one of several Republican candidates, to the only candidate, I was stunned. I didn’t actually expect him to win. I told my foreign friends he wouldn’t win, that was ridiculous. I don’t think he’s a Christian, which is of course not necessary in a leader, but it is something I like in a leader. Of course, related to Jesus’s first law above, no one can know who is a Christian or not, yet the Pope did say people who talk of building walls instead of bridges are not Christian. For example, Trump quoted from “Two Corinthians” not “Second Corinthians”, he’s been married three times, and by his many statements I just don’t see much love for his neighbor, let alone the poor. It is said, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
As far as the New Zealand talk… I’ve actually thought about it for years, taking an expatriate assignment, and why not now? I’ve spent about six months of my life in Asia, and two months in Central America, and I’ve lived in 10 states. Not to say that I’m getting bored with the States, but I would enjoy seeing another part of the world. I'm not in a rush to leave, but as this excellent article points out, we're probably due for some conflict. Get busy living or get busy dying they say.
There are a handful of things to hope for, in his first interview as president-elect he has already walked back on talk of getting rid of the whole Affordable Care Act. I don’t really think Democrats are that divided, yes there are some different opinions, but behind a stronger [male] candidate with less baggage, and maybe a little less socially progressive, they would have won the electoral college vote too, not just the popular vote. Further more, while no one knows who Donald Trump really is, including himself, perhaps this is the whole purpose of his life, to be in office here at this moment in time. Maybe he will do well? I've prayed more for him in the last four days than all US Presidents combined in my life.
As the Black Eyed Peas said over a decade ago, “Where is the Love?” I stayed out of political talk on social media this election season, because frankly, I didn’t think Trump would win and I wanted to build bridges between different view points instead of deepening divisions. I limited my view to building bridges between existing groups, but as Adolf Hitler once said, “Words build bridges into unexplored places.” We are now in that unexplored place. I was wrong, I didn’t expect this, and I have no idea what comes next. How can we cut taxes and increase spending?