What to do about the collateral damage

gary batchelorI am a registered Democrat. I live in Floyd County, Georgia. I have a lot of experience being on the losing side of elections. And yet I number with those who were devastated by the results of the presidential election. On the Wednesday after, I could not focus; I could not comprehend. I was discouraged in a way that I have never been after an election. I have yet to completely move beyond that discouragement.

One of the ways I try to cope is to remind myself that, had Hillary won, many who are reading this now would have felt anxiety and revulsion similar to mine.

That recognition only helps a little. I truly wonder now what is my place in this country, in my community, in my church?

So I write, in part to clarify my own thoughts, in part to try and open a door for better understanding. I will try to avoid both whining and belligerence because “I lost.”

My distress about the election is not so much that my candidate lost, but that so many people whom I know to be good and kind could view the candidates in such a different way than I do. I cannot comprehend why the many offensive elements of the Trump campaign did not disqualify him from your vote no matter what.

I would have been totally disgraced in my church and in this community had I used the crude language, bragged about sexual advances to women, mocked disabled people, or incited racial and religious prejudice. Trump did all these things. Yet large numbers of good church people overlooked his behavior and voted for him. I do believe — and must believe, in order to make sense of the outcome — that many indeed “held their nose” when they voted and still went for Trump.

We are familiar with the term “collateral damage” from watching televised war for so many years. A terrorist may be targeted in a drone strike, but innocents may also be killed. Our political process has evolved into an increasingly warlike process. The style and substance of the Trump campaign clearly left collateral damage. I fear that, in rallying his populist base, a Pandora’s Box of latent prejudices and unethical practices has been opened and will not easily be closed again.

In previous articles, I have encouraged readers to come together in conversation, to listen well, and to clearly own one’s thoughts and emotions. Now I must practice what I preach. It is easy to stereotype and to repeat slogans; it is difficult to truly understand another person. In as staunchly conservative area like ours, progressive ideas do not get a lot of attention or support. So I will now address “you” who differ with me and share some of my personal concerns and questions.

Disgusting racial, sexual, cultural and religious slurs were rampant in the campaign. They cannot be dismissed as mere media bias to make Trump look bad. Can you grasp how scary and offensive this behavior is to non-Trump voters? It is absolutely fair and understandable that Trump voters resent being called names and having it assumed that you represent the worst of Trump-ism. As you stand for your cherished values, will you who clearly do not live and talk so offensively also take a strong and active lead to reject prejudice and meanness?

Another concern has to do with “change”. I suspect there is little disagreement about the need for change that makes opportunities for good jobs, good education, and financial security. Here, I think the disagreement is more about how to reach the goal than about the goal itself. As far as cultural changes, it appears to me that “social conservative” is primarily about resisting change. So I ask the Trump alliance for clarification. Are you seeking change or seeking to roll back change?

Finally, I raise the issue of bringing us together. Unquestionably the Republican Party will dominate local, state and national political decisions. Gridlock will no longer be an excuse; you have the majority and must govern. You can implement your policies and must be accountable for the outcomes. Will you, the majority, truly rise above the partisan status quo that you so strongly rejected in electing Donald Trump? Will you seek clear and positive goals or will you busy yourself attacking enemies and settling grudges? Will you respect disagreement and seek compromise or use your power to steamroll in the very way you considered was the hallmark of the Obama administration?

I welcome conversation when we encounter one another. Let us respectfully cross tribal lines and get to know one another at a deeper level of understanding. We are a divided people who must regain a sense of common identity, respect and purpose. I truly hope that my disappointment and my worst fears will prove to be wrong. With this article I hope to put the conversational ball into “your court.” Let’s talk.

The Rev. Gary Batchelor, an ordained Baptist minister, is retired after a nearly 40-year local ministry as a hospital chaplain. He writes for the website Move

Georgia Forward and may be reached at MoveGeorgiaForward@gmail.com.

One Response to “What to do about the collateral damage”

  1. Eddie Brock, Jr. says:

    Thanks, Rev. Batchelor, for this column, which expresses my own feelings very well.

    I overheard an amusing conversation yesterday morning among Trump supporters, mentioning your column and wondering why “liberals” were now expressing such consternation over Trump’s election, when “conservatives” for the past eight years had maintained respectful silence during Obama’s terms in office. I wanted to interrupt them to explain that if they hadn’t heard complaints–and worse–about Obama, then they just hadn’t been listening; but in the spirit of togetherness, wanting the nation to come together now after the election, I didn’t say anything.

    Maybe your column will draw response from Trump supporters; I’d really like to hear–especially from women supporters–how they were able to reconcile Trump’s words and actions during the campaign with their own senses of decency.

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