Now What? Election Reflections from Urban Cusp Writers
There's America as the history books speak of her. There's America as told by the prophets and freedom fighters who know the dark brutality she is capable of. There's America as experienced by a generation of youth with an African American Commander-in-Chief. And then there's the America that has yet to be seen - the one that embodies the collective ideals of her diverse citizens. This is the America that I hope we're moving closer and closer to. How, when and if we ever meet that America will be determined by we the people. We must tap into our highest selves to help this nation usher in its greatest era. That is not the work of a President. That is our job. Barack Obama may inspire and challenge us to be and do better. But he is not what we have been waiting for; we are.
Lets commit ourselves to being educated on social and political issues. Lets be mindful of our cultural diet and whether or not the images and music that we consume daily breeds apathy. Lets surround ourselves with people who will hold us accountable to being a part of the solution. Lets strategize and build coalitions around issues that matter to us the most. Lets help America be better than she has ever been before. We have the power to do it. It is already within us.
We sing. We shout. We dance. And we must work... on ourselves. This election gives the Church a mandate to reevaluate what we say that we stand for. On what would have been Dr. King’s 83rd birthday, we must reevaluate his dream that was deeply rooted in Jesus’ dream. We must ask ourselves, in light of the changing demographics of this country, can 11:00 a.m. continue to be the most segregated hour in the week? Will the world take our segregated congregations seriously? In light of the changing majority opinions on social issues, are the things we hold dear really what God holds dear? History has shown us that those outside of the church often move more quickly to God’s voice of change than we do. Once we evaluate where we stand and what we preach, we must seek to find common ground within the Body of Christ in light of our differences. I don’t expect the Body of Christ to ever be uniform but we can certainly strive to set the example to the world for how to coexist with diversity. To paraphrase President Lincoln as inspired by Ccripture, ‘a house divided cannot be prophetic.’
Mark A. Jefferson
Democracy is a brutal sport of inexact measures, flawed players, and treacherous plays. In America, it's the way our government works. For those whose candidate won, be humble and gracious because there is much work to do. For those whose candidate lost, maturity says that we work together because our collective future is at stake. This moment is not the resurrection or dissolution of America but, rather, a place where we can choose red and blue, Bloods and Crips-like, territory wars or build a future for us all. It's on us.
Voting is about sharing a narrative that connects to people. This election has demonstrated that when America looks in its mirror of its national story, there is an emerging hue of colors and perspectives that were subjugated under the oppressive history and tactics of the ardent defenders of white, male, heterosexual, theologically conservative, and hyper militaristic policies and worldviews. Opportunities bring the seeds of fear and hope. The fearful seek to retreat to invisible times of ubiquitous happiness. The hopeful embrace the future as a sign of God’s grace and seek to make the most of it. Let us all work together for the good of us all.
In his acceptance speech, President Barack Obama said, “the role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote.” Both challenge and clarion call, our newly reelected Commander-in-Chief reminded us that the real work begins. First, we must seek to heal the deep wounds division has caused. As legislators must be willing to reach across the aisle to move America forward politically, churches must be willing to meet at the cross so the nation might be reconciled and renewed.
Secondly, to maximize the moment, churches must have town hall meetings to discuss community concerns that need to be addressed at all political levels. Attend council and school board meetings, retrieve minutes from legislative sessions and press representatives to meet the community’s needs.
Lastly, churches must be willing to speak truth to power to structures of inequality that seek to deny our promise. When we woke this morning, poverty, unemployment, gang violence, chronic diseases and a host of principalities were still present. America has spoken; President Obama has been reelected. However, God is still speaking. It is, and will always be, the responsibility of the church to show the world, through its actions, what the Lord is saying.
David J. Leonard
Elections are often framed as the culmination, as the end of a long campaign season. Worse yet, elections are imagined as the pinnacle of civic duty, as the fulfillment of one’s responsibility to governance. In imagining voting and the election as the climax, we are rendered as passive spectators. Status update: “Can someone please pass me the remote, and hand me my phone while I wait for change.” The election and the campaign season has highlighted the dangers here. It was yet another reminder that changes will result from organizing, from public pressure, and from grassroots mobilization.
Just think about how many issues were erased from the two-party election: drones; foreign policy in Latin America and Africa; the war on drugs; the death penalty; divestment in public resources; state violence; police brutality; immigration; the Dream Act; global warming; homelessness; affirmative action; the prison industrial complex; rape culture; segregation; and so on. The failure to address these issues, and the focus on preventing a GOP from turning back the clock on virtually every social, economic, and cultural issue, does not move us forward.
This should move us to protect rather than dream of a more just and equal society. It not only points to the importance of organizing and collectively demanding action from the political establishment but realization that the struggle to dismantle the walls of daily and institutional violence is a fight at the grassroots level. As Zygmunt Bauman reminds us, “Democracy is not an institution, but essentially an anti-institutional force, a ‘rupture’ in the otherwise relentless trend of the powers-that-be to arrest change, to silence and to eliminate from the political process all those who have not been ‘born into power...” Tuesday was not our only day of Democratic participation; it was not our moment of power, but a reminder of where and how power will only concede as a result of “ceaseless agitation.”
Keith A. Beasley
So what does this election mean? Some will be quick, given how close it was, to dismiss its results as a call for the status quo. Almost as if the American people are saying, just let us work through the economic malaise ourselves and insisting politicians do nothing because for them to do anything is for them to do the wrong thing. But I disagree.
I think this election and the diversity of the winning coalition is a call for tolerance, inclusion and most importantly, politically, cooperation. There is a mandate associated with this election outcome and that is that our elected officials find and meet in that elusive “middle” by negotiating in good faith. Our elected officials must follow the lead of the winning majority by coming together, working together, making decisions, and legislating with consideration for all Americans, not just a few. And if particular pieces of legislation do benefit just a few such as immigration reform, the affordable care act, or the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell, then it has to be shown that they improve America as a whole and appeal to what is best about us as Americans and what is in the best interests of us all over the long term.
Today is a new day in America – and we made history, again. Prophecies, predictions, presumptions and projections were proclaimed with fervor. Some, woefully off; others, spot on. All highlighting the deep-seated beliefs that dared to tear this nation apart. Yet, regardless of where we stood on the battle lines yesterday, we must move forward together. Today. Still one Nation. Under one Creator. We are America, after all – the land of the free, the home of the brave. Brave men and women willing to shake off the dust and press forward. Ever more diligent to make the American dream possible and available to all. We can make this happen – but we will only accomplish it together. Wiser minds must prevail; hate-driven vitriol must cease. The choice between moving forward together, or being doomed to failure faces us now. But, I believe in us because it’s not in us to fail. Our destiny awaits, America. Let’s be that beacon of strength to each other and for all who call America home. Only then can we truly live up to who we are: a nation of the people, by the people and for the people that will not perish from this earth.
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