The rain pounds the windows, heavy and insistent. Today, it really feels like November, the wind whipping wildly about the hostel. In a few minutes, however, the massive black cloud dissipates and blue skies appear as rays of sun warm my face and shoulder through the panes of glass. The wind shifts again and the light fades and rain returns even stronger. Every moment it changes; it feels chaotic. I am glad to be inside, settled on a cushy sofa, dry and cozy.
I head back to the US in three weeks. It has been surreal to be here on a tiny island in Scotland while I have watched a similar storm sweep over the United States these past weeks. It too, has been wild and chaotic, angry and destructive. In the past, I have never engaged in politics. Never. Ever. At all. I always equated politics with anger and shouting and soap box speeches; never spirited discourse or healthy discussions where differences of opinion could be aired and talked through with respect. I remember being very young when I decided I wanted nothing to do with politics and deduced that if I didn’t know anything about them, then I could never be pulled into those horrible arguments that seemed to permeate the political world.
When I left Portland last fall, I was thrilled with the timing. I thought 2016 would be a great year to be away from the US. I wouldn’t have to hear the campaign announcements or the debates or who said what to whom and what accusations each candidate would use to denounce the other. Perfect, I thought. I can avoid the whole thing. As you can imagine, I wasn’t able to avoid anything. Everyone I encountered on my travels would ask me my opinion. The expressions on their faces spoke volumes. How could this be happening? I had no answers. As the election grew closer and the GOP actually chose Trump to represent them, I was as shocked as anyone else. The questions grew more insistent. How could this be happening? I still had no answers. I cast my overseas vote electronically and went to bed, feeling relaxed and confident that America could not possibly vote in a man who stood for such deplorable things as racism and misogyny. America would not vote in a man who’s entire campaign was fuelled with hatred and fear. I unexpectedly woke up at 6 am Scotland time and decided to check to see if the results were in. They were. I was dead wrong. America would. America did. My heart raced and tears came to my eyes. I was a world away from the epicenter of this quake, but I could feel the ground move as I lay there in the dark.
Now, after a week of reading articles and commentaries, I understand a lot more about why so many Americans voted for Trump. I don’t know what it is like to be them. I haven’t lived their story or walked in their shoes. What I do know, nonetheless, is this election has brought a lot to the surface that has been buried for a long time. Deep and profound anger, resentment and bitterness are being expressed in hurtful and vicious ways. It is boiling over, spilling over, spreading fear and divisiveness like a plague.
This election, however, is also causing those that would normally keep silent, to find a voice. They are finding their voice to express that they will not be complacent and passive. To express that they choose to celebrate diversity and the beauty of our differences, knowing that all human beings deserve to be treated with respect. To express that they choose to stand in love, not hate.
The above painting is of my favourite view of the Isle of Mull as you walk north on Iona’s only road. The weather changes so rapidly, I had to use a photo to capture the light. I love walking past this view every day. Every few moments the movement of the clouds cause the light to shift and change, and the blues of the sea and sky change with it. Some days the clouds are so dark that Mull disappears altogether, blanketed beneath slate gray mist and rain. That day the sea was azure, deep and heavy, in contrast to the sparkling silhouettes of Mull, looking rose-gold across the water. The light was ethereal, all the more magic and mystic set against the dark shadows that covered the south end of the hill. It took my breath away. It was stunning.
In this moment, I am reminded that light is always more powerful when it is viewed in contrast to the dark. In this moment, those of us who are normally silent realise we all need to shine our light to beat back the darkness; to beat back the storm. I cannot look away and ignore what is happening, as much as I might want to avoid conflict and confrontation.
Tonight I want to echo what many have already expressed. We must choose to lean into the gale. Even as we hear the howl of the wind, we must not be paralysed by fear. We must refuse to be knocked off course by hate. Each of us, in our own communities, in our own small and big spaces, must be ambassadors of love and of hope. I am convinced that with all of us working together, the light will be stunning. So lean in, my friends, lean in.