I imagine many of you join me in relief that the election is over. Irrespective of the results and your political views, and deeply conscious of the enormous consequences that follow the vote, we’re finally on the other side of an ugly campaign.
I wrote these words last week before the election. Before we knew who won. I did that because I know how truly divided we are as a nation. Partisans on both sides of the electoral divide are capable of these same responses.
Half of us grieve what feels like the loss of our values and visions for this society. Half of us celebrate the validation of our concerns and hopes. Some of us may feel both sensations. We’ve lost our empathy for one another. After the election we need to pay attention to and better understand each other and what we care about.
I wrote these thoughts before the actual vote because for more than a year we all knew that healing would be necessary after such a contentious election. The only thing I felt confident predicting to myself before the vote was how deeply divided we are as a nation. The results make this clear.
The most important thing to celebrate after this election is the ritual and sanctity of American democracy. The pride I hope we feel as we wait in long lines to cast our votes. The voting booth is the holiest place of American democracy.
It is our sacred and historic right and privilege, responsibility and opportunity, to choose our leaders. We each make our determination. We accept the verdict of the majority, as added up through the Electoral College. No matter the outcome, no matter our pleasure or displeasure at the results, as citizens we render our best personal judgments. I hope you can read in my next words that actually I wrote this last week, before the vote.
Those of us who grieve the election results may not be ready to hear this. We don’t respect the character and behavior of person who won the election. As a result, we are upset about the country’s choice and nervous about the country’s direction.
If this describes you, let me suggest responses. Don’t take your defeat lying down. Stand up and speak out civilly for your beliefs and values. Engage in our democratic process. The next election is coming. The social needs you seek to remedy in our society still need your active care and effort.
I believe our new President is a flawed vehicle for the social statement voters made. Our country is deeply divided. As much after the election as before. Now we need to breach that divide.
Some observers note that the last time our country was this divided the newly elected president was Abraham Lincoln. His mandate was to end a civil war and heal a fractured union. Our new president steps into our current cultural breach with much less personal character and national respect.
Our aspirations and convictions, our diversity and character, our initiative and entrepreneurship, as well as our moral vision as Americans, must remain the strength of our democracy. Understand who we are as America.
We are a nation whose citizens are dedicated to serving the ideal of democracy even as we consider our particular economic or political interests. We are the only modern nation bound together by a narrative about human freedom and the dignity of all people and not by location or education, ethnicity or faith, language or culture, gender or sexual orientation.
In our national discourse we must reclaim our national narrative because American ideals and ideas define us. We’re not Americans without them. We’re also not Jewish without ideals and ideas. We define both of these identities with concepts. Both American citizenship and Jewish identity emerge from thought rather than family or tribe.
We read the founding words of our people, the Jewish people, in Torah. The Eternal God said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you…all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.”
The Jewish people was born the day Abram heard the call to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. In our American context, we must reclaim a narrative and vision for our country that includes and embraces all citizens.
I hope President-elect Trump, the 45th President of the United States, sets this tone for our social discourse and the direction of our public policy. Every President must set forth a vision for all of us, trying to give expression to common needs, necessary goals, and national aspirations. I’ll call this the Abraham aspect of the President’s job.
Just as the Jewish people was born the day Abraham heard the call to be a blessing to all the families of the earth, the American people will be reborn and reunited only with a narrative and vision for our country that includes and embraces all citizens, their rights, their responsibilities, and respect for their dignity and their lives.
We who vote are responsible for making this so in our own lives and in how we present ourselves to others in our society. Now we hope, and expect, this same posture and presentation will emerge in the personality and performance of our new President. As we hope, we watch and monitor. We will all vote again. I wrote these words before the election with the prayer that the ideas and ideals of our national heritage may once again make us a United States of America.