Thoughts About the Election, November 12, 2016

It is with a heavy heart that I write these thoughts about the recent election. They come from my perspective as an immigrant, here with my wife for more than forty years, and an American citizen. They come from my perspective of having two lovely grandchildren who have a joint English/Taiwanese heritage. They and their parents, our special children and their spouses, are American citizens as they were born here. My thoughts come from a perspective of having two other lovely grandchildren who have joint American/English heritage. Our younger grandchildren are not aware of, or concerned about, differences of language or background. They simply welcome people whom they meet. Our elder grandchildren, unfortunately, may just now be beginning to sense prejudice in others. My thoughts are affected by my parents who fought forces of darkness and hatred in the second world war. Their sacrifices contributed to my generation not having to encounter the horrors of world wars that engulfed the previous two generations. My thoughts are affected by brave souls like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Dorothy Day who struggled to right the wrongs of different forms of oppression, one political in Germany and the other economic in the United States. So I wonder what words of hope I can offer my wife, my children, and my grandchildren when those same dark forces of racism, bigotry, and oppression that engulfed Germany in the 1930s are born again here, propelling a bigot to the presidency, and are celebrated by odious, extreme right wing groups.

I am concerned that the response from some quarters is not to repudiate these odious ideologies, rather to appease their proponents. This catastrophic mistake was made in Germany in the 1930s and it led us into a conflagration. We are now at a dangerous time and place where placating such forces of evil can sow the seeds of destruction for our society, just as surely as it did for Nazi Germany. So my reaction is to say about such forces, I will not support them, not now, not ever. Indeed, I will do whatever it takes to resist them, for resist them we must for our future generations. I don’t know if it will be even possible to write words like this openly a year from now, with the FBI pandering, even before this election, to the republican party. I would simply echo these words of Martin Niemoller who spent seven years in concentration camps, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”  So now it is time to speak out, for as Joan Chittister observed so eloquently “Courage is coming to realize that what does and does not happen in the world does so because of what you and I fail to say – not when silence is right, but when we fear the cost to ourselves of speaking out.” It is time to speak out, to support those who build on a foundation of inclusion, respect for all, and economic equality, and resist those who don’t.

Ron Elsdon