By Sister Simone Campbell, SSS
I have been challenged by the new Trump Administration to find the right place for NETWORK in our effort to create an economy of inclusion. Part of me wants to resist every move, every nomination, every tweet, every lie, and every outrageous utterance. But I know that such absolute resistance, such “fighting against,” will reinforce the very behavior that I am resisting. It will lead to hate countering hate, and it won’t work. What is called for is something new.
Both before and after the election, I talked with some ardent Trump supporters to try to understand them. What I have come to see is that for many, if not most, their support for Mr. Trump comes from the fact that they feel betrayed by politicians and frightened for their children. They feel they have “worked hard and played by the rules” but not gotten ahead. They are struggling just as their parents did, or maybe things are even a little harder for them. Beneath their disappointment, I have come to see that there is shame for them in not living up to their expectations.
This shame leads to anger directed at “business as usual.” They don’t care that Mr. Trump lacks any political experience. In fact, they like that because they feel betrayed by politicians. What they are not seeing is that it is conservative economic policies of “trickle-down” economics that are the heart of our ever growing income and wealth disparity.
Some of these shamed and angry voters have supported these policies for years, but do not understand that they privilege the top economic brackets and actually hurt everyone else. I am tempted at times to just “shake them” to try to get them to wake up to the consequences of their choices.
We are challenged by the Gospel, however, to do this work differently. We are challenged to fight for a vision of who we are called to be in our nation and our world. To create this vision we need to enter into a contemplative space where we let our guard down and listen to the Spirit (or what I call the wee small voice within) and then act out of that centered space.
This deep listening is risky business because it often calls on each of us to change in some way. It isn’t just about how “they” need to change. We need to say to ourselves that it is okay to be nervous about silence and listening, but we can’t let our reticence stop us. It is this very deep contemplation that is desperately needed in our nation right now.
I’ve discovered that this deep listening leaves me open to hear the stories of others grasp the reality around me in new ways, for example, my story of listening to Trump voters. It also allowed me to understand what Thomasina in Indianapolis meant when she told me she wasn’t going to vote because she didn’t want to hurt our country. She was talking about all of the negative ads she had seen about both candidates and not knowing how to choose when all she knew was the negativity. She thought the only ethical choice would be not voting at all! Deep listening lets me take in another’s experience and understand it in a new way. It is the first building block of community that we are in dire need of in our nation.
So in my worry and terror about the policies that we are going be advocating against over the next four years, I believe that we are being to a new level of engagement and action. Only love can cast out hate. We need to listen deeply and then act in love. Hard as it will be, we are called to take a radical step into the deep listening that can reveal the new. It feels like groping in the dark in very challenging times, but my experience over and over is that we are not left orphans. The words are given when they are needed. Community is nourished in this very struggle. We learned from the Vatican censure that despite pain and fear, staying faithful to our mission allows the Spirit to make something new…like a Bus.
Let us begin to advocate strongly together, but also begin a time of “deep listening.” Let us share with each other what we hear. Then we are prepared to lift up a vision of the 100% where all can work together to heal our nation. For such a challenging time we have been called. Let us respond as the prophet did: Speak O Holy One, your servants are listening.
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, is Executive Director of NETWORK and a leader of the Nuns of the Bus.