How do I explain this to my daughter?
As millions awoke yesterday morning to the news that Donald Trump will be our next president, a few less than that were expressing their shock, dismay, and distress on my Facebook news feed. “How do I explain this to my daughter?” or some variation of frustrated, parental angst was a common response to the election results. What do I tell my child if and when she discovers that the man whom we’ve chosen to lead and represent our country has repeatedly violated some of the most basic tenets of honor and respect that I’ve taught her were non-negotiables for any decent human being? How do I explain the fact that half the population voted to seat in the highest office in the land a man whose sexual immorality was well-known and well-publicized yet who appears to support policies that effectually repudiate as immoral a sexual lifestyle practiced by many who happen to exhibit the honor and respect for others that I have diligently taught her to have? How do I nurture in her a respect for authority when our highest human authority is someone I do not respect?
Here’s what I would communicate to my child. To be perfectly good is a noble ideal that no one can reach. Some people will get close, and others will never even get close to being close. But most at least recognize the ideal and strive for it. Yet, one person’s ideal goodness can look strangely dissimilar to another’s. What is unequivocal evil to one is a constitutionally-protected right to another. What is no less than the gospel at work to one group is crippling enablement to another. What is just and prudent policy in a free market society for some is unjust favoritism to others. And what passes for tolerance to one segment of the population is to another the intolerant demand that one submit one’s unalienable rights to the unapologetic bullying of said segment.
You see, this election was never about good guys and bad guys but about sometimes good but other times not so much guys (and gals) with conflicting ideas about what it means to be good, and what’s right and wrong. So in choosing a president we have flawed people deciding between other flawed people with a goal to protecting or restoring what they believe to be good and right. Ideally that person would embody goodness, but if though they fall far short of that they can still be reasonably trusted to work for the goal, then there is warrant for choosing them.
In her concession speech Hillary Clinton said, “Fighting for what’s right is worth it.” The thing is, Trump supporters also believe they’re fighting for what’s right. And just as her backers believe the fight was worth not only all the time, effort and money but also overlooking her many flaws, Trump voters were willing to elect a very flawed man because they expect he will take up their good fight.
I pray that the accusations of hate, misogyny, racism, etc. that are currently being hurled at Trump supporters and the pompous shaming being poured on their heads will eventually give way to a more humble self-evaluation of one’s own flaws. And to the very worthwhile effort of discerning the objective standard for right and conforming our lives, and policies, to it.