Our evening with Donald (credit NBC Universal)
I met Trump and his wife Melania in New York City in 2005. I thought it was fun, like “here we are with this Reality Star Donald Trump who owns lots of buildings!” He was shorter than I expected. His hair and skin were weird. I wanted to touch him, like we were at a wax museum and I wasn’t sure he was real. We rode to Jean Georges in a limousine and ate some sort of really sweet cheesecake. I felt very fancy. I was just some little country girl from Texas. I was nervous and kept saying “Y’ALL THIS IS SO CRAZY” and smiled a lot.
Truth be told, he was nice. He told a crowd of us Type A people to reach for the stars, dream big, and not to meet with anyone less than the CEO. But what else would he do, when we were all in his boat, his franchise, his empire, his world? Isn’t it easy to tell a room full of well-dressed, well-educated, privileged middle class youngsters wearing suits to “dream big?” The truth is that we already were dreamers and do-ers. We had the education and the family support and the means to do what we set out to do. The privilege that so many Americans don’t enjoy.
As I get older, I see how variant life is between those with a natural advantages and those born with crippling weaknesses. The fact is, I was born into a family who happened to be white. A family who supported education, where food was plentiful. I didn’t have to worry about a parent in jail or whether my mom would leave us at night in search of a fix. I wasn’t glared at because of my name or head covering or deformity. I was, however, laughed at by my northern friends because I grew up shooting guns, killing deer, and listening to Willie Nelson. I tell them they obviously haven’t listened much to Willie or they would change their mind. And killing deer is just what people do.
But as hard as I did have to work to arrive at where I am, it is in the context of starting from this place. So naturally it was easier for me than some. I acknowledge this. It doesn’t diminish what I’ve been through, or the struggles that I have seen. This is important to acknowledge also. Because cancer and death and loss and heartbreak happen to all of us at one time or another, despite our station in life or skin color. And even those who have a head start still at times have to run like hell. We all have had great humbling moments where color and age and station in life disappear, and we are all just humans floating around in this soup together. Some of us are more fully cooked, others saturated. Life is hard for everyone at times. Especially if you’re the bay leaf. That pour sucker just gets plucked out later and tossed.
What is important to me to recognize now is seeing people where they are. Where they started from. What they had to overcome to get somewhere. Their background and history and heritage form an amazing frame around their life, which provides a rich backdrop to the success they can become. I never ate sushi until I was 30 years old. I was so inexperienced I took an edamame and put the whole thing in my mouth and chewed, thinking it was just a very fat green bean. I was so embarrassed I swallowed the entire thing right in front of Martha Stewart so as to not give away my error. Knowing me I probably still just smiled and said “Y’ALL THIS IS CRAZY.” And yet I know exactly how beautiful the sound of a fiddle can be. I have seen the power of southern hospitality, and I was practically raised on a church pew, singing those old hymns of glory. I sing them now to my children, in a low drawn-out vibrato, that old rugged cross that frees us.
God is very clear, in the voice of his son, that the kingdom of heaven shall not be known to those of privilege, who seem to expect it, or who build up piles of wealth and status. It will be seen by children, and people who understand that those things are meaningless, to be given up altogether for the King’s glory. It is the poor and meek who will indeed inherit the earth. It is to those who have nothing, or have everything but realize it is not, and will never be, enough.
What struck me as I listened to Donald deliver his inaugural address was (a) the fact that he should have cut his hair– it seemed oddly fluffy; and (2) the arrogance upon which he makes his claims. He really does act as if he and God are interchangeable. That things shall just naturally come to pass because he declares it. There is a cloud over his eyes. The way he spoke of “all people” but does not understand what “all people” even means. He argues that there are Washington elites and then the rest of us, like the rest of us are one homogenous mass. And yet he hasn’t treated people the same around him. The poor and disenfranchised. Those people he refuses to deal with out of his own need to settle scores. The women that he has attempted to grab.
Some people have to climb out of deeper holes, not because they are dumb or lazy but because they were thrown unwillingly into it. They were born into the cotton fields, where the opera was song born from suffering, where voices were instruments good and pleasing to the Lord. This doesn’t mean that one is better than another. Those born into middle class families today do not owe anyone else or have to account for some invisible sin of simply existing. There are no justifications that need to be made for this.
What it means, however, is that we need to be compassionate, and kind-hearted, and place our complete trust only in a leader that is not of this world. We need to strap on our sandals and walk to where others are, and see life through their eyes. We need to look, as President Lincoln did, to the left and the right. The North and the South. To America, and ask that God resolve the unrest and bloodshed. Pray unceasingly that we pay the dues that we need to pay for our past injustice, and then bind up our wounds.
Also for the love let’s hope our President stops wearing so much make-up. Orange is not the new black.
I did dream big. I saw beyond where I was and where I could be. But not because I believed myself to be better, or more worthy, but because life kept knocking me down and I refused to stay beaten. Because I was a fighter. Because I knew that even with my advantages it would take hard work and trusting in God to build the walkway as I was walking. And now that I’ve fought through many battles, I’m more grateful than ever, more humble than before, more willing to sit and listen to someone else’s story. I do not see the grain bins overflowing as some sort of reward for something I’ve done, but only blessings that I did nothing to deserve.
My prayer this next four years is simply for God to be with us, despite the flaws. Despite the President. Despite our own inherent sin. Allow us all to open our eyes, see others as God sees them, to love as God loves, to forgive as he has taught us to forgive. Let God not turn away from this great nation despite our many flaws. There are good men and women here.
We might not end up being first in all things. We might end up with egg on our face. That’s okay. Sometimes the folks in the back have the best view. We are the fighters, the opera singers, the beaten who have risen up. We are the nation, holding hands, standing up together. We are the future. Let’s be humble and kind and yet powerful and strong, just as the creator designed us.
God bless our nation, in spite of ourselves. In spite of Trump. In spite of our own clouded visions.