Are You on the Right Side of History?

Last night I had dinner with my 86 year old grandparents. They’ve seen a lot. My grandfather has been a Christian pastor, counselor, teacher and writer his entire life. He’s pretty “conservative” — or more appropriately in today’s use of language, an orthodox Christian. He’s been quietly (as is his way) but firmly opposed to Donald Trump from the beginning for many if not all the same reasons I have been. The reasons mostly revolve around his personal character and the way he treats people. My grandmother commented last night, “who is so cruel as to fire someone two days before they get their retirement benefits? That is just plain evil.”

It has been deeply inspiring to me to watch them so clearly define their opposition to Trump while so many of their peers, and so many other Americans, excuse his behavior. At one point last night I looked at my grandpa and said, “Grandpa, I’m not sure how this is all going to shake out, but I feel like I’m on the right side of history.” His response was chilling. He said, “There is no doubt in my mind that you’re on the right side of history. The thing I’m worried about is that sometimes history doesn’t get on the right side of itself for a while. And in the meantime, a lot of destruction happens. Terrible destruction.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about that since last night. It has reinvigorated my resolve to stand up in this moment in our history and declare, with crystal clarity, that Donald Trump and his apologists are wrong. It is wrong to treat people this way. It is wrong to lead our nation in this way. It is wrong to display the behavior he displays. I would not accept any of this behavior in my children, or my pastor, or my accountant, or my barista at Starbucks. And I won’t sit by quietly and accept it from the Commander in Chief of history’s most powerful nation. I won’t. I can’t.

I am careful not to cast judgment on those who voted for Donald Trump. I understand it. I really do. What I will not stand for, however, is continued support. If you are a political or faith leader particularly, you cannot continue to support this man’s leadership and get my support. Many will, no doubt. But if we believe Trump’s behavior is wrong, we must begin to hold people accountable for supporting him.

To be clear, my hope is that political and faith leaders around the nation will change their minds. That they will quietly and carefully consider the support they’ve given him to this point. And then humble themselves and turn away from their support, publicly denouncing him. I do not want to harden them further. I want them to open their eyes to how this man is behaving. He is the President of the United States. His words and actions, in every context, do matter. They matter tremendously. Any assertion to the contrary is fantasy.

What then, should we do instead, you ask? I hold a disdain for those who only engage in hashtag activism online without any real action. Or just jump to shallow partisan attacks. I’m not calling for people to “flip the house” or “demand their congressman start impeachment.” I find those responses hollow. Instead, I’d call us to two concrete actions:

  1. Love your neighbor. Do the exact opposite in your behavior to what the President is doing in his.
  2. Get involved with supporting leaders who are charting new, life-giving ways for our politics.

Personally, I’m dedicating my entire professional life to helping elect leaders of character, integrity and a new vision for American politics, especially independents. Maybe you could too. And maybe, just maybe, we will turn the tide of history to the “right side” before it’s too late.