I have been wounded in my heart by the election results to a degree that truly amazes me. There is the kind of pain in my heart that comes from a deep sense of betrayal. I know that a majority of my fellow Americans have never been, and are not now, anywhere near believing in the unlimited abortion license vocally supported by the president-elect during his campaign. I know that Barack Obama won the votes of Catholics who are not at all in favor of his abortion policies and that he won in spite of those policies, not because of them. Still the feeling that my heart has been pierced by betrayal has been acute.
It isn’t just the work, the hours, the energy and words expended. It is that I long with all my heart for my country’s promise to respect the inalienable right to life of all human beings to come true. Anything that pushes the hope of seeing that further away, hurts.
My daughter, a Marine, called me on Thursday echoing the deep sense of disappointment I felt. And that got me to thinking about this in another way. You see, my daughter is of mixed race, like Barack Obama. Obama has identified himself as a black American and black Americans, have embraced him as one of their own. My daughter, however, is a very strong social conservative (go figure) and was a supporter of McCain. Perhaps more pertinent, though, than her politics is her life experience. She has never suffered on account of being “black;” no doors that she knows of have ever been slammed in her face on account of her race. With a winning personality, fully accepted, and always popular with her peers of all colors, her experiences with “white America” have been positive. Neither of her own parents have ever shared “war stories” about racism with her — we really didn’t have any. And “civil rights,” when it enters our family discourse, has always been about the unborn, never about the struggle for racial equality. In short, her heart is not wounded by racism.
But let’s face it. That is simply not the case for millions of our brothers and sisters of color in this country. For them, racism has been a fact of life, if not in personal experience, then in their family histories. They have lived or are living an experience — or at least within a story — of betrayal. They have longed and struggled for the day when, as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, America would be “a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” To them, the election of Barack Obama, self-identified as one of them, is a shining beacon of hope that they will see that dream of America fulfilled. And putting other issues aside for the moment, the election of Barack Obama is historic in racial terms and positive when considered in that light.
So what do we, who fought so hard under the conviction that this election was crucial for the lives of the unborn, do now with the pain that we feel at losing, with this wound of betrayal in our hearts? I think we need to take our experience of pain and use it to empathize in a profound way with those for whom this election was a moment of healing, a moment of triumph, a moment when the promise of America seemed etched in gold. We need to empathize with those whose tears of gratitude streamed down their face that they lived to see the day that a black man was elected president. That is not nothing. It is, in fact, a great thing.