My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Arizona. As is my usual routine, I took two books with me to read of an evening. I completed one of the books, “If God Is Love, Don’t Be A Jerk.” The author is a pastor, who has a liberal theological view; a frequent speaker in venues across America; and a social media participant.
The last chapter of the book opens with the author relating a story I found thought provoking, challenging and disconcerting. The author relates he does not get many handwritten letters delivered to his home address delivered by snail mail. But this day, he received such a letter. From the hand writing, he assumed the letter was from an older person and he anticipated the letter was someone writing to express a difference of opinion about his theological beliefs. When he opened the letter, he was surprised. The letter was indeed from an older lady. The lady indicated she was ninety years of age and had been born in the Netherlands and lived several of her childhood years under the German occupation of the Netherlands (Germany overran the Netherlands in May, 1940). Her father became a political prisoner and died in the Dachau concentration camp.
She was writing to the author as she was concerned that what she had experienced and lived through in the Netherlands seemed to appear to be happening in America. She wrote, “The dehumanizing language he (former President Trump) is using and the violence he is encouraging, and the open hatred of his followers, are bringing back disturbing memories I never wanted to relive, with some of the very same iconography and rhetoric. And the worst part of it all is that, once again, this is a movement of people who say they are Christian — and once again I don’t understand.” She asked the author how such things could be happening; and he had no answer that seemed sufficient.
This lady relates experiences that those of us who have lived our entire lives in the U.S. cannot begin to comprehend. But it seems to me, we should certainly ponder her observations and decide how we keep America from becoming what she dreads it might. For me, I need to do what John Kelly, chief of staff in the Trump administration, last week suggested — make sure the person one votes for is a person of good character. That puts the burden upon me to become an informed voter and be willing to expend the time and effort to determine what kind of person the candidate is. I will be looking for a candidate I perceive as honest (or at least not dishonest), will admit to being mistaken or wrong, has some appreciation for the common good, and seems to have some empathy for others, particularly those who are characterized by society as the marginal.