November 8, 2016. We hosted an election-returns fiesta in our home in El Salvador for friends from the United States who live here. We were a like-minded group. The US Embassy in El Salvador held an online symbolic vote for anyone who wanted to click on the link with results giving 79% of the vote to Secretary Clinton and 21% to Mr. Trump. That seemed pretty positive. Our group was 100% for Hillary Clinton.
As the map turned red, the positivity waned and our stress increased. Never had we hosted a party during which no one could sit down, during which inboxes were exploding with texts and messages, from friends both in the States and El Salvador, expressing worry and dismay. At one point I received a call from our sister church pastor: "I don't understand what the media is saying," he said. I tried to explain our system. It is difficult for Salvadorans to understand how the media is allowed to predict or report results while citizens in parts of our country are still voting.
Never have we eaten so many M&M's while in El Salvador. M& M's, wine and beer - comfort food.
As Lutherans and Anglicans whose faith journeys have brought us into ministry with our companion churches here in El Salvador, we the people at our small fiesta are guided by the principles of Liberation Theology (The written Word of God is the story of the liberation of God's people, and the suffering of Christ is present in the suffering of those who are poor, marginalized and oppressed. Matthew 5:3-12); The Theology of the Cross (God revealed God's self to humanity in Jesus and the ultimate revelation of God's mercy for God's children took place on the cross. Humanity does not save itself, but in response to God's great love and mercy, we act in love and mercy to one another.); and The Theology of Life (All of creation is sacred. All life is sacred.)
Out of these theological perspectives, the historic churches in El Salvador march in the streets, demonstrate before the Supreme Court, advocate with their legislative representatives and work with the executive branch of the government to protect the human rights of those most in need of protection. For those of us who accompany the Lutheran and Anglican churches here, we tend to find ourselves doing very similar work in the United States: accompanying victims of violence, standing with those who seek justice, welcoming refugees, protecting children, advocating for dignified wages, and caring for creation.
A few years ago, the Salvadoran Lutheran Church had as it's year-long theme, "Nobody is illegal in any part of the world." In a country in which thousands of children, youth, and families are fleeing from their homes and communities in order to protect their lives either to escape violence or starvation, the church gives the clear message that each person has value, each life is precious, and no person is illegal. The Lutheran church in El Salvador and the Lutheran Church in the US do not encourage people to flee to the United States without proper process, but together understand the realities and accompany the migrants using best practices.
So, in this context, you can see that those of us gathered for our election returns fiesta were championing the causes of the Democratic platform. Beyond the focus on the platforms, none of us gathered were accepting of the racist, anti-Muslim, misogynist, ego-centric behavior and attitude of the Republican candidate.
During the primaries, all of us had had the experience of being asked about the legitimacy of the Trump candidacy by our co-workers and friends in El Salvador. As many in the United States did at the time, we brushed aside the possibility of a Trump victory as unthinkable and impossible.
After Mr. Trump was nominated, again, we found ourselves scrambling for words to explain how his candidacy had come about. Each time Mr. Trump denigrated someone in a public manner, each time Mr. Trump adopted the posture or the language of a bully, we found ourselves scrambling. "How can Christians vote for him?" we were asked.
We ended our fiesta. We went to bed prior to the concession speech, but the handwriting was on the wall.
November 9, 2016. Today we joined teen-agers to celebrate their graduation from 9th grade. The school-yard was filled with beautiful youth, accompanied by parents or grandparents or in one case, a stand-in-dad from the US (that would be my husband). It was inspiring to hear the speeches from the lips of 15-year olds who talked about all they had learned at the hands of their beloved teachers, the encouragement from their parents, and the bonds of friendship they had built with one another.
This was a beautiful day of celebration. And this was also a day of questions: "Did you hear the news? Trump won!" "Did you vote? How does early voting work?" "What's going to happen next?"
Try explaining the Electoral College, in not your native language. Try explaining how a candidate wins the popular vote but not the election. Try explaining how people in the sister churches in the United States, people who know about the impact of climate change in El Salvador, people who know about the plight of migrants, people who love Salvadoran families and who understand the dangers to beautiful ninth graders who are trying to grow up here - try explaining how these hermanos y hermanas en Cristo elected Donald Trump. In the eyes of our Salvadoran sister churches, millions of people across the United States seem to agree with Donald Trump's xenophobic rhetoric. "Build a wall" and "deport millions" makes Salvadorans wonder if their sister churches understand what their lives are really like.
As we walked toward the graduation ceremony, the mom of a ninth grade graduate gave the following economic reflection. "Well, maybe they (the US) will send everybody back. We will have to build some factories or make some plans so people can work. How will we take all these people in? Oh my God! There are a great quantity of Salvadorans up there, you know. The funny thing is, there will be no one left to do all their work. There will be no workers up there."
So, maybe in El Salvador and in the US we are all asking: where do we go from here?
Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the President of El Salvador have set the example. We don't need to agree on much, but we can be civil and congratulate the President-Elect of the United States. And we can get busy. Those of us who have knowledge and experience in El Salvador and other Latin American nations can continue to share real stories about real people, and to break down barriers of culture and bias. We can listen to one another, look for common ground and try to work in good ways to make our world a better place. Those of us with knowledge and experience in Latin America and with migrants and/or refugees in the Unites States can share information with our representatives in the House and in the Senate - from a humanitarian perspective, an economic perspective and a political perspective. We cannot know one another's realities if we are not talking to one another.
Somebody asked us if there would be a civil war in the United States because of the election results. This was a real question. The day after the election, in El Salvador, this was a real question.
Please send a note to your sister churches. Let them know you love them and will continue to hold up the values of the covenant agreements you have signed together. Let them know that you will continue to hold to the values that all life is sacred and that no matter what borders exist between us, we are one body, working together to love God and love one another.