Strong back. Soft front.

©2021 Louise Gallagher
Mixed media on canvas paper – 7 x 10″

The Sunday after the 2016 election my daughter, Alexis, and I attended Jazz Vespers at St. Andrews-Wesley United Church in Vancouver.

We needed to do something… hopeful.

The results of the US election had stunned us. Taken us by surprise and lead us down a dark alley towards a sea of confusion.

Jazz Vespers was the antidote to our despair.

I still remember the words of Rev. Gary Pattison who led the service. “Jesus Christ loves Donald Trump,” he said. “I’m glad he does because I’m not there. Yet.”

Four years later I wonder if Gary got there.

I didn’t.

I feel compassion for the child who never knew love. I pray for a miracle to heal the man. But love him?

I take a breath.

I do not write of politics. I do not write of religion or the economy or issues that consume weeks of headline news. I write of our human condition. Because, no matter the political, religious or economic times, it is we, the humans of this world, who create the climate for goodness, or darkness, to prevail.

Which is whyI am not writing about the man. I am writing of my response to how I felt yesterday as I sat and watched the inauguration of Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States of America. Our neighbours. Our closest ally. Our partners along the longest undefended border in the world.

I didn’t watch the inauguration on the same date in 2017.

I couldn’t.

I was far from Rev. Pattison’s kind of love and far from being able to do what a professor in a social justice course I took long ago said was necessary to change the world. “Until you love the Hitler in you,” he said, “you cannot love all humanity.”

I so want to be that person. The one who can love the human condition without falling into measuring someone’s worth as lacking because I am standing on my self-righteous pulpit judging their humanity and deeming it unworthy of redemption.

We are all worthy of redemption. And I wonder, is redemption the miracle that transforms blindness to sight, deafness to hearing and heartlessness to giving a damn?

And I hear the sinister whisper of my self-righteousness crawling across my skin. It is vile, that whisper. It would have me believe that it is The Man who makes the country. The Man who determines the heart of its people. The Man who is everything.

On that November day in 2016, when Rev. Pattison gave his homily at Jazz Vespers he stated, clearly and unequivocally, “We must stand with strong backs and soft fronts.”

For the past four years, I struggled to stand with a soft and open heart while keeping my back strong so that I could stand up for what was right and just without tearing down those who stood against me. Just as I struggled to believe there was hope in the darkness, a light at the end of the tunnel.

For the past four years, I have lost heart.

Yesterday, I was reminded that the sun is not gone because clouds cover the sky nor does my heart stop beating while I’m sleeping nor when I’m afraid.

Yesterday, I felt the delicate embers of hope begin to burn in my heart again. The embers that had begun to glow when Mr. Biden was declared President Elect last November.

Yesterday, I felt myself exhale and breathe in deeply.

Neither Trump nor Biden are my President.

But as a citizen of this world, as a neighbour to America, I look at what is called the self-evident truths of their declaration of independence as a beacon of hope in a sometimes dark and messy world. And while their path to equality and freedom has been fraught with missteps and peril, the intent to get there, the commitment to do the hard things was always part of what I believed was possible. Because, I believed America would do the right thing, even when it was hard.

For the past four years I have doubted. I have faltered.

I have hope again.

Yesterday, I watched the inauguration of Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States of America and Kamala Harris as Vice-President.

I cried. I smiled. I cheered. I bowed my head and prayed.

Today, I stand strong of back, soft of front. Today, I believe all things are possible.

As to loving Donald Trump. I leave that up to God.