Working for Change and Hope, No Matter The Result


I’m so grateful that Ben Johnston-Krase is sharing with us today as a guest blogger on Smuggling Grace.  With some concern, Ben’s 10 year old daughter recently asked him, “What are we going to do if Trump wins?” This is Ben’s response and his commitment toward justice no matter who wins the election. I want to share this on Election Day because it is hopeful, and it is an invitation toward vital work we must do together alongside our neighbors, no matter the result.

My 10-year-old daughter asked me the other day, “Dad, what will we do if Trump wins?” I’m sure she had overheard me telling some friends that if Donald Trump became president, we’d move to Guam. “Guam?” she probably thought. “Where’s Guam?” No doubt the thought of relocating to some remote island, wherever it was, loomed large in her mind as she calculated distance from friends, school, family…

She looked anxious, and so I responded, “Well, honey,” I said, “If Trump wins, we’ll stay right here and we’ll keep working hard to, you know, further our values.”

Further our values? Ok. At least that didn’t involve moving to Guam. And so, somewhat satisfied I guess, my daughter moved on with her day. But she left me wondering, what will I do if Trump wins? For sure I’ll need a better explanation for my kids. But really, what will I do?

So here it is. If Trump wins, I will…

Spend at least 48 hours with the pain. One time I dropped an axe on my shoeless foot, which was bad enough, but a nanosecond later the axe’s handle bounced into my groin. I yelped and went down to the floor like a 175-pound slab of twitching meat, crying out in pain and wishing for unconsciousness. It’ll be like that. For at least 48 hours. First I will feel the pain.

Next I will call to check on friends and neighbors. This is what you do after a disaster, isn’t it? Make sure everyone’s ok? This will be a good time to share casseroles.

I will briefly check real estate listings in Guam. I’m just being honest.

I will arm myself with sources that will focus my attention away from worthless regrets and hapless escapist fantasies—sources that kick my butt, remind me who I am, and who I feel called to be. These include things like Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union,” and a bunch of prophets from the Hebrew Scriptures. I’ll listen to songs like Frank Turner’s “Journey of the Magi” and Ingrid Michaelson’s “Blood Brothers.” I’ll immerse myself in poets and prophets that have called the world toward goodness and grace.

I will get my ass to work. I’ll double down on everything good and wonderful and beautiful I’ve ever been taught. I’ll listen more and I’ll sharpen my sensitivity to injustice. I’ll seek out relationships with those with whom I disagree. I’ll paint signs with my children and show up at more protests. I’ll teach them again and again that justice, liberty, and equality are worth fighting for and I’ll show them what that fight looks like. I’ll learn more names on my street. I’ll write more music, create more art, and cheer on those who are doing the same.

If Donald Trump wins, I will strive to more vividly shape my life in opposition to smallmindedness, fear, and violence. I will find others who are doing the same and together we will not simply work to elect someone else in four years; rather we will look to address the conditions in our culture that have paved the way for a Trump to become anything more than a sad reminder of what happens to us when we succumb to our worse instincts.

In short, if Donald Trump wins, I will grieve and then I will stand and fight for the world as I hope it can be. I suppose this is what I meant when I told my daughter that we’d “stay right here and keep working hard to, you know, further our values.”

But here’s the thing. I don’t think Trump will win. When all is said and done, I don’t think we’re that far gone. So maybe “What will I do if Trump wins?” isn’t the question I should be asking. In light of everything I’ve just said, maybe the better question for me is the one Mary Oliver asks at the end of her poem, “The Summer Day.”

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Win or lose, Trump or no Trump, Clinton or no Clinton… Does it really matter? No matter who wins nationally or on the state level tomorrow, there’s work to be done and I only have but one wild and precious life to live. God help me to live it well. Otherwise I might as well be in Guam.

Ben Johnston-Krase is a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and has served churches in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, and now Durham, North Carolina where he lives with his wife and three daughters. 

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