The first time I saw the impact of Donald Trump's presidential campaign was when my husband and I attended the Iowa State Fair on Saturday, August 15, 2015. That, coincidentally, turned out to be the very same day that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were visiting as well.
Shortly after Clinton had departed that morning, Trump arrived by helicopter and word began to spread throughout the fairgrounds that this newly-minted political candidate would be making a brief stop by the world-renowned butter cow exhibit. As a result, a huge crowd of curious onlookers began squeezing like sardines into the non-air-conditioned Agricultural Building in hopes of catching a close-up glimpse of the famed businessman. We stood shoulder-to-shoulder in this eager would-be audience which represented a broad spectrum of ethnicities and socioeconomic status levels apparently drawn for a wide variety of reasons. Some wanted to hear about Trump's policies and aspirations, some merely wanted to see a television star, and one woman told us she simply wanted to see his hair. As a Washington Post reporter interviewed my husband about Donald Trump's moth-to-the-flame charismatic influence, I stood nearby and watched the unifying power of this incredibly unorthodox movement being birthed right before my eyes.
The hard-wrought delivery of Trump's eventual victory, however, has not been without its intensely-disruptive labor pains. In the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, when enough votes had been tabulated to call the presidential race in Trump's favor, I too drifted off to sleep with a profound sense of awareness that our country would never be the same again. When I woke the next day though, I was shockingly unprepared for the depths of sadness, disillusionment, and outright despair being experienced by many of my very closest friends. The heinous lies of hatred and bigotry that were being spewed across party lines and accepted as across-the-board truth made me sick at heart. I found the after-race deluge of insensitive over-vocal gloating to be appalling and repulsive. And while I do not attempt to squelch or apologize for the free speech expressed in these tumultuous few days since the election, please let me state that I do not, by any means, share the same disharmonious sentiments.
As a faithfully-married woman whose dearest friends happen to include three couples comprised of six gay men, I want to publicly express my deepest gratitude for a life-altering example of devotion. The fierce loyalty you show toward one another has inspired me in ways you will likely never fully know. You have never ostracized me for my radical Christian beliefs nor expressed the slightest ounce of judgment for the many indiscretions that I've committed in my life. You unwittingly bridged an emotional gap when I left the church after being inappropriately caressed by male members who repeatedly disguised their lust with a too-handsy reverential hug in the misapplied name of brotherhood. You have been nothing but kind and respectful to me during my years-long sabbatical while I waited to find my now-new place among an exuberant group of likeminded Christians who believe in the true nature of God's abundant grace, unceasing favor, and perpetually-extended hand of forgiveness.
As a woman with a multitude of friends who practice differing religions, please know that I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in shaming you, excluding you, or harming you in any way. I believe that God not only loves all of His children, but that He is the very substance of love itself. And when I say that I believe that His son Jesus Christ is the way of salvation, I hope you will respect my personal right to worship as I see fit even if you do not share the belief yourself. For we are all descendants of the same Adam and Eve, and each of us has been uniquely imbued with the ability to make a personal choice between good and evil and between life and death.
As the friend of a woman who was shot and killed after inadvertently stumbling into a brutal murder scene by a member of a foreign drug cartel who'd crossed the border into my home state of Texas, let me say to my law-abiding legally-immigrated friends that I'm completely aware you had nothing to do with that vicious crime. My personal loss does not in any way change the fact that I welcome you to our country and am grateful for the chance to know you and work alongside you. But simultaneously, I hope you will understand that my deep interest in supporting humanitarian initiatives for the well-being of oppressed individuals worldwide also includes considering measures that might've protected my friend and prevented her untimely death which occurred simply because she was living in the wrong place at the wrong time. After all, I would do precisely the same thing to ensure your personal safety as well.
As a citizen of one of the most compassionate and benevolent countries in the world, my prayer is that we may find an orderly process of maintaining effective stewardship of the resources we utilize for the betterment of our country. We must be patient in this great transition though because it may take a little time to sort things out. When I began homeschooling my children in 1995, I was mocked, ridiculed, and threatened despite the fact that our practices were perfectly legal in our state. My husband Scott Tilley told me back then that it would be years before people understood my motives and that we would not see the fruit of our labors until our kids were fully grown. Today, two full decades later, our college-degreed adult children have become three of the most well-adjusted, kindhearted, and upstanding citizens I know. Through it all, one thing proved to be certain; and that is you can't always know the ending from the start.
Likewise, a Trump-Pence administration will no doubt bring unprecedented changes to our nation with rippling effects across the globe, but I hope at least one thing stays exactly the same. I sincerely hope our friendships will remain securely intact because I adamantly refuse to imagine a world in which I am not surrounded by the people that I love the most. So I hope with all my heart that you will accept these words as an olive branch representing a desire for national reconciliation because, you see, not all of us are hateful. Not all of us are bigots. Not all of us are filled with rage. And while I can't make any unrealistic promises or speak on behalf of anyone else on either side of opposing political lines, please know that Scott and I vow to do everything we can to extend our love and live by the words of Joshua 24:15 which read,
But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.