Election Days 2016-2017: A Playlist

One year ago today, Donald Trump shocked me - and maybe you - by winning the U.S. Presidential Election. Whether you voted for Trump or not, it's been kiiiiiind of a turbulent year. Understatement?

Maybe you've found yourself having embittered political battles with close family and friends.

Maybe you've found yourself googling: how to survive family Thanksgiving and political discussions.

Maybe you've had to gently tell your mother to stop calling her representative every morning. Just me?

(Actually: way to go, Mom. You are a much better citizen than me).

Maybe like me you've found yourself checking out, slowly. I remember a year ago my shock giving way to a sense of embarrassment. Had I totally misjudged this thing? Was Trump really the best president ever who was going to make us great again?

Well after a year of Russia and little-to-no legislative progress and no end in sight to the inane tweeting, I'm going to go with - no - I didn't misjudge it, Trump is not an amazing president.

We can agree to disagree on that. I really don't want this blog to be another example of ways we find to divide ourselves and denigrate one another.

Instead, I guess what I want to do is give you a playlist of election day to election day and also tell you something that might surprise you.

I had no, zero, intention of voting yesterday. Municipal elections. I wasn't even registered in Minnesota yet. I had a lingering sense of PTSD from wearing a white pantsuit a year ago. I had become sort of cynical about the whole thing, starting to in my head join the chorus of "well they're all corrupt anyway and it doesn't even matter so just take care of your family."

But I'd always followed politics, ever since I was a kid in elementary school, wrote a letter to the St. Paul (MN) mayor, and he graciously invited me to shadow him for a day. I worked for an honorable congressman (Jim Ramstad, R-Minn.) while I was in college (summer internship), and I guess somewhere I still believed wholeheartedly in the promise of democracy, as compromised as it is now by money and lobbyists and lies.

So yesterday I was sitting in a local Minneapolis coffee shop -- tiny place, like maybe 15 people inside. I start to hear people murmuring, then talking, and then I realize that the candidate for mayor of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey, had come into the coffee shop to talk to people.

He went personally up to every person there and introduced himself. Sure it was political but it was also kind of without guile. I'm a former journalist and a current pastor, so I feel like I can read people, and I sensed there in Frey something genuine: something real. He wanted this: not because his family wanted him to, or because he'd make a ton of money, or because it was expected of him - but it seemed because he believed he could do something to help this amazing city, which as of late has made headlines for the wrong reasons (see: police shooting this summer in my neighborhood of an unarmed woman: Justine Damond, and many others).

I went home and googled my polling place and it was the church across the street. Minnesota also lets you register on the same day -- yes! Every state should do this. So I walked across to vote, realizing as I did so that this was not a right I should have taken for granted.

I found out today - a year after the shock and embarrassment of Election Day 2016 - that Frey won the election. This 36-year-old former civil rights lawyer full of hope would be one of the youngest mayors of a large city in the country.

Doesn't mean they aren't all still corrupt. But don't people say that about pastors and journalists, too?

Just for fun: here's my Election Days 2016-2017 Playlist. Don't worry, no Fight Song included.

Track 1: 2Pac's Keep Ya Head Up

Last year we elected a President who bragged about grabbing women by the p*ssy
This year #MeToo is trending and women are speaking out about sexual harassment, and national attitudes are starting to change.
Why not include a 90s rap great calling men out and rapping for women's right to choose

Track 2: LL Cool J's That's a Lie

Sticking with the 90s rap for a minute. There's a whole lot of untruth out there right now. Partly thanks to social media, people have lost a sense for who can be trusted, and people are telling outright lies. Trump is certainly guilty of this: he likes to call his lies "truthful hyperbole," but he's not alone. The big media outlets aren't perfect, but I do know that they fact check and they aren't out to mislead the public. We've got to get back to a culture of truth in America. Foundational. Impossible to have a conversation that begins in untruths.

Track 3: Josh Thompson's Way Out Here

OK shifting gears. I'm a 90s rap girl AND a country music girl. This song is one I always come back to. I think I first found it after watching Diane Sawyer's Children of the Mountains about her home state of West Virginia, and after being pulled in to life in Appalachia. I live in a city now, but my mom grew up in the country of western Nebraska, and my parents bought their first house across from a corn field. It's not fair or OK the way that rural America is dying and falling apart, and people are signing up to take advantage. There's a legitimate gripe here, but at the moment it keeps getting buried in racism and defensiveness and ego, on all sides. This song explains the mindset well. I went to college in mid-Missouri, and some of my best friends come from rural Missouri. Rural America is not what it used to be, and it's sad. Oh and the line in there about military service. Yep, along with people of color. 

Track 4: Alabama's Song of the South

This is one of my all-time favorite songs to play really loud with the windows down. Weird, I know, especially in Minnesota. I first discovered Alabama (the band) way late, when I was in college in Missouri and listened to the local country station. My 5-year-old son Jacob has now learned it and sings by heart: "sweet potato pie and I shut my mouth." There's something completely charming and wonderful about the South. When I went to college I was so impressed by the boys' manners there and a sense of openness that just wasn't the same in Minnesota. I also encountered open racism in the South - living in Missouri and Florida - that I never had before. Not that Minnesota wasn't racist, but I'd never heard the N word. The inability to let go of the Confederacy (yes, the first video of this song I googled opens with a Confederate flag) and repent for the sins of slavery I believe is holding the South back. It's a wonderful place. My husband, a Missourian, insists he is from the Midwest, but I secretly still think of him as Southern in the best way: polite, hard-working, faithful, respectful. The South can be all that again, but I believe there must be a wide moment of repentance: Biblical repentance for subjugation and exploitation of an entire race: tearing sackcloth and repenting at lynching sites, like what is suggested by Bryan Stevenson in Just Mercy, when it comes to recognizing and documenting the evil of lynching. This is an American sin, racism, but it is uniquely felt - and must be uniquely repented - in the South. As a lover of my time there, who still sings this song, it's gotta happen before the South ever heals and can rise again. The South's embrace of Trump I believe is part of its past and not of its future.

Track 5: Jessie James' I look so good without you

In my more frustrated moments, this song relates to the feeling I think I'll have when Trump's presidency is over. Maybe if you're on the other side, this is how you felt when Obama left office.

But I'm including this song really because I think we've become too much about how great we are without each other, and not enough about how great we are together. The reality is that as Americans we do need each other. We can't unfriend an entire community. That only works on Facebook, and it doesn't even really work there. Time to figure out how we can make each other look good, not bad. I'll try to start with myself and my relationships.

Track 6: Frank Sinatra's High Hopes

Ending this one on a totally cheesy note. Sorry. My dad used to sing this song to me when I was little. He doesn't particularly like to sing, and he's not a particularly optimistic guy. His big advice to me: don't get too high or too low. Nonetheless, ultimately my dad wanted to teach his daughter about hope. Hope in the face of challenge, struggle, death and hopelessness. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that hope would never disappoint us. I know Obama kind of took on the mantle of hope, and maybe that's tainted it for some of you. But try and separate it for a moment. Paul said that when it all else goes away, what's left is faith, hope and love. Today I'm going to pray for a government that governs with those three at the center. Money, money and more money can hopefully take a backseat, in addition to greed, greed and more greed and hatred, hatred and more hatred.


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