I’m not certain “congratulations” is the right word to say to you. You are now set to hold one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs in the entire world. Not dangerous from a personal perspective (although, there is that) but from the perspective of everyone. You will have the power to start world war three and also the power to bless the world beyond imagining.
I didn’t pray for you to win. I didn’t pray for Mrs Clinton to win either. My prayer has been that whoever wins will be filled with love, wisdom, humility, kindness, grace and courage. My prayer now is that you will confound all our worst expectations by being one of the greatest presidents America has ever seen. My prayer is that you will actually approach the title “leader of the free world” which your country(wo)men like to appropriate for their leader. My prayer is that you will be way, way bigger than your own dreams.
Above all, the characteristic you will need from the list above is courage. Your country is gripped by fear. Fear of your neighbours South of your borders, fear of the countries in the Middle East, fear of terrorists. But also so many fears within: fear of black people, fear of the police, fear of teenagers with guns, fear for the future, fear about what the world is coming to. So you will need to exemplify courage. You are a man of charisma; if you display courage, others will follow.
Courage is not the same thing as bravado. Courage is not the same thing as guns. Courage is not the same thing as anger. Courage is not the same thing as walls. Courage is not the same thing as technical solutions. All the military might and all the technical prowess of your country will help not one jot in the cause of courage.
Courage is exemplified in an army chaplain I once met who, on one occasion, was in a conversation about sidearms with his troops. These men, tough soldiers to a man and all willing to storm the enemy placement at great personal risk, were astounded to learn that the chaplain did not carry a pistol. They exclaimed, “You have far more courage than we have.”
Courage is the willingness to be vulnerable. Courage is the willingness to love when love looks like it might hurt. Courage is the willingness to stand down. Courage is the willingness to listen. Courage is the willingness to trust. Courage is the willingness to lose face. Courage is the willingness to accept it when one is mistaken. Courage is the willingness to apologise and make good. Courage starts at home. It is far more about facing our own daemons than facing other people’s daemons. Courage is characterised most by open arms and hands reached out in welcome.
Mr Trump, you have been elected by people who want to “make America great again”. That would be a good thing as long as you do not allow yourself to be deceived by any lies about what great means. An America which has battened down the hatches, drawn up the drawbridge and surrounded itself with a bullet-proof shell would be a timid America. An America which marches out to war equipped with the most powerful arsenal in all history would be a murderous America. An America which grasps the reigns of financial power and rules through money would be a tyrannical America.
And none of these things will calm the fears which stalk you. You can strike down every last living creature and person on this planet but you will not strike down your fears for they are not out there but within. You can retreat into your fortress of solitude but you will not lock out fear for fear is within the inner sanctum. You can climb to the top of the pyramid and rule over all your fellow men and women but you will not rule over fear because fear is not under you, but within you.1To early readers of this post: I added this paragraph later on, but I think it needs to be said.
None of these things will serve the project of making America great.
A great America is not a safe America. A great America is not a militarily powerful America. A great America is not a financially dominant America. These are not the American dream, but the American nightmare. The American dream is a dream of freedom. Freedom can not be taken for oneself, but only given to or taken from others. Not one of us in this world has the power to grant freedom to ourselves. If the American dream is to be realised, if there is truly to be freedom, it can only come about by women and men giving that freedom to each other.
So, yes, go for it, make America great! But remember, a truly great America is an America of peace and reconciliation. These things begin at home and this is where your real power for good lies, Mr Trump. Can you, as a leader, open your arms? Can you look within and find and face your fears? Can you invite the people of your country to do the same? Can you and they learn to lay down your arms, to weep, share, forgive and heal?
I pray you can.
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|1.||↑||To early readers of this post: I added this paragraph later on, but I think it needs to be said.|