Gang Aft Agley
Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy utilizes the concept of "psychohistory," an imagined discipline that is able to forecast the future of society. As it does so, the fall of an galactic empire is foreseen, as well as a way to shorten the length of the chaos that follows. As the story progresses, the predictions of leading thinker Hari Seldon prove accurate. Until one day when a new character known as "the Mule" introduces unstable and unanticipated changes into Seldon's system of forecasting the future. The best laid plans are disrupted. And so it goes.
It is not for no reason, then, that NY Times columnist Ross Douthat tweeted two words on Election Night in 2016: "The Mule." He did so not, I think, as a farmyard insult to the man rapidly finding himself getting elected President, but rather as a commentary on our nation's cultured elite. How they seem to have thought we had our societal plans and progress all figured out. That is, before a new character, heretofore unknown, suddenly entered the scene.
The election of Donald Trump, regardless of one's perspective on the man, represented a largely unexpected electoral direction for the United States that disrupted many assumed realities. The arc of history may be long, but few expected it to bend towards Donald Trump. His election and subsequent Presidency remind us that history is not over, but marching onward with its sometimes surprising twists and turns.
What happened that night in Fall 2016 has reverberated in our country every since. It continues to this very moment. Our conflicted feelings about it, in these coming few months, will reach a fever pitch as we march towards another Election Day. It is a difficult season fraught with controversy, passion, frustration, and anger.
The chaos of our time--the "big moment" that was Trump's election together with its persistent echoes--has influenced my own hesitance to speak publicly. Indeed, it may not be a coincidence that my previous blogging efforts ended with an entry on 26 October 2016, a mere two weeks before Election Day. My four-year resistance to starting it up again is certainly no oversight. In the midst of our contentious age, I have not known exactly what (or how) to speak about the many issues that confront us--of which President Trump is sometimes just a symbol. As someone for whom a sense of moderation, benefit of the doubt, a Christian worldview, and the common good are important, I realize that, depending on the issue, there is the likelihood my comments would have invited criticism from various sides. In our scorched-earth social media landscape and cancel culture, that is a lot to bear. So I decided to say nothing at all.
Upon reflection, I have come to repent of that decision.
Saying nothing when the big moments comes does protect a person from critique from one side or the other. It does help in staying off the radar. It does keep the peace. But...and here's the thing--it also means we say nothing. It sparks no conversation. It invites no reflection. It spurs no growth. And especially for those of us called to leadership, it may very well represent an abrogation of duty.
To be continued...