The Huffington Post picked up “The Loneliness of the Progressive Asian American Christian,” my most recent piece for the Salt Collective. You can find it here.
For a long and formative time in my life, the Asian American church was my home. I came to faith at 15 in the high school ministry of a Chinese church. This was the place where I started to grasp the idea of a gracious God who loved me unconditionally; it was also where I came to terms with my Asian American identity, something I had been bitterly fighting for a decade. It was the first Asian American community I’d ever been a part of, and for the first time in my life, I felt normal. I now had friends who innately got how I interacted with my family, how I thought about school and college and the future — all the experiences that made me so different from my peers at school. I felt seen and accepted and understood, both by God and the people around me.
In college, I was part of a Chinese American campus fellowship — but as the years went on, I started to notice a disconnect between my friends there and me. I was beginning to care a lot about race, politics, current events, feminism. No one at my fellowship discouraged me from pursuing these things, but for the most part, they weren’t interested in discussing them either. Whatever the reason, when I wanted to talk about those issues, I mostly had to look elsewhere.
And then I went to grad school — a clinical psychology graduate program that was housed in a seminary — and my whole world got blown open.
Like most Americans, I counted down the weeks and days until Election Day. Sure, I was excited about the election of our first female president, just another barrier to be destroyed by the wave of progress our country has made in the last eight years. But selfishly, I was equally excited to be able to stop paying attention to politics. I couldn’t wait to stop obsessively checking Twitter for news and poll numbers, to stop expending emotional energy on the absurdity that spilled from the Trump campaign every day. I couldn’t wait to go back to thinking about holiday cards and arguing about college football rankings. I couldn’t wait to get back to spending my free time on frivolous things while progress rolled on all around me.
But then the unthinkable happened. And I, like many others, was rudely awakened: Progress is not, in fact, inevitable. After Obama’s election and reelection, the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, and the first female presidential nominee of a major party, I had unwittingly come to believe that progress would simply happen by inertia without me needing to do very much. Now I see how wrong I was; not only is progress completely avoidable, it can also be undone very quickly, as we can see from Trump’s staff and cabinet picks. For progress to happen and to last, all of us need to be actively working for it year-round, not just for a few months every four years.
Here is a list of things we can do for the next four years and all the years after that. As civilians, we may not be able to stop a Trump inauguration, but there’s a lot we can do to fight him and try to make life as safe and good as possible for those who stand to suffer under his administration. I hope we channel all of the grief and rage we’re feeling into action. As much as I would love to stop feeling terrible, I hope we never forget how the last few weeks have felt, as Hua Hsu wrote in his amazing New Yorker piece, so we never stop putting this kind of energy toward justice and progress. I hope that we seize this opportunity for all marginalized communities and their allies to unite. And I hope that the fruit of our grief is abundant.
Something big and unexpected happened on Tuesday, and as a result, millions of people in this country are processing their feelings of grief, shock, anger, and despair. Many of them are sharing these feelings on social media, and as a former therapist and a human being, I’ve been surprised by how unhelpful some of the responses have been. So here’s a quick primer on how to talk to someone who’s grieving.
This excruciating election is less than a week away, thank God, and no one can wait for it to be over. Even those who are excited about their candidate are counting down the days until we can stop getting daily news about a presidential nominee insulting yet another woman or someone trying to foment a frenzy about emails.
Some of you have been so demoralized by this whole process that you’re thinking about sitting this one out entirely. You recognize that Donald Trump is a racist, sexist, Islamophobic, narcissistic monster who is completely unfit to lead the free world, but you don’t like Hillary Clinton either – so you’ve decided not to vote at all. Or you’re going to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. Or you’re going to write in Mickey Mouse or Alfred E. Neuman.
Here’s the thing, though: This is a race between Trump and Clinton, and any of the above options are basically you lighting your vote on fire. The only realistic way to save our country from a Trump presidency is to vote for Clinton. Some of you have significant hangups about this, however, and I want to take a moment to address the ones I’ve heard most often.
I arrived at the University of Michigan in the fall of 2000 as a naïve, eager 17-year-old. I spent my first week on campus doing the standard litany of Welcome Week activities: getting as much free food as possible from all the student organizations hosting events, traveling everywhere in a pack of 10, going to see if fraternity parties lived up to the hype. College was the best.
And then classes started, and I quickly learned that college was not the best. College was a lot of work. More importantly, college could be incredibly lonely, especially for a new freshman. I had plenty of friends on campus from high school and my home church, but they were all busy doing their own thing, taking their own classes, starting their own lives. I was meeting tons of new people, but you could only go so deep in a few weeks. I’ve never enjoyed drinking, which ruled out a significant amount of weekend activity. I remember climbing into my lofted bed on a Saturday night in September and listening to the sounds of people walking and laughing outside my window, heading south on State Street toward Sigma Chi; I pulled the covers to my chin, folded my hands on my chest, and blinked into the dark. I had never felt more alone.
The first six weeks of college were hard. But then a remarkable thing happened: I went to a dinner hosted by Chinese Christian Fellowship (now Asian InterVarsity), one of the three InterVarsity chapters on campus. I’d been attending their weekly events, trying to figure out how I fit into this mass of people with whom I had at least two things in common, but nothing had really clicked. On this particular evening, though, a junior named Kelly invited me to sit with her and a handful of other freshmen I had never seen before. We clicked. These girls became my small group and my closest friends on campus. They were the ones who turned college around for me.
On Sunday, Franklin Graham — a prominent evangelical, the son of Billy Graham and heir to his evangelistic organization — tweeted the following message, along with a corresponding Facebook post:
I read this tweet — or, more accurately, some exasperated responses to it — that night and sighed. This was not the first time that Graham had essentially blamed the victims of police brutality for the violence they incurred, but it was the clearest, most succinct illustration of his belief in a just world and how problematic that belief is.