This election shows us why we need to meet our neighbors: that’s how we begin to love them.

People protest outside Trump Tower in New York City following President-elect Donald Trump's election victory Nov. 9 (CNS photo/Andrew Kelly, Reuters).

Several months ago, a colleague of mine was driving home, his children in the back seat, when he came upon a traffic jam caused by a Trump rally. As he inched the car between rows of Trump supporters, someone threw a piece of trash at his windshield and shouted a racial slur. A few minutes later, someone else screamed that he should go back to Syria. “I didn’t know how to explain this to my girls,” he told me.

Donald J. Trump’s road to the presidency has given a public platform to forms of intolerance and violence that many of us hoped had been left behind. He is not so much cause as catalyst of these deep ills, which amount to a hatred of the “other” cast in a warped patriotism. Mr. Trump’s election further validates those voices to which his campaign gave a platform, and it risks cementing this rhetoric and its fallout as acceptable.

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Scrolling through social media feeds, I see friends—mostly Hillary supporters, but not all—horrified that voters decided the United States is a place where the “other” is unwelcome. In what has become a despairing litany, their Facebook posts express grief and anger at Mr. Trump’s racism, misogyny and general inexperience that voters overlooked in selecting him. One friend wrote, “So completely disgusted not only by the racist, homophobic, sexist and xenophobic attitude of the person who will be our next president but even more so that so many people also hold those same views.” Another posted, “I am embarrassed for my country and embarrassed that so many Americans fell for the greatest con in U.S. history.”

The political left is ashamed to share the same homeland, let alone neighborhood, with Trump voters. In response, they resolve to protect those made vulnerable by a Trump presidency. They vow support for racial and religious minorities and victims of sexual violence.

Rolling up our sleeves for the least among us is at the heart of Catholic social teaching. If we are not yet exercising a preferential option for those made vulnerable by a Trump presidency, we must absolutely do so now. If we voted for Trump, our responsibility is even greater.

Yet we must recognize that many Trump voters do not fit, or even endorse, the categories laid out for them. It’s necessary to ask the hard question, “What moves them?” This is the work of solidarity, which recognizes our common humanity in Christ in spite of every kind of difference. Solidarity is bound to the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. It must be, since both are rooted in love of neighbor.

In the case of President-elect Trump, solidarity means seeking to know the undesirable neighbor, and this search will certainly end in a mea culpa. In particular, we must be open to acknowledging that Mr. Trump’s election delivered a condemnation of the intellectual and cultural elitism that has incensed many voters.This attitude is at the core of what The Washington Post called the election’s “loud repudiation of the status quo.”We cannot ignore this elitism in ourselves, and must conduct a deep self-examination to correct it.

Intellectual elitism contents itself with dismissing beliefs without unpacking them. One example is the assumption that traditional views on marriage, sexuality and life are so outdated and irrelevant that they do not deserve engaging. Socio-cultural elitism manifests itself in the term “flyover states,” in classist jabs that pass as jokes and in conclusions we draw about Associated Press photos of people at Trump rallies. Most of all, elitism asserts that those who think differently have nothing to contribute to the development of the society, and they are better off if enlightened progressives decide what is good for society, at least until they get on board. We need to call this elitism what it is: a failure of charity, that much like the worst of the Trump campaign, communicates that the “other” is unwelcome and undesirable.

Recognizing and eradicating this elitism is part of the difficult work of solidarity. We must rend our hearts. We have to put away the Notorious RBG tee-shirts, delete the smug selfies with our ballots and curb the snide remarks about the conservative lifestyle. It is time to ask whether our refusal to hear those who express reservations about the progressive vision is an expression of an intolerance as blind as the one we reject in others. We need to retrieve the proper definition of bigot; it does not apply to someone who has hopes for society that differ from our own, but to one who refuses to tolerate the existence of differing hopes at all.

We must replace these failures of love with the understanding that half of Americans espouse political concerns that differ greatly from the ones progressives embrace. We must recognize that while some Trump voters really are terrible people, most are good people with good reasons for their values, people who are sick of being told their voices do not matter because they hum church hymns and eat at Red Lobster.

Joining the work of solidarity with the work of the preferential option is critical for people of faith.  It is what people of faith can offer to a wounded country. There are some neighbors that we love, and others we do not know. It is time to meet those neighbors. And maybe love them.

Jane Sloan Peters is a second year doctoral student in historical theology at Marquette University.

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J Cosgrove
2 years 1 month ago
Ms. Peters, You need to get out of your echo chamber. There are many who are very well educated, very polite and very rational that believe the most dangerous thing in the world today is "progressive ideology." Progressive ideology has a horrible track record from eugenics to the policies that have destroyed the Black community in the United States. It is based on false or half true premises. One of which is that any select group of humans know what is best. They are nearly always wrong. As an example your citing of something called the "preferential option" is a formula to create more poor and destroy more cultures. Conservative ideas are the ones that produce good policy in the long run because they are tried and tested before being widely implemented. I view progressive philosophy as immoral and thus, adopting it as immoral. So you should be aware that what you espouse might not sit well with a lot of well educated people.
Jane Sloan Peters
2 years 1 month ago
I offer two thoughts: 1) I wrote this precisely to demonstrate your point that "There are many who are very well educated, very polite and very rational that believe the most dangerous thing in the world today is "progressive ideology."" I'm sorry you missed this as you read. 2) The preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, as I use it, is foremost a tenet of Catholic Social Teaching that derives from the Church's interpretation of the Gospel. To say that this preferential option is a "formula to create more poor and destroy more cultures" suggests that things like Christ's visiting the house of Zacchaeus or conversing with the Samaritan woman, or the Jesuit missions, or Mother Teresa's work with the dying, create poor and destroy culture.
J Cosgrove
2 years 1 month ago
I apologize for mis-reading your comments on progressivism. I thought you were endorsing progressive ideas. Many of the authors on this site do.
The preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, as I use it, is foremost a tenet of Catholic Social Teaching that derives from the Church's interpretation of the Gospel.
Until one defines what "preferential option for the poor" is, it is just a vague and pious sounding term. Of course one wants the poor to rise out of poverty. But the real question is how? And an even more important than material poverty is cultural and spiritual poverty. One could argue very persuasively that free market capitalism is the only thing that has ever raised the poor out of material poverty. So are you endorsing free market capitalism all over the world to end material poverty? Pope Francis has used the term "preferential option for the poor" frequently but at the same time seems to be disparaging capitalism. So he creates a lot of confusion on the use of this term. As far as cultural and spiritual poverty, free market capitalism is less relevant but what is relevant? I certainly do not believe that helping the poor through personal effort creates more poor. I support missionary work as an example for how the poor can be helped and hopefully lifted out of poverty. I have given a lot of money towards these efforts. What I object to is the funding of government programs ostensibly to help the poor. They most often have the opposite effect of their intended objectives. I believe Zacchaeus was rich so are you talking about spiritual poverty here.
Jane Sloan Peters
2 years 1 month ago
I agree, J Cosgrove, poverty is a term with many applications - including material and spiritual. Bandying about any term without properly defining it is reckless. I have learned most about the church's definition of preferential option for the poor and vulnerable through reading social encyclicals such as John Paul II's Laborem Exercens and Centesimus Annus, as well as Benedict XVI's Caritas in Veritate. There, the popes repeatedly address the role of free market capitalism, as well as other economic systems.
Chuck Kotlarz
2 years 1 month ago
Help me understand how the great recession was good policy and was tried and tested before being implemented. Excuse me, I forgot. It was tried and tested. In the nine worst US economic crises (e.g. Panics, Depressions, Great Recession, etc.) going back to 1857, seven had a Republican controlled Congress and seven had a Republican President.
J Cosgrove
2 years 1 month ago
The Great Recession was caused by Progressive Ideas. It started with the noble idea to enable lower income people to have a home. Something one can not quarrel with. However, the way this was enforced is what caused all the trouble. Banks were mandated to provide the loans to these people and doing so changed long term practices which were 20% down on 30 year mortgages and a certain financial ability to pay off the mortgage. These were waved to meet the quotas forced on the banks so loans turned into nothing or almost nothing down and no proof that they were able to pay. Others saw what was being done and then even more financially able people decided to insist on the same terms. This increase in the demand for housing drove up home prices to the point where some people were buying multiple houses just because they could flip them. Eventually a large segment of the population could not afford the payments and reduced the demand for housing so prices fell and millions found themselves in what is called an "underwater" situation and defaulted. This came to a head in 2007/2008 but was going on since the early 1990's. This debacle is a classic example of progressive policies not being able to see the secondary and tertiary consequences of its policies. The Obama administration tried to blame it on Bush tax cuts causing deficits and easy money policy of the Fed. But the huge deficits of the Obama administration and the zero interest rates of the Fed during the Obama administration make that explanation nonsense. No the real reason for the Great Recession was progressive policies enforced by the government in Washington. I suggest you read
Hidden in Plain Sight: What Really Caused the World's Worst Financial Crisis—and Why It Could Happen Again
By Peter Wallison to get a good explanation of what happened. http://amzn.to/2fqYruw What led to Great Recession is just the opposite of conservative policies.
Tom Maher
2 years 1 month ago
The New York Times reported that over 60 million people voted for Donald Trump. It is an outrageous smear to associates let alone represent that the 60 million people who voted for Donald Trump and candidate Donald Trump himself with the unusual story you presented in your opening paragraphs. Your opening paragraphs setup a very dark premise that is false and unrepresentative of what Trump's candidacy and supporters are all about. Your premise goes against reason. Trump won the election on November due to the votes of over 60 million voters who were persuaded by the merits and positive effects that Trump's Presidency would have on the nation. More than half of the votes cast by Catholics went to Donald Trump in addition to much higher percentages of other religious groups such as evangelicals and Amish all of whom were positively motivated by religious concerns as well as other concerns of one type or another to support Donald Trump. For example, Trump very publically promised to select Supreme Court justices who would uphold the right of the unborn which is a very basic moral right. On the other hand the 2016 Presidential Democratic party platform advocated federal funding of abortion known as "abortion on demand" and the elimination of the Hyde amendment banning federal funding of abortions. Hillary Clinton has personally and publically advocated the federal funding of abortion on demand and radical expansion of abortion since 1993 -- something that most Catholics do not agree with or do not wish to support. Indeed a super majority of Americans do not want to use taxpayer dollar to fund abortions. The ideas that Trump and his 60 million voter support on the road to the presidency has given a platform to forms of intolerance and violence is a false political smear unrepresentative of Trump or his 60 million voters intent. It is completely unrealistic and unacceptable to say or imply that the 60 million voters support have anything but the best interest of the country be served by very ethical and effective policy based on legitimate and necessary national interests. Please be aware that the ends do not justify the means. You may hate Trump and his supporters but that does not make it legitimate to bear false witnesses against them so as to advocate other political policies you prefer. The Church does not dictate or suggest to voters who they should vote for or require any set of moral criteria be rigidly followed ahead to other moral criteria. The voters decision are their own. And 60 million voters perfectly rightly and legitimately made Donald Trump the 45th President of the United States. Trump's voters have nothing to be ashamed of or guilty about and have completely performed their civic and moral duty by voting for Donald Trump for President. They do not have further unnecessary civic or moral obligations that you would arbitrarily burden them with. It is time for everyone to realize Donald Trump is an honorable and moral person who can be relied on more than most to do what is right for the nation and all its people as he has stated in his victory speech he would.
Chuck Kotlarz
2 years 1 month ago
How was Obama treated? Have you already forgotten? Obama had 69 million votes in 2008 and 65 million in 2012.
Jane Sloan Peters
2 years 1 month ago
Mr. Maher, I agree that the violence directed to minorities during this election, as you said, is not representative of the 60 million voters who voted for Trump. This is my reason for writing the article. Trump supporters must be respected and understood. That being said, there have been acts of vandalism and physical and verbal abuse, particularly of ethnic minorities, in which perpetrators associate their actions with Donald Trump. This is well-documented. This is what I mean when I say his campaign has given such people a platform. The task before us, if we support Trump, is to dissociate ourselves with such actions and condemn them. If we do not support Trump, the task is to dissociate all Trump voters with such people and learn the real reasons why they envisioned him as the right fit for president. I look forward to Trump displaying an honorable and moral character during his presidency.

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