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Wednesday was difficult. I woke up mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausted. This has been one of the most drawn out, toxic presidential elections in recent memory, and the ending was unexpected, to say the least.

I didn’t know what to do. Madison, my community, my home, was in pain, and as a neighbor, a friend, and a pastor, I had no clue how to even begin a conversation, let provide answers or hope for what comes next.

So I didn’t. I spent most of the day visiting places where I regularly volunteer and reaching out to the people I serve alongside in the community.

I hugged teachers who had spent the morning explaining to their students of color they didn’t need to be afraid of the new president.

I see you, friends. You are not alone.

I sat with a sobbing, eight-year-old girl who wasn’t sure if her mother was going to get deported.

I see you, mi amiga. You are not alone.

I mourned with social workers, pastors, and parishioners, wondering if they could have done something differently, if one more difficult conversation could have changed the outcome.

I see you, my family. You are not alone.

At night, I watched as an American-born Muslim wondered if his mother (a citizen herself) would be able re-enter the country after her vacation in February. He translated this subtitle from those who had voted for Trump even after hearing about his proposed Muslim ban. “I don’t hate you. I simply don’t care about you.”

Well, I see you. I care. You are not alone.

These emotions, thoughts, and sights were expected after such an outcome. What I didn’t expect was the realization that I had missed something. Empathy, understanding why a person acts the way they do and believes the things they believe, is central to my job. Yet I had somehow disconnected myself from half of the population who obviously saw this election very differently than I (and most of my community) saw it.

After Brexit, pollsters and pundits fought to figure out why their nation had voted the way it did. The clearest reason soon became clear: large swaths of people said they felt like foreigners in their own country. I’m sure the same thing just happened here. White rural farmers, factory workers, and small business owners no longer felt at home in the country they grew up. They watched their beliefs regularly mocked during the late-night comedy shows, and they felt like elected politicians forget about their daily struggles. They felt like America no longer had a place for them, and even worse, that those in power were saying ‘convert and get with the program’ or shut up.

I’m not justifying their vote or the prescriptions many offer to ‘Make America Great Again,’ because it wasn’t great for people of color, woman, or non-Christian communities of faith. Yet I can empathize and reach out to those who feel like a foreigner in the country they live in. No one deserves to be mocked, put down, or disregarded for their beliefs and their way of life. I want good things for them and their children, and not just the things I deem are good for them. In odd happenstance, if they feel like the country no longer has a place for them, they share a common bond with many African Americans, Hispanics, and others in this country. We understand each other better than we know.

I will stand up to you when your policies and actions would harm under-represented communities, but I see you as well, my fellow countrymen. You, too, are not alone.

Tuesday night, Colbert ended his show by asking “How did our politics get so poisonous?” He answered, “I think it’s because we drank too much of the poison. You take a little bit of it so you can hate the other side, and it tastes kind of good, and you like how it feels, and there’s a gentle high to the condemnation, right?”

I’m done taking the poison. The man I follow set the precedent for how I’m called to respond to those who are different from me. He came to love humanity even though he knew each of us would reject him, and yet he still sacrificed everything for the opportunity to have a relationship with us.

I see you, America, my country, my family. You are not alone.

Written by Pastor Josh Miller

Joshua McHenry Miller is the pastor of The Bridge Madison and serves as a community developer in south-central Madison. He’s also the author of Tyrants and Traitors, a fantastical retelling of King David geared toward young adults.

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