By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
CARRSVILLE, Va. – I had planned this trip months ago. A four-day visit with Richard and Jill, two Virginia friends I’ve known since 2003. The trip couldn’t have come at a better time for me.
Richard and I are like-thinkers. We’re both people of faith, but not people of dogma. We believe in God, but we don’t believe God lords over us, like some dictator from heaven. We believe in the most important commandment: Love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second, like the first, love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Richard served more than 40 years as a Baptist pastor. I made 12 trips to Cuba with him, trips to help our Cuban friends who couldn’t get medicine and other vital items because of the stupid U.S. economic embargo.
We always went to Cuba legally, with a license from the U.S. Treasury. We hauled thousands of pounds – yes, thousands – of items that the Cubans couldn’t get any other way.
We were mules.
Richard has been traveling to Cuba since 1991. I joined him and his church in 2003. We became close, probably because we have similar minds, similar thoughts, similar dreams.
Love God. Love your neighbor.
This weekend’s visit came in the wake of Republican Donald Trump’s disturbing victory in the U.S. Presidential election. Most Americans didn’t want him, but he will win the Electoral College, so he’ll be President.
We’ll all have to live with that – including those who voted against their best interests by voting for Trump.
It felt good to be in a Blue state for once. Virginia went for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine, a former governor of Virginia and currently the junior U.S. senator from there.
Richard pointed out to me, though, that the area of Virginia he lives went 73 percent for Donald Trump. As we went into town one day last weekend, I still saw Trump/Pence signs in yards, almost like a boast. The election has been over nearly two weeks. Let’s get on with it.
Richard and Jill were as devastated by Trump’s election as was I. It’s hard to fathom: More than 80 percent of evangelicals voted for Trump, a bigoted, misogynist, xenophobe who wants to grab women by their, well, you know, that. He makes fun of disabled people and wants Muslims banned from the country.
And Trump is already filling his cabinet with a host of unsavory characters, including Alabama U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general.
Sessions, the former attorney general of Alabama, became U.S. Senator for Life during the last century. And not the most senior U.S. Senator for Life in Alabama. Richard Shelby holds that title.
But apparently Sessions is willing to give up his Senate seat for attorney general. That’s scary.
We know Sessions will never accomplish much in the Senate. Even some of his Republican colleagues have little use for him. But as attorney general, Sessions can wreak all sorts of havoc – with the Voting Rights Act or immigration or a woman’s right to choose or gains made by the LGBTQ community.
Never forget that Sessions was rejected for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench because of his clearly racist past.
And now he will be attorney general of the United States.
I needed to be with Richard and Jill this weekend. I needed Richard’s devotions, his guidance. And, though he won’t admit it – would never admit it — he needed mine.
It’s a wilderness out here. Many of us will have to go it alone, or think we do. But that’s not true. Many millions of people don’t like how this election turned. They’re afraid and worried. They don’t know what’s going to happen.
How can they, when the President-elect, Donald Trump, is more concerned how he’s portrayed on “Saturday Night Live” than how he is viewed by our allies around the world.
We’ve never been here before, folks. Those of us who believe we should love our neighbors as ourselves are going to have to be strong. We’re going to have to fight on. And, eventually, we will prevail.
For now, let’s suck it up and find the strength we need to speak up when necessary. To show, by example, what it means to be compassionate, kind, accepting and gracious.
The truth is on our side. And we must make sure the truth is known.
Pray for that on Thanksgiving.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]