by Hye Sung
Not long before Donald Trump announced victory, early on the morning of Wednesday, November 9, my brother Kento died.
I was in Italy, meeting him for the first time just days before he passed. There in the hospital, he was unable to speak or move much at all. But he squeezed my hand. And it meant the world to me.
Our hands touched.
And then he died.
It’s been a hard month. Hard to know what’s real. Some days, I find myself curled up on the floor, crying, not always sure about what. Other days, most days, I’m numb. Tired. I’ve been struggling to pray, talk, write. It’s hard to make sense of these things. Of anything.
A few days after Kento died, my family flew back to Trump’s America. Nothing makes sense.
On the other hand, it feels familiar.
I remember sitting on floors in New York, in Brazil, in South Korea. Always, my legs were crossed, as I listened to our self-proclaimed savior, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church and revered Second Coming of Christ. He talked for hours about how we should live, about the people we should avoid, about his own perfection. Hours and hours and hours. Of talk.
Much of it was hate – for gay people (“dung-eating dogs”), for women (American women were sluts), for black people (“little by little the color of black people will gradually become lighter”) – in the name of “peace.” His message took root in people like my parents, discontented idealists whose hurts and hopes he used to his own advantage.
People gave their lives and all they owned to serve Moon and his church.
Moon’s evangelistic successes made him feel powerful. Entitled. There were affairs. Sexual abuse and assault. Human trafficking. He arranged a marriage between two of his own children – half-siblings. In Moon’s mind, people were objects to be manipulated and used for his own purposes. His own successes. His own pleasure.
He was a deeply selfish man. And we worshiped him.
When I see Donald Trump or read his words, I think of Moon. The language he uses, his posture, his tone, the way his face moves. Trump thinks he’s better than other people. Trump believes he is our savior. Only he knows best. Only he counts. He is impulsive, controlling, demeaning. He takes advantage of people’s hurts and hopes in order to radicalize them, in order to get what he wants.
I know what one man can do with a religion. I don’t yet know what one similar man can do with a country.
And yet, somewhere deep in me, there’s hope.
My brother, Kento, was surrounded each day in that hospital by people who knew him and loved him – people who were also strangers to me. His kindness drew people in – they all had stories.
He squeezed my hand, and I am reminded of all the ways I’ve been held together by those who love me. I’ve felt God’s hands. God’s arms. I know what it is to be held by love.
Our hands touched, and then he was gone. But the rest of us. We’re still here.
Nothing makes sense right now. Except this.
We’re still here.
I’m still here.
And I need you. To help uncover the hope in me while I help uncover the hope in you.
Maybe that feels like drinking beer, watching as much Gilmore Girls as possible before the new mini-series is released, praying even though we’re not sure how or what for. Maybe it feels like church. A community of wounded healers.
Because strong men can’t take everybody captive. And others – once used up and thrown away – will need us more than ever. Maybe this is why I still believe in church, even though I’m disappointed by so much of it. We need each other. And as we show up for each other – even as we ache, even as we feel destroyed – we testify that love is worth it. We are worth it.
I can’t promise everything will be OK or that justice will prevail. We can already see that things are going to get a lot worse before they can get better. But I can promise you this: you don’t have to be alone. Come, sit down next to me, and I’ll hold your hand.
“Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes the survival of the end of your world possible. Only radical hope could have imagined people like us into existence. And I believe that it will help us create a better, more loving future.” —Junot Diaz