I know I am not alone in having spent the past three days in a rapid-fire trip back and forth through states of disbelief, anger, despair, fear, and a whole bunch of other things that I am not sure I have a name for. There is no doubt that this is a swift kick in the gut for many of us. The veil has been ripped off of whatever illusions we collectively held about how far we had come as a society, and how far we were removed from the demons that have plagued our country and our world for such a very long time. We are apparently not very far removed.
So there it is. Look at it. Consider it. Feel it. Cry again if you need to.
Now, that is enough wallowing in it. That is enough sitting around worrying about if it is going to play out this way or that way. The truth is that it either will or will not. And either way, we are going to have to work through it. And it is going to be okay.
It IS going to be okay. It is going to be a very bumpy ride. But it is going to be okay in the long run.
We will all continue to examine what this means. And make no mistake. That is a major undertaking, because it requires that we ask ourselves some very deep questions about our own nature, our relationships with one another, our relationships with other human beings on this planet, and our relationship with the planet itself.
But the truth is that we need to have this conversation, and we have been kicking the can down the road for far too long. This election may well be a blessing in a pretty scary disguise. I do not support or accept the moral legitimacy of what I believe to have been expressed through this election. That said, I recognize the Trump movement’s decision to turn the table over instead of continuing to engage in a farcical game for the opportunity that it is.
This is not the time to panic. This is not the time to give up hope. This is the time to get in the game, and to do each and every one of our parts to create the community and society that we want to be a part of. Losing an election is never “game over”. Not here, anyway.
I have not figured out exactly how my efforts are going to play out practically. The answers to those “cursed hows” (as my wife, Nicki calls them) will clarify as time moves forward. Here are a few operating principals that I am going to use to navigate through what is to come though. I am open to amending or adding, but the exercise of writing this down has helped me to process some pretty complex thoughts and feelings.
- I am going to exert great effort to focus on the shared humanity in each of us, regardless of what side of an issue we are on. To me, one of the more dreadful episodes of this election was Hillary Clinton’s reference to supporters of Donald Trump as “deplorables”. While actions that we might take and words that we might say certainly can be deplorable, to say that another human being is deplorable is to strip her of her worth. And THAT is exactly what we all should be opposing right now. It is not okay for anyone on any side to deny the inherent and equal worth of all of their fellow human beings.
- I will not support any attempt to find a loophole in our system as it stands now in order to avoid having to deal with this electoral outcome. We were subjected to not-so-subtle threats in the lead up to this election that a Trump loss would result in a challenge to our institutional process. That was not okay, and neither would it be acceptable or beneficial to try to do that in the case of a Trump victory.
- I will not support outright opposition to anything that Donald Trump or the Republican Party puts forward. We have watched eight years of the Republican Party openly doing this to President Obama, and the result for our system and the public’s faith in it has been a disaster. It would only serve our collective egos to reciprocate now. It would certainly not serve the interests of our communities and society. I will be an avid opponent of those policies and actions that I disagree with in their own right, but will not begin from an assumption of “No! Never!”
- I will not tolerate the targeting of anyone with violence of any kind by the security apparatus of the state or by private individuals or groups. This is absolutely unacceptable and cannot be allowed to go on from anyone on any side of the important issues we face. And when I say violence, I do not limit that to physical attacks, though anyone who dismisses the significance of the threats that have been made by this president elect is ignoring a wealth of historical lessons. There are other profound ways in which we harm those who belong to vulnerable groups. I will stand resolutely in defiance of the continuation of this sort of structural violence, no matter who is responsible. And I will give whatever I have to in order to prevent other human beings from being subjected to intimidation, cruelty, and any treatment that takes away their sense of belonging, equal worth, and safety.
- I believe that our body politic is no longer representative of the interests of the general population. I believe that it is deeply corrupted and serves the interests of an elite that is greedy, predatory, and acts with utter disregard for the wellbeing of our planet and most of us. I think that much of Donald Trump’s support came from a similar perception. I think that the lack of support for Hillary Clinton did as well. While I do not think that Trump will bring the change that his voters hope for, I see common ground here. And that is something to build from. I will look for ways to engage in the process of demanding greater representation and appropriate revisions of institutional rules and processes.
- I believe that our society and our system have become far too oriented toward the military and the releasing of constraints on the imposition of violence as a solution to our problems. We continue to waste too much blood and treasure (our own and that of other human beings) on a self-perpetuating and elite enriching war machine. Larger military spending, deployment, and militarization of law and order at home will only contribute to the breaking of bonds that tie us together. We cannot solve our problems this way. We must direct our energies in more effective ways. The socialization though, that has occurred along with the building of the security state, has had a profound effect on the way that we think about these issues. Tackling this problem will require fortitude in the face of being shamed, mocked, and called un-American. So what. If someone is going to go after you for being a peacemaker, turn the other cheek. The benefit is worth the pain. I will look for ways to engage in the process of prioritizing non-militarized solutions to the complex set of problems that we collectively face.
- I believe that the ideology that has driven both parties for the past three-and-a-half decades, whether you call it neoliberalism or something else, is deeply damaging to us as a society. It is built on fear and the palliative effect of overconsumption, but is creating a deep separation between us, an emptiness within us, serious mental and physical health problems, an inarguably unsustainable relationship with the planet, and benefits a few at the expense of the many. Like the militarization of our society, I can no longer participate in the presentation of this as anything other than what it is. I will look for ways to engage in the conversation about the nature of this ideology, the system that it is responsible for, its effects, and how we can find a new paradigm that is sustainable, compassionate, and generative of widely shared fulfillment of human aspirations.
- The journalists that participate in the reality television that is “the news” long ago sacrificed any claim to objectivity, knowledge of the world that we live in, adherence to foundational standards of evidence and logic, or contribution to society. They are an absolute joke. Worse, they are not operating from an ignorance of what they are doing. They know full well, but do not care because their motivation is to entertain. They do this in order to suck the population into a habitual need to watch the circus of their choosing (it is true of all news channels). In giving these journalists and their corporate masters our time, energy, and money, we contribute to the perpetuation of ugliness and untruth. While I have long been aware of this, coming home from living abroad highlighted the surreal quality to me, and I have not gotten cable or satellite television partially as a result. I will continue to save myself from bathing in nonsense and giving my money to the purveyors of it.
- Discourse in this country has been allowed to rot. While I know I have a moderately different rationale for it than many who voted for Donald Trump, I think that a culture of political correctness has unintentionally contributed to the situation in which we find ourselves. We have to be honest about this. The motivation for political correctness is the understanding that words do indeed cause harm, and that we want to be a society that treats one another from a basis of mutual value. In practice, political correctness has become stifling (and infuriating) in many ways. It creates a sense that we are not allowed to honestly have conversations that we must have, for fear of using the wrong words or of pointing to something we observe and being labeled for it. (I am guilty of both sides of this last dynamic, and that is one of the many areas that I am personally focusing on in my own development). We tend to associate the implications of this with particular identity markers (race, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc.). I think that one area that has also suffered is our set of standards with respect to reason and fact. We have collectively decided to pretend that the most absurd and baseless arguments are worthy of “balanced” consideration simply because people are making them. I don’t say this because many of these views are offensive to me on a personal level, but because so much of what we accept as “a perspective” is empirically false and mentally spun through deeply flawed lines of reason. We have not called out the pervasive insanity to which we are subjected to for the sham that it is. This surreal world of untruth and illogical gut impulses has resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars over the past two decades. It must end. Yes. We need to have an open dialogue, and that means rethinking the ways in which we promote empathy. Instead of working from an ever-shifting set of vocabulary rules that create the perception that one is walking through a verbal minefield, we must move to addressing the quality of one’s argument as it is openly expressed. This is a far more honest and reasonable approach anyway and it is, I think, a central grievance of those who voted otherwise than me. I can concede “political correctness” if it means that I can stop pretending that the ridiculous is reasonable.
- There is already immense pressure to fall in line and be quiet. Setting aside the outrageous hypocrisy of the comments from people who have suddenly discovered the importance of civility, I want to state this clearly and openly. I will not be silenced! The bullying style of this president elect may appeal to you. It not only does not appeal to me. It directly threatens that which I deeply believe to be a foundation of a functional and humane society. I do not accept that, and I will not be bullied into shutting up by you or anyone. This is not about losing an election. It goes so much deeper than that. Whether you wish to admit or not, a sizeable portion of our population just stated openly that it is willing to support a candidate who not only holds, but ran largely on a worldview that is exclusivist and denies the inherent equality of all human beings as well as the inalienability of rights afforded to them. This is vile. It goes way beyond the pale. It directly threatens the ideas that the United States was founded on. I understand that for many of you, these were not the ideas that you were specifically expressing support for. But they crossed a red line beyond which other issues become moot. If you are willing to trade the equality and security of large segments of our population for other interests, I will not pretend that it is okay. We have all been taught for our entire lives that this is exactly the thing that we cannot allow to happen. That is what I teach my child too. Now that it has, do not imagine for a second that I will not stand against it. I honor you and defend your right to express yourself, but I do not accept allowing this country to go down a road that I have spent a lifetime studying and dedicated to ending. If you are someone who knows that this is abhorrent but you think that people should just be quiet and move on, that is your prerogative. I will not be cowed into that. These principals are far more important than my or your comfort.
- Most importantly, I want to live in a world in which we operate from a place of compassion, kindness, empathy, and peace. These are ideals, but they need not be relegated to “idealism” as synonymous with unreality. We can have this world if we decide to. Don’t let anyone mock or dismiss your belief in these values. Don’t be shamed into giving up on them. Don’t let anyone imply that they are unpatriotic or silly. Our greatest teachers throughout history have consistently understood and communicated their importance. It is only through the employment of these values that we will elevate our communities and society. I can passionately oppose ideas and actions while still operating from these principles by reminding myself that no matter how much I disagree with someone, I can still love him as a fellow being who is navigating his way through this challenging world. I am not perfect and I cannot lose compassion for others because they are not. That is such a challenge! It is only by reminding myself and self correcting at times though, that I can prevent myself from becoming that which I am trying to oppose.
So there it is and here we are. We stand at an inflection point in history, nationally and globally. We can either fear it or we can take ownership of how we inflect.
So rise and shine people! And I mean SHINE like you mean it! Your country and your world need you. Step up!