So yes, it’s awful.
So, ok. It’s horrifying. It’s upsetting. It’s scary. Of course is it. But once the dust settles and we move past shock, past horror, past sheer terror…once we find deep, unwavering bravery in the face of trauma…what do we do? What do we want? What do we really want? Beyond a time machine to go back and change it. Where is it that we actually want to get to? What place does that look like? What America is that? Isn’t it a place of real, actual understanding? It is not only a place where we are right and we have won…but a place of real, actual understanding. A place where the force of this bigotry, xenophobia and fear have subsided. So how do we get there? Isn’t that what we actually want? Not just this candidate or that one. Or to win. Or to be right. Or to wipe out a certain population. What we actually want is that higher place. That better place. That more educated, more evolved, more enlightened America. So how do we get there? How do we get there based on the reality of where we are now?
Of course it’s bad, of course. But to get where we really really want to be…is it %100 productive to continue to divide each other and stereotype one another? Of course it’s a dark time. Of course it’s all the things they say that it is. We’ve all said it and we’ve all talked about it and we’ve all heard it repeated over and over and over again. But once we’ve digested that and once we know that…where do we go from here? How do we reach out to those people – to those neighbors, friends and family members – to all those people in all of those states…How do we actually have productive dialogue that doesn’t sow the seeds of more hate and more division? It’s hard. It’s not fun. It’s definitely not as fun as screaming in anger. It’s definitely not as fun as getting our way. But what do we do now? How do we actually get to the place that we want to be? I think first and foremost it starts with rejecting this narrative that we consistently have to ‘other’ ourselves, separate ourselves, segregate ourselves, blame each other and shame each other. That the only way out of this is through yelling louder. What’s another tactic? What’s another way to actually reach people? I think it has to start with compassion; with reframing how we think about this how we perceive others. With de-escalating the rhetoric. That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to be aware, on guard, awake and ready to fight and prepared to protest what is wrong. That means only that it is vital to de-escalate the rhetoric that is keeping us apart. That is sowing seeds of hate and that is only bringing about a more divided America and not working towards actual perception change and actual compassionate healing. Call it out for what it is, sure, but when we are actually talking to one another…what is the most effective way to actually talk to each other? Do not over-simplify the situation. This is a toxic and slippery slope which once again will only lead to more hate and misunderstanding. Let me repeat: do not over simplify this situation. This is a complex political situation that we find ourselves in which did not start a year ago. The roots and ties and origins of this have been brewing and sculpting and manifesting themselves for years and years. Seek to genuinely understand the myriad factors that have gone in to your neighbors and friends’ opinions.
We have to stop terrorizing ourselves with our own rhetoric. And in turn letting the other side bare the brunt of this blame and alarmism. We have to stop elevating the situation – because the more that we do, the more hatred and division we spread between our two sides…the more we are responsible for the heightened reality we are living in. The more we elevate the situation – the more we create a platform for a self-fulfilling prophesy with the intensity of our own rhetoric. We have to remain level-headed and (as difficult as it may be) optimistic. We have to stay fighting but we have to stop fighting with neighbor and friend and brother in a way that seeks solely to alienate and reprimand. We have to stop the cycle of Winning Culture that seeks binary and one-dimensional, oversimplified conversations and conclusions which dangerously ignore nuance, compassion and critical thinking.
We have to acknowledge our emotions, but not give our intellects over to them. This is crucial right now. Feel it all. Let it come. Let it exist. Don’t hold back whatever you’re feeling – but don’t let it spin you up in self-congratulatory or narrow-minded circles that only feed hate. Let the emotion fuel a small, fiery star inside yourself that will glow and grow and feed you when in the darkest of times. In times like these. In times when the only thing that feels right is to kick and scream and give up. Let this emotion fuel a spinning star inside you that will point North – that will guide you only towards those goals that we were truly fighting for. Values, issues, and meaningful change. Let it ignite power inside of you. Let it direct you and focus you – towards meaningful ways that you can get involved. Ways that you can enact change. Ways that you can use your voice to education and inform, not to tear down. Let this emotion fuel you and do not let it rule you.
Articulate yourself carefully. Do not let alarmist rhetoric or this horrible sway of sickening feelings twist your language into a knife. Seek to build bridges, not become what it is you disdain in the other. Again – go high, not low.
Do not let the fire that is brewing right now turn into vague sentiment. Do not let this be a New Year’s Resolution that fades after the emotion of this election day has passed. Plant this inside of your bones and let it grow. Plant this inside of your chest cavity and do not let go of the desire for what is right. Do not fall into complacency. This is the only true fight we have. Do not fall into complacency. Do not forget. Move forward with your life – but stay awake. Do not over consume negativity or swaths of media – but stay informed. Stay thinking. Stay fighting. Stay awake. Do not fall into complacency. Do not fall in line. Look and look and research and march and protest and organize and keep looking. Keep your eyes open. Keep your mind open. Keep your heart open. Keep trying to find the things that unite us – not the things that separate us. This is your task. Keep trying to find the humanity. Do not give in to the rhetoric that leads to more hate. Do not give into more hate. Do not add one more name to the list of Americans that operate from hate. That let their actions be guided by hate. Let your actions be guided by love and a desire for justice. Real justice. Let your life be a testament to the good work. To the good work of good people that move us towards a good nation. Do not give into more hate. Do not fall into complacency.
Do not bear the weight of the world on your shoulders. Do not take this on yourself for one moment. For this is too heavy. Own your shit. Own what you need to own. Look yourself in the mirror and reflect. But do not bear the weight of this world on your shoulders. You need to remain light. You need to remain a light in this world that is getting far too heavy. In a world that is beginning to outweigh itself – remain light. Remain a light.
Seek to inspire – not depress. At the same time, we cannot ignore and we cannot run away. We have to go through this together. So seek to inform. Seek to enlighten. Seek to spread real, valuable, rooted knowledge. Do not turn away from that which you don’t want to see. But do not seek to wallow. Or seek to agonize or antagonize to quench your own thirst for blood or for vengeance.
Forgive. This is hard. But somehow it may lead us to the light.
Condemn hate speech, condemn hate crimes and violence but don’t unflinchingly condemn half of the country. This is not productive. All this will do is further alienate and further separate us.
Does yelling get us what we want? Or does it ultimately bring us to the same rhetoric as those we are yelling at?
We must stop preaching to the choir and patting ourselves on the back for our own righteousness. We must reach out – have uncomfortable but fair conversations full of understanding. Because when we only talk to our own circles we do not work towards bridging this gap.
Real things to do when talking to anyone (anyone) you disagree with before things get heated and ugly. Conversations escalate quickly and we need to stay calm, focused and clear.
- If you’re getting into a fight on Facebook/social media…step away from the computer every once and awhile. Get some water, drink some tea…put things in perspective. Click around on the internet for a while and calm yourself down with some cat videos before diving back in.
- Before you start saying damaging things…try to see your opponent’s inner core. Stop. And try to see their humanity. See where they are coming from. And come at them from a different angle. Try to isolate the sincerity and origins of their intentions – they may come from a more genuine and human place than we imagine. Ultimately we both want the same thing – we both want America to move towards a better place. We disagree about how to get there, but at least we still care.
Look at the larger picture. No – even larger than that. Look at the great span and sweeps of history and try to place this within it. Look at the larger swells of forces and purges. Look at the way a fire burns out the forest and prepares the soil with rich minerals. Look at the way the earth gives and takes. Look at the way this is psychologically preparing us to get to where we need to be so that in four years (hopefully) we will be in a place to accept what America is apparently not ready to accept now. Look at the way the collective experience of George W. Bush prepared America to accept the progressive hope of change in our first black president. Look at the larger swells under the surface. How this will rise up and awaken a generation of people that now have something to fight for. Look at how having something to fight for can create. Can lead. Can move and inspire real change. Look at how putting your baggage on the table…shaking it all out and looking at it all is the only way to address it. A toxic purge. A detox. But we have to look at it all. We have to put our fears on the table. Our misconceptions. Our racism. Or deepest, darkest thoughts. Our sexisms. Our systematic complacencies which let misogyny and cruelty walk unscathed. Get it out in the open.
One thing Trump does is he gets it out in the open. This is a place from which you can deal with things. And this is why we must not escalate as well. Because his movement not only puts it on the table, but fuels it and escalates it. So don’t give it voice. Don’t fuel the fire. Don’t let it escalate your fear, your hatred or your rhetoric. Stay calm. Stay clear. Stay coherent. And face it. And speak out against it. Speak out clearly and fervently. March in the streets, sure. Protest, sure. But stay peaceful. Stay on the higher ground. Do not give in to fear. Do not give in to hatred. Do not escalate the rhetoric. Get it out in the open where you can address it. And address it in a way you never have before.
One of my favorite children’s books “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” has it just right:
A big dark forest.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
We’ve got to go through it!
A narrow gloomy cave.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
We’ve got to go through it!”
This is not an obstacle on the path. This is the path. This is not the antithesis of reality. This is reality. This is how we purge our toxic sludge. And no, it’s not SO simple. These things will never go away. But the conversation will change. The complacency will change. The perception will change. We will unite. We will speak up and out more bravely and with more drive than ever before. We will be directed and we will be focused.
This did not start here. But this ends here. Racism, sexism, xenophobia. This did not start here. But this is an opportunity to take it off the shelf. To address it. To dismantle the systematic conceptions which prey on our collective consciousness. By getting them out of the shadows.
America, let’s go to therapy. Let’s dig it all up. Let’s look hard and deep. Let’s go to the origins. Let’s root out the real causes. Let’s figure it out. Let’s address our real issues. America, let’s do the hard work. The deep, good, hard work of therapy. Let’s address these things. Let’s face our demons. Do not let them terrorize us or fall into fear. But confront them. And dismantle the destructive conceptions that that them live and breathe.
And division gives these demons a steady supply of fuel. Division builds a wall higher and longer than Trump ever will. Division does not solve these problems. Division is the only thing that can keep us locked into our own cycle of feeding confirmation bias. Of feeding stereotypes. Of other-ing each other. Of blaming each other. And keeps us from doing the hard work of compassionately ridding ourselves of our own demons. We will not get to where we want to go by yelling at each other. By attacking one another. By turning our backs on the opportunity to reach out and to actually connect. To actually find, defend and share in our collective humanity.
This is a dark time. But I will not fall into this dangerous rhetoric that this is the end of the world. That this is the rise of Hitler. That this is the end. This isn’t ACTUALLY productive rhetoric. This is defeatist, alarmist rhetoric which spreads more fear. Which is what we must fight against.
It’s complex. It took time to get here and it wasn’t just Donald – he exploited what was already there. He is a manifestation of the ugliest aspects of our society. He is the product of unchecked social toxicities. So address it. Own it. He dragged the boogie man out from the closet and gave him a platform to speak. But he did not create misogyny. So use this as an opportunity to unite against misogyny. To call out not only Donald Trump but all acts and forces of misogyny. He did not create racism. But use this as an opportunity to unite against racism. To call out not only Donald Trump but all acts and forces of racism. Homophobia, islamophobia, xenophobia. This is the necessary rallying call we have needed. This is the hard and impossibly necessary way out.
Do not make the mistake of putting all of the blame on Donald Trump and missing this grand opportunity to call out the system as a whole. The issues as a whole. The forces and powers-that-be as a whole. The insidious hand of hate that still moves. The intolerance and injustice on a grand scale. If you solely focus on Donald Trump and THIS MOMENT and THIS MAN you lose the opportunity to topple the patriarchy as whole. Focusing ONLY on Donald Trump as some outrageous and inhumane monster that does not represent anything that exists in reality is a mistake. It ‘others’ Donald from all those who prey upon the vulnerable populations of the world. It separates and pretends that this isn’t a deeply fundamental aspect of our society that needs to addressed. Call Donald Trump out. Of course. But do not give him all of the power. Do not let him take the blame off of everyone’s shoulders. Do not project everything onto the voodoo doll and forget that he is only one man. And that his rhetoric is rooted in something much deeper, much wider, much more abstract and hard to catch. Do not focus only on this limb and forget the rest of the body. This is bigger than Donald Trump. Do not give him all that power. It is dangerous to give over that much psychological power to him. To let him haunt you in that way. To let him distract you in that way. This is bigger than Donald Trump. Do not over-simplify the situation.
And work towards cutting out all of the cancer. Cut it all out.
Do not fall into despair. Get woke. Stay awake. Educate others. Look deeper into the other forces swirling and do not make the mistake of over simplifying or over generalizing the problem. Look to economic factors, class warfare, media spin, lack of education, lack of resources and rhetoric that has been building for decades. Look at all of the factors that are behind the rise of this populist movement or you will not be able to adequately face it. Do not attack back. I repeat. Do not attack back.
Channel it. This is hard work but good work.
What feels good right now? Throwing your hands up, being angry. Lashing out. Blaming. But what is important right now? The good hard work of rising above. Of finding peace. Of finding compassion. Of reaching out. Of getting involved and staying awake.
I don’t see the apocalypse. I see an opening. I see people invigorated, impassioned. Speaking and speaking up in ways I never have before. Proclaiming love and standing up for their values in ways I have never have before. I see people awake and aware and ready to pay attention. Now find a way to direct your fire in the most effective way. Direct it and stay awake. It may not feel as good as lashing out, but it is vital.
Donate your time or money to causes that you believe in. Write to your representatives and legislators about the issues you care about. Don’t forget about the local level. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t underestimate the power of the people. Stay informed. Stay passionate. Keep seeking the good fight. The peaceful, deep, true, honorable fight. And do not fall into despair.