I went to bed on Election night very uneasy, as the dark political forces of fear, division, and “othering” that have been building for many months now seemed on the verge of winning. In and out of sleep, I continued to pray for a miracle that they wouldn’t. But when I woke up and went online, I saw that the unthinkable had happened: Donald Trump had been elected President of the United States. I felt like I had been run over by a bus, that a bomb of demagogic insanity had exploded over millions of us, even as I realized that millions of others were celebrating in joy. I was terrified, because now those dark forces would have actual governmental power, and it awakened from deep inside me very frightening Jewish ancestral historical memories of what happens when whole groups of people are demonized and made unwelcome. I felt (and still feel) very scared and potentially unsafe in my own country. My initial reaction was to hide under the bed covers. Well, that worked for about half an hour…
Then I realized I had to get up and face a new dark reality out there. But for me, that meant to first face myself, and the dark fear, helplessness, despair, and rage inside. So my very first task has been self-care, specifically, to grieve, to be comforted by loved ones, and to deepen awareness of what is going in my body, my heart, and my soul. To just let myself feel the pain AND to feel the inner strength and resilience, to keep breathing, and to keep going forward. It’s a time to be gentle to ourselves. That’s why I’ve temporarily stopped reading the news.
Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron wrote, “What will happen to us today is completely unknown … Whatever happens, our commitment is to use it to awaken our heart”
Now, while it is necessary and smart to put on one’s own oxygen mask first, the bigger task for me, and all of us, is to reach out to comfort each other, to deepen our love, unity, purpose, and sense of hope with each other. That’s why I’m working now to gather together people in my local area to do just that. And then, to take that even further, beyond us, to “them”, to reach out to those Trump supporters, to try to connect and be compassionate with the fear and anger and needs that are driving their perspectives, however much we may disagree with their choices, to move toward a greater sense that there is no “them”, but rather that it’s all US.
In writing this, I don’t mean at all to suggest that all we have to do is sing “Kumbaya” around the campfire and all will be well. Far from it. Ultimately, and starting very soon, we have to take action, to fight hard for what we believe is right, to find creative and harmonious ways to address our economic, social, and political problems to grow the kind of country we want. AND to constructively engage those with whom we vehemently disagree, whose views and ideas we find scary or misguided, and find the way forward. No doubt, there’s a long and tough road ahead.
In the meantime, let us accept and even honor where we are right now, however much we wish we were somewhere else. In these dark days, we are being called upon to honor the darkness, and to receive its blessings. Yes, there are many blessings to the darkness, as I have suggested above. For me, the most important are:
- The blessing of being more fully grounded and aware of ourselves: the pain of fear, the misery of despair, the strength of hope, the power of love – all of it, but above all, the resilience of the human spirit. Deep and compassionate awareness is really the first step to creating the country we want.
- The blessing of a veil being lifted and seeing what is really important in life – caring for one another – and letting go of those daily grievances, frustrations, and petty ego-demands on each other that are just not so important at all.
- The blessing of our love and compassion for each other. It’s so very obvious now, that none of us can stand alone in this. Oh, do we need each other now, everyone, like never before.
- The blessing of reaching out to those with whom we disagree, with whom we believe have just made quite possibly the biggest political mistake of our lifetime, to be with them, to hold them, to understand them, to love them as us, even if we can’t stand their words, actions, and beliefs. We now have an inescapable opportunity – an obligation really – to bridge or at least lessen the divide, before it gets wider and more dangerous. It will be hard, but it is a blessing that we have before us the road of healing and creating a more inclusive “us”, the possibility of something better if we work at it. What other sane choice do we have, really?
You can probably come up with many other blessings. Let us be grateful for all these blessings. Let us be gentle with ourselves. Let us grieve, let us stay strong, let us comfort each other, let us reach out, and let us roll up our sleeves, shine our light on the darkness, and do the work of love.