It’s been a week of shut-down, shock, anger and protest born out of reaction and reflection.
Our balloons have been “popped”, fear has shifted from one set of people to another. The country is divided. The Thanksgiving holiday is here.
How to let my voice be heard without creating more of a chasm? What am I saying when I try to touch the two sides of the Mid Atlantic plates in a widening chasm in Iceland? What do I know anymore?
I’ve had to go back to basics, the activities of survival, the practice of paying attention, noticing my reactions, my feelings, give them room to be and watch ‘m change. Nothing is permanent, not the shock, not the sadness, not the anger. When all gets quiet again there is only the feeling of connection to it all.
When a person you’re connected to dies, the daily experience takes on an eerie feeling of suspension. You go through the motions of doing life, seeing the seasonal beauty, the interactions of people around you and you think, “he/she isn’t here anymore, he/she will never see, smell or experience this again”. The thought takes you out of the moment of living and puts you in the witness booth. It has felt this way the last week since my side lost the election. But that’s just it, I had put myself on a “side”, I had taken a stance and the result is that I either win or lose.
I can take loss, I’ve learned that life goes on, change continues and new hope and joy arises. With each loss I stand a little firmer on my own feet, love what’s left a little more from my heart, look around me and am a little more grateful for what I have. With each loss I get to look at the overarching picture of what life is.
This election loss is pushing me toward loving people as people, not because of what they say or stand for, but because they are humans who struggle to make sense out of their world and experiences. Tolstoy, who knew about oppressive Russian regimes wrote to Tarak Nath Das on December 14 1908 regarding dealing with the British domination in India, “Letter to a hindu”. In the letter Tolstoy stated “the truth [is] that the law of love is in accord with the nature of man.- not aggression and violence (my expl) - But men can only recognize this truth to its full extent when they have completely freed themselves from all religious and scientific superstitions and from all the consequent misrepresentations and sophistical distortions by which its recognition has been hindered for centuries.”
It’s been an election of distortion and misrepresentation. I’ve made it my job to live by the truth. Not the party’s truth. The truth that the others are no different from me in their basic needs, the truth that love can and does heal, the truth that standing with compassion moves humanity toward less suffering. I trust that there are those on the “other” side who are doing the same.
Humans are innumerable, suffering is endless. I can only vow to do the impossible, to work toward ending suffering around me. Tell me about your anger, I will listen but won’t join you in it. Tell me about your despair, I will listen and remind you that as long as you’re still breathing there is change.
Thanksgiving couldn’t feel more poignant this year. Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers.
I was shocked like everyone around me was. I live in a blue zone on that big red and blue map called America. America is BIG. My European friends and family are consistently in awe of the distances we Americans have to travel to get anywhere new and different. In Europe when you drive a couple of hours you encounter not only a different landscape, but also a different language, different laws and different looking people. These differences have been mitigated as the European Union opened borders and made economic trade agreements. Since people can freely move about as part of the European Union, the differences in religion, economic status and education are now manifesting more in segregated neighborhoods, yet visible to all when traveling on public transportation across the countries.
Americans are separated by distance. Status in America means the possibility to live in a bubble, avoid seeing what goes on on the other side. I worked in a correctional setting for 10 years, my daily 50 minute commute to work took me to a world of people I could not see eye to eye with, a world I did not want to be a part of, filled with gun toting, religious right, misogynistic thinking country folk. I could leave that world behind on my three day weekends and after I retired. Now that world is coming to haunt me in this election.
The ordinary of living in a diverse society is that we’re faced with extraordinary differences we may not like but somehow have to learn to live with. On a small scale during my work in corrections I learned to gain respect from and give respect to people who had different values and different beliefs, who lived with pain wrought by military experiences, with trauma incurred in living in dysfunctional families, who had pulled themselves by hook or crook out of addiction. Over time these people lost their suspicion and fear of me, as they got to know me and realized I wouldn’t harm them with my educated knowledge, maybe even help them, as they found I wouldn’t look down upon them with my more privileged life experiences and economic status - actually I fought for them as a Union steward. The ordinary of having to work with people of a very different outlook on life was that in the end we found that we were all just ordinary people in need of acceptance. If the acceptance was evident, then we started working together, and became stronger in achieving work related goals.
With her slogan “Stronger Together” Hillary missed the lead-up, the time consuming work of getting to know and trust one another. Hillary was too far removed from the people who needed her the most, the ones who feel left behind, Hillary was seen as just another one of “them”, who had created stalemate over the last 30 years. Trump spoke their language, spoke out their mistrust, acted foul and walked right into their world.
During Obama’s reign we never did the time consuming work of getting to know each other person to person, face to face, we couldn’t, busy as we were trying to hold up a teetering economy, selfish as we were to think of our own assets and profits, optimistic as we were thinking that education would help those left stranded.
It’s going to take the slow grinding work of sitting together in the governing rooms and slugging out how we will take care of the planet, each other and not leave anyone behind. Both sides of the isle will have to do so, if they want America to feel great for everyone.