Donald Trump is neither a hero, nor a villain. His election presents the perfect opportunity to practice compassion, and self-awareness, and to bow before the divine spark that animates us all.
There have been many words written about the election of Donald Trump over the past month, and no doubt there will be many, many more. And while those words inevitably swing between elation and despair, such responses are far too easy. The harder, more essential response, is to practise compassion, and find out who is elated, and who is despairing, and why.
Compassion requires the willingness to feel another so deeply in ourselves that we no longer know where they begin and we end. Compassion is not selective, it is universal. Without it, we continue to experience ‘the other’ as somehow being separate, as being ‘not us’.
And this is the core of our dysfunction.
We are so used to projecting our empathy and our compassion beyond our own boundaries, and especially toward those who have suffered through economic and social marginalisation. We feel socially bound, it seems, to experience compassion for those who have traditionally been on the fringes, while failing to recognise that, in many ways, the edge has moved from where it once was.
We have failed to appreciate that the colour of one’s skin, the nation of one’s birth, and the extent of one’s privilege may be correlated, but cannot always be considered to be causative.
All people suffer. All people. So if we, in our relative privilege, are at times plagued by rage, fear and grief, is it not possible, perhaps even more so, that others with substantially less privilege are as well?
The election of Donald Trump is not the only instance in recent times where we have seen the rise of the extreme right. In The UK we have seen Brexit, and in Australia, the forces of neo-liberalism have helped to normalise domestic and foreign policies that have had disastrous consequences for many, not all of them people of colour. How else do we explain the election of Pauline Hanson to the Senate?
What I’ve been investigating of late is the failure of the left, of progressives, of those devoted to social and economic justice. How did we so wilfully ignore our responsibility to each other that we presumed that all those who are white are somehow free of the suffering that comes with poverty, with the disrespect of their sacred institutions, with the collapse of their industry, and the abandonment of their working class, mostly rural communities by their young? ‘White’ and ‘privilege’ do not always belong in the same sentence, regardless of what privilege may be automatically inferred on the basis of colour.
I am the poster child of privilege, and I know that I am not living the same experience as an unemployed white shop machinist with three kids, and a mortgage, in a rust-belt town that has been abandoned by industry in favour of cheaper off-shore labor. And while it’s true that the negative consequences for people of colour in almost every country in the world are significantly higher, that doesn’t eliminate the suffering of others. It can’t.
The problem that I see that we liberal, progressive people have is that we are righteous. And in our righteousness, in our patent unwillingness to shut up and listen, we have missed one of the single greatest opportunities available to us to practise compassion – to turn to our angry neighbours, those people with whom we share buses, lunch queues and workplaces, and offer them our support.
We rail against them, even as they make themselves heard through the democratic mechanisms that were created for precisely this purpose.
Trump is not a cancer. Trump is symptomatic of the rot at the core of our experience – the idea that there is a separation between us, and that we get to be selective in how we see ourselves in the other. Either we are all one, or we are not. We don’t get to have it both ways. We just don’t.
This moment does not demand anything of us. No moment ever does. This moment invites us to the possibility of a deeper seeing, it invites us to the possibility of knowing ourselves more fully, it invites us to the possibility of a deep, deep compassion for the suffering that so often motivates unconscious and harmful behaviours. It invites us to remember the innocence of all peoples, and to recognise that if we want peace, then it begins within.
The invitation in this moment is to feel all there is to feel, and to simply let it be here, to offer the fullness of our humanity to each other, and to graciously accept the humanity of others, regardless of whether or not we’re repulsed by the face that it wears.
Donald Trump is a wave, as are his supporters. They will surge, and crest, and crash, and wash away, as all waves do. Yet we are the ocean, and they live within us. We are nothing without each other.
This moment is an invitation to pause, breathe, and be grateful for the opportunity to know ourselves and each other, and to love ourselves and each other, more deeply than we ever have before.
I invite us to abandon our cities, and our privileged grief, and load up our hybrid cars, and art-cars and kombis, and drive deep into the belly of our nation, and start a conversation or two. Greet every stranger with a silent namaste and bow before the Life that animates them. Ask them what they fear. Ask them what they need. Ask them what they love.
“… if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed. For how can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their own freedom and a shame in their own pride?” – Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.
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