My friend Tanya is one of the humans I admire most, in part because of her unflappable, generous, open-hearted disposition. She told me a few days ago that she is undone by this election cycle. One night she found her peaceful self shouting at the TV in anger, went to bed upset, and woke up in a state of profound sadness and hopelessness.
Last week, I found myself in conversation with a courageous and sensitive formerly homeless and addicted man, now doing well, housed, sober, but suddenly, overwhelmingly depressed. Why? Tears ran down his cheeks. “I can’t watch the news”, he said. Between the shootings of innocents and the verbal wars, he is finding it hard to get through the day.
And if popular wisdom is correct and the election news intensifies after Labor Day, we haven’t seen the worst of it. I am not looking forward to this.
It’s mean. It’s cruel. It’s divisive. And all of us are suffering because of it.
Across the political spectrum, we have devolved into daily base, ad hominem attacks on political candidates and each other. We seem to revel in a sort of gleeful ‘gotcha’ reactivity to whatever the horrifying news of the day is. Having edged up to a near-addictive preoccupation with the latest gaffe, affront, damaging revelation, or inflammatory tweet, I struggle to discipline myself to check my own regular news sources only twice a day lest I find myself in a heightened state of chronic stress. As have others, I block posts from any of my Facebook friends who post vitriol of any kind; my newsfeed now consists primarily of online magazine and news articles, ads, and thankfully, photos of cherubic children doing adorable things.
Let’s focus for a minute on those children. What kind of world are we modeling and crafting for them by our collective indulgence in fueling contempt, distrust, and even hatred for each other? And yes, Hillary, Bernie, Jill, and Gary fans, this includes everyone. Attempts to humiliate Trump and his supporters, snide and derogatory comments about “them” (meaning whomever we disagree with), jibes and insults from prominent comedians and cable newscasters, all of this is tearing holes in our social fabric. Ego. Ego. Ego: our small ‘s’ selves needing to be right, to be superior, to pour gasoline on our unexamined fear and anger, whatever our political leanings.
So essentially, Trump is winning. It has been said that Hitler won World War II: the war ended with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki- a de facto embrace of the tactics of genocide. Victory can take surprising forms. Even if he loses the election, Mr. Trump’s strategy of demeaning and dismissing anyone who doesn’t agree with him is already winning by infecting us and our public discourse. It’s time to begin radical healing measures now, before we do even greater damage.
Please, everyone. Take a Breath. Could we all just count to three and REFLECT the next time we begin to react unthinkingly to the latest electoral craziness, consciously choose to abandon fear?
There is a teaching in the Sufi tradition that before any words leave our mouths, they should pass through three gates: truth, necessity, and kindness. It’s a noble and healing practice; we would all benefit from making it a conscious habit. But first we have to awaken to our own participation in this madness seizing our country. Wake Up. Take a Breath. Reflect, connect to our inner goodness and our deep, collective (even if often unconscious) desire for our own good and the good of all the world.
The stakes are high. Our preoccupation with the Cult of Personality blinds us to the stark, urgent realities of our times: the largest (and growing) income gap in the history of the country and ever-deepening poverty: ingrained, intractable racial disparities and staggering injustices, a planet on literal meltdown because we have yet to grasp that we are co-Creators. We don’t have time to waste indulging the monstrous distraction of ego and ambition at the expense of the Common Good.
Mark Twain said “There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”
Our ‘instant’ is now. Carpe momentum. Seize this, our moment, to be loving, kind, generous, visionary. We are better than this, and can begin today the long journey of healing that we must take. As the Dalai Lama has said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
We can imagine and create the world of safety and love for which we all long, starting this very moment. Take a breath. Let us begin.