Welcome to a world where folks can more openly coerce and oppress others than ever before, thanks to a combination of widespread cultural acceptance of gaslighting (e.g. invalidating the experiences of others) and, well, the election results.
But all is not lost. Where there is coercion, there is also choice. Where there is society, there is co-creation of social reality, which can be altered when enough people reach that consensus.
My friend and colleague Lisa Meece said it best, and I’m quoting her in full with her permission:
I’m sad and afraid today.
But one thing remains true.
Trump is one man. Pence is one man. They may be getting fancy titles and it might seem like they now get to tell us how to behave. Let’s be clear. That is an illusion.
If we are told to hate, we can love instead. If we are told or tempted to violence, we can instead choose peace. When they go low, we go high.
Trump does not have his finger on the nuclear codes. He has a password that is supposed to “force” someone else to make that launch. No genocidal leader kills thousands or millions of people alone. They are aided by frightened people who believe the illusion that they have no choice but to comply. And they are aided by people who give in to the temptation to dismiss the lives of others in an attempt to better their own.Resisting that will come with consequences, and those consequences may be devastating.
“I have to…” is almost never literally true. We are ultimately defined by our actions, by how we treat our fellow travelers on this big blue marble.
We create the world we want by the way we interact with others. We get it right sometimes, and we get it wrong sometimes. I certainly screw it up a lot. I get derailed by fear and stress and exhaustion and ignorance and just plain old messy humanity and I make choices that later make me sad.
I try to learn from my mistakes. What I am learning (over and over and over and eventually I’m gonna get this lesson nailed and get to stop having to learn it) is that to be good to those around me, I must first be good to myself. When I am tired, or hungry, I’m more likely to be hostile. When I take on too much, I am more likely to snap at people. When I feel like I’m not valued or respected, I am prone to doubt my own value, which makes me mean.
I don’t want to be mean. I want to be kind. To do that consistently, I must first be kind to myself.
So this is my goal, and my hope for us all. That we may be kind to ourselves so that we can be kind to others. That we may treat ourselves with respect so that we can treat others with love. May we know our boundaries, so that we can defend them with dignity.
We can and we must.