Half of the people in our country (maybe slightly less than half?) just said a big f___ you to immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, refugees, minorities, poor people, women, disabled people, LGBT people, the environment – the list goes on and on. Why? I wish I knew, but here’s the political outcome I feel most confident about right now: I’m going to be able to keep more of my money for myself. For a beautiful description of our grief, read “Here’s Why We Grieve Today” by John Pavlovitz.
It’s only natural to feel grief and shock. But let’s recognize our grief for what it is, and what it’s not. It’s not proof that the world has gone to hell. It’s an experience – and if we allow ourselves to feel it, it will eventually pass.
Two: Take time to do what helps preserve your sanity
Dwell in the here and now. Breathe. Meditate. Take a walk. Garden. Have supportive conversations with good friends. Don’t do these things in order to distract yourself from what’s happening. Do these things to maintain your sanity and keep yourself fit and strong for the fight to come.
Three: Refuse to get caught up in fear
The list of horrible, incomprehensible things that seem more likely to happen now that Trump has been elected is endless, but fear paralyzes, overwhelms, and clouds judgment.
Fear is about what might happen. We need to keep our minds clear to face what is happening. This does not mean we retreat into denial or close our eyes, but when we find ourselves catastrophizing, we bring ourselves back to the present moment for the sake of all beings.
Four: Stand for love above all things
Refuse to indulge in hatred and anger – rise above the opposition and demonstrate our values. This isn’t about whether the object of our anger deserves hatred or deserves love. This about recognizing the truth of the Buddha’s words: “Hatred never ends through hatred. By non-hate alone does it end. This is an ancient truth.”
There’s a way we stand for love above all things on a daily basis: in our speech. While venting our fears and frustrations with others, it’s easy to get drawn into blaming and vilifying others. If that helped anything, the world would be a paradise by now. Hateful speech only hardens our own minds and makes our opponents dig in their heels. What loving thing can be said about Trump’s election? Well, as Buddhists we vow to save all beings and end all delusions. How about, “What greed, hate, and delusion caused so many people to abandon their fellow human beings? What can we do about it?”
Five: DO SOMETHING TO HELP
Anything. Attend a protest. Write to your congressperson. Build community. Visit an interfaith service to support our Muslim brothers and sisters.
As Americans we suffer from a cult of busyness. We figure working for change is something we should leave to people with lots of spare time on their hands. However, if we’re going to recover from this major setback to the progress of our civilization, we have to realign our priorities and embrace voluntary simplicity. Do you need to work as much as you do? How much of your busyness is due to trips abroad, vacations, hobbies, or maintaining an expensive lifestyle? These questions are not meant to imply judgment, but instead to invite honest self-reflection.
The issue at the forefront of my mind is this: how do we engage in constructive dialogue in this country? We are so polarized and divided that almost everything we hear is from people who agree with us, and everything we say is just preaching to the choir. Our opponents do the same, and then we fight without understanding one another at all. The faction with 51% wins the day (or decade) and back and forth we go. This is a path to disaster for our country and our planet. There has to be a better way.
When the shit hits the fan, it’s an opportunity to wake up. Many Trump supporters voted the way they did in order to destabilize and destroy our current political system. I can’t excuse the reckless gamble they have taken with the lives of countless people and with the habitability of our entire planet, but we might as well take advantage of the shake-up. Let’s jump in and build systems that reflect interdependence instead of greed, hate, and delusion.