If Donald Trump wins
If Donald Trump wins it’s not time to emigrate, ascariasis though tempting. But it’s also not time to live with the anger (at worst) and chronic anxiety (at best) that we’ve put up with this election season. It’s time to awaken (yes Bernie supporters) to the issues in our neighborhoods, discount rx communities and states where we can make a difference. Federal power is one avenue of influence in our lives. An important one. It appoints judges, overweight holds veto power and deploys troops but we are still a democracy - in fact we are so much of a democracy that we’ve exposed fractures in our civil society without shame and exposed the powerlessness of once powerful institutions to do anything to reverse the trajectory of a tyrant in populist clothing. So whoever wins this election, we will be called to think anew about what democracy truly means to us.
I listened to President Obama ask us to see ourselves in each other and to stop demonizing each other. As I said “yes” to that in my heart I shook my head in disbelief as to how someone could support Trump. I went on to demonize him and my fellow citizens who support him. Obama said all Americans deserve equality, all Americans want a chance to live up to their potential. And I caught myself thinking “except them.” Language that could be used by people who will vote differently than me, about me.
What’s hard about this moment is that our fight is not just against a racist, or against fear at large; it’s a fight against the exact same binary, broad-brush thinking in ourselves that we accuse the other side of. E.O. Wilson the biologist said of the scientific community, “when there is evidence both for and against a belief, the result is not a lessening but a heightening of conviction on both sides.”
So how do we promote more understanding if we agree that without it we are weaker. I think we are not smart enough yet as a species to be effective in the face of abstraction. I believe it’s time to narrow our sphere of influence closer to our daily lives so we can feel empowered to act. This means sharpening our focus on the present moment, our reactions, our environments, and our interactions with people we come in most contact with, our neighbors, service providers, co-workers and friends.
The simmering id broke through to the surface in this election and we’ve got superego trying to quell it with ideals - this is how things should be. The layer that was missing was the one that negotiates these polar opposites. The layer of self-awareness and connection among our citizenry that promotes small acts of compassion and experiments in compromise. George Washington in his inaugural address called for a government that the people felt “affection” for. Great word - not pride in, not in awe of, affection. Affection isn’t mandated by policy or handed down to us by our leaders, it’s only possible when there’s emotional proximity between people so that we can in fact see our reflections in each other. This is the quality that must be strengthened and the place to start is where we live.
So go to the phones and get the vote out. But also start paying attention to your community, your block, your building, linger longer with your neighbors, make time for friends and for real conversation, in public spaces talk to strangers, if something irks you about your community, is there a way to come together with other residents to change it? Let’s get our heads out of our butts and re-prioritize. Delete the word “busy” from your vocabulary. Replace it with intentional activity. Obama has called for self-governance. And the first word in that is “self.”