The View from Where I Stand is Quite Wonderful
Two nights ago, I laid in my bed, tossing and turning, listless and flooded with panic. My partner brought up the election right as we were trying to go to bed, and just the suggestion of the possibility of a Trump victory on Tuesday left me reeling. I could feel the anxiety coursing through my body: It came in waves, starting as a clenching in my stomach, then a burning in my face and tightness in my shoulders.
I felt utterly anguished, like something very real and very terrible was happening to me in that moment. I used my practice of mindfulness to investigate the emotion and discovered that, in fact, there was not something terrible about to attack me and that, while a Trump Presidency is reasonably scary, there was simply nothing I could do about it at 1:30 AM on Sunday morning.
As my anxiety began to subside, something new started to emerge. My mind started to trace over the day. I thought about the flood of celebrity concerts and videos encouraging people to vote and supporting Hillary. I thought about the creative and witty jingles touting civic engagement. I thought about the scores of photos I have seen of my friends out campaigning and phone banking and getting out the vote. I know this happens every year, but something about this feels a little different.
There is something beautiful happening, and I hope, amidst all the fear, we do not miss it.
This year, we are genuinely confronted with white supremacy, sexism, violence and xenophobia. We are genuinely looking fascism in the face, and that is something I never thought I would say. And, for some Americans, this is just what they have been waiting for. Ever since Obama’s inauguration, since the passage of Affordable Health Care, Syrian refugee resettlement, since a national discourse about sexual assault and transgendered rights, since gay marriage and the Black Lives Matter movement, this is exactly what they have been waiting for. And, in 2015, they got him.
For those Americans, they have delighted in reverent hatred. For other Americans, they have kept their head down and avoided the whole thing.
But for many of us, we are bravely stood up to defy hatred and bigotry and violence and watching that is beautiful. We have proudly taken a stand against this existing in our nation. I think back on the scores of brilliant people of color who have spoke out on national televisions shows arguing compellingly and effectively against Trump supporters and surrogates. I think about the rally protesters, who have withstood violence to stand as a force against it. I think about late night talk show hosts who have cleverly and wittily cut through all of this, who have heartened us and made us see the absurd humor in it all.
There is something terrible and terrifying happening in our country, but there is something beautiful too, and I hope that we do not miss the splendor of that.
Make no mistake: Trump has done terrible things for our nation. He has empowered and emboldened vitriolic hatred and bigotry and has mobilized violence.
But, at the same time, he has done us two favors. He has exposed very real and latent hatred, and has given those of us who are sane the opportunity to be everyday sheros and heros and stand for love and justice. While he has codified violence, he has also empowered a narrative of hope, beauty and love. Where else would “Love Trumps Hate” be an acceptable campaign slogan? Or when else would you see women, and men, claiming their power by reclaiming the phrase “nasty woman”, or banding together under the rallying cry of “pussy grabs back”?
In classical mythology, the heroine always has to descend into the underworld, has to move into the belly of the beast and confront their darkest demons before she can return to truly serve her people. I think, or hope, that that is what America is doing now, journeying through the underworld, through the absolutely worst of ourselves to come out better on the other end.
I see this happening. I see, beneath the rubble, a vibrant, creative, heartfelt movement of falling back in love with civic engagement and standing up for what we believe in.
I see millions and millions of Americans working tirelessly, performing acts of merit on behalf of all of us– for me, for the children alive today, for the future generations. In Buddhism, we talk about Bodhisattvas– beings who are able to achieve Enlightenment but delay doing so out of compassion, so that they may remain on this Earth and continue liberating other beings. But, as Buddhist thought evolved, scholars realized that a Bodhisattva was really anyone performing acts of merit on behalf of others. With this interpretation, I see millions and millions of Bodhisattvas across our nation tonight, canvassing and phone banking and tomorrow driving shuttles to polling places and passing out fliers in service to us all.
From where I stand, yes, I see something heart breaking and scary, but I also see something beautiful. I hope, in all the fear and chaos, we do not miss it. And, I hope we truly revel in it. Because, God knows, no matter what happens tomorrow, no matter who is the winner, we are going to need this beauty to carry us as we try to mend our country.
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