I’m reminded of the poem by Sufi poet Rumi:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
These days, you’re feeling some strange new feelings brought on by the unexpected election results. Appreciate them. Don’t attach to them the first explanation you can think of. Welcome them into your house, entertain them, and get to know them. If you believe that T***p presents a danger to this country, you’ll need to take effective action, and that requires first of all, and perhaps most importantly, diagnosing the situation correctly. And correct diagnosis requires us to shed away outdated ways of seeing the world.
I’ll share with you my state of mind. I never underestimated T***p’s ability to influence and persuade. The guy is a master. He read and used the zeitgeist like a seer (e.g., this). Over the last year I’ve been telling whoever would listen that he stood a much better chance than he got credit for, even teasing them with the (now unfortunately correct) phrase “President T***p”. I’ve scoffed at the media for repeated naivete. One vivid memory is when T***p blamed Obama for creating ISIS. The media excoriated him for the obvious untruth, apparently forgetting that the hyperbole is a time-honored rhetorical device. So childish! Time and time again, he played the media like the gullible dork on the playground. I also have no illusions about the level of enlightenment in American society. People are racist, sexist, and don’t particularly care for critical thought and fact-based argument. That they supported a guy spewing that kind of B.S. isn’t too much of a surprise. A practical problem, yes, but not a surprise.
Despite this healthy level of cynicism I still feel deeply perturbed about something. I feel like I did when I watched the scene of Ned Stark’s execution on Game of Thrones. The cinematography was brilliant; the disorientation was palpable. The execution was the antithesis of what should have occurred. And it was over much, much quicker than it would ever be possible to process the events cognitively. So was the election. Between the secure T***p defeat suggested by the polls to the moment when only irrational bargaining could keep hope alive, reality stopped matching my unconscious expectations. I clearly have at least one deeply seated, unexamined script that’s not working. But what is it?
I’m fine with people having different opinions than me, and I’m used to my opinions being in the minority. I understand that people could vote for T***p for sensible reasons: he’s the Republican nominee, the closest match to their preferred views, and Clinton was far from a viable option for them. Although T***p stoked and used some of the nastiest elements of American society, I know this isn’t representative of all his supporters (in the same way that “some Muslims are terrorists” does not imply that “all Muslims are terrorists”, “Some T***p supporters are raving bigots” does not imply that “all T***p supporters are raving bigots”; logic 101).
My failed paradigm has to do with the fact that the man demonstrated absolutely wretched character, poor factual knowledge, no desire to learn, no coherent philosophy, yet was still asking for a blank check to do what he wanted (“trust me, I’ll get it done”). He was just a guy with lots of loud opinions. The only reason he got them heard is because he’s wealthy and a reality TV star. Other than that, he’s just about as suited for the presidency as loud Uncle Donald who comes over every Thanksgiving and makes people kind of uncomfortable with his lack of tact and filter. But Americans are a practical bunch and, I thought, reasonable enough to kick this nonsense to the curb. And I say this from a conservative point of view, not as a “hippie liberal”. I would never hire somebody like this to run my business, much less give this person carte blanche. Clearly, I grossly underestimated the extent to which people just wanted to fuck shit up. The majority of the electorate didn’t just reject, but actively wanted to be led by this buffoon. Wow! Completely blindsided by this. I am so out of touch that I simply thought that it was completely impossible for such a jackass to end up president. That so many people could think otherwise was simply unbelievable.
I was wrong.
I. Was. Wrong.
You should say that too. “I was wrong.” It’s liberating.
The scripts that you will find challenged are surely different. Whatever they are, I remind you that the country hardly changed from Monday to Wednesday, although your understanding of the country may have been shattered. Whatever country you lived in on Monday before election day, you still live in today.
Just sit with that for a while. Try it on for size and meditate on your outdated scripts.
Then we can get to effective responses.
To be continued…