I don’t have much in me right now, except for questions. So I’ll ask them, sit with them, and perhaps you can sit with them with me.
First, How can I balance my regular life with the effort, work, actions needed at this time?
These are not normal times, and this is not a normal, garden variety conservative president. I remember what life was like under Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. My life went on, pretty much as normal. I was an activist, so I did activism, but it didn’t feel like an emergency – urgent, but not life-threatening. Most of us have to work to eat, keep the roof over our heads, keep our cats in kibble, so there has to be some modicum of a normal working life. But sometimes it feels like even that is problematic now. How can I plan courses or events, or launch new products, or write new code, when all this stuff is happening? But I have to, at the same time.
What effort, work, actions are really needed?
This is the tough one. On one hand, sure, writing our congresspeople, marching in the streets, doing other kinds of activism, is important – but what is really going to make a difference? We have someone in office who actually seems not to care at all about the rule of law, nor does he respect the balance of powers. So what is really going to make the biggest difference? Those of us against Trump might be in the majority, but there are an awful lot of people who like authoritarians, and are fine with what he’s doing. So what actions can I take that are going to have the biggest effect?
How to reach those people?
Ultimately, white working-class people who are authoritarian Trump supporters are going to eventually be hurt too, since Trump actually doesn’t care about them. In fact, they’ve already been hurt when he took away the interest discount for home buyers. But one of the hallmarks of Trump’s campaign has been that facts don’t actually matter to many people. Telling someone who says of the new ban on immigrants and refugees from the selected countries that none of them were responsible for a terrorist attack in the US isn’t actually going to make a difference to them. In general, humans are really hard to convince with facts when those facts don’t align with their pre-existing beliefs, but some humans have spent time and effort disciplining themselves to critical thinking approaches. But unless both sides of a conversation have that same approach, there can’t actually be a conversation. So how do we talk with people like this? How do we show them that they will be hurt too? Or maybe, ultimately, as long as they aren’t hurt all that much, they won’t care – they’ll be the “good Americans.”
What’s the endgame?
I’ll be very happy to see information that suggests that I am wrong about this, but I’m not seeing a way back to normal democratic process here in the United States. Dick Cheney actually said of the recent immigration ban that it “goes against everything we stand for and believe in…” That’s all well and good, but he’s one of the few men responsible for the process that led us to the mess we’re in right now. I just re-watched the movie “Lincoln” which shows how brilliantly Lincoln managed to end the Civil War, and bring the nation back together… sort of. The sad fact of the matter is that we have at least two different countries (actually 11, if you talk with Colin Woodard.) And I’m not sure that these countries are really compatible anymore.
And even if somehow, we manage to get rid of Trump, there is still Pence. And the Democratic Party holds a minority of everything except mayors – minority of congress, state legislatures and governors. How are we going to turn that around, and can we? And I’d also love to see information that suggest otherwise, but the toxic combination of the inevitable exacerbation of income inequality and inaction on global climate change that comes with GOP leadership means disintegration, if not in the short term, in the medium term. So what do I do with all of that?
And what about practice?
I keep feeling called to a deeper engagement with spiritual practice. I’ve felt that over the past few years, but the tug is even stronger now. How do I live into that while all this is going on?What does that look like?
As I said, all I have are questions, now.