Today is inauguration day, the day a new president takes office in this country and it is with some trepidation that I look ahead. If I let my mind wander, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine what damage a Trump presidency could bring. He has already filled his cabinet with war hawks, Wall Street insiders, and corporate energy CEO’s.
We might see unthinkable ideas ranging from rounding up the Muslims, nationwide stop-and-frisk policies and the like. The social and environmental horrors likely to be committed under a President Trump are likely to incite civil disobedience or worse.
For his supporters, the initial celebration will collide with the reality when Trump proves unable or unwilling to challenge the entrenched systems that continually degrade their lives.
When the driving force behind these new ideas is hate or fear, all manner of fascist or fanatical extremes can ensue.
That is why, as we enter a period of intensifying disorder, it is important to introduce a different paradigm. I would call it love but how does one practically bring love into the world, in the realm of politics? Let’s start with empathy. Politically, empathy is akin to solidarity, born of the understanding that we are all in this together. What are we in together? For starters, we are in this uncertainty together.
What would it take to embody love and compassion? You can see its contours in those practices that we call holistic, alternative, regenerative, and restorative. All of them source from empathy, the result of the compassionate inquiry: What is it like to be you?
It is time now to bring this question and the empathy it arouses into our political discourse as a new reality. If you are appalled at the election outcome and feel the call of hate or fear, perhaps try asking yourself, “What is it like to be a Trump supporter?” Ask it not with a patronizing condescension, but for real, looking underneath the caricature, to find the real person.
Even if the person you face is a bigot, ask, “Is this who they are, really?” Ask what confluence of circumstances, social, economic, and biographical, may have brought them there. You may still not know how to engage them, but at least you will not be on the warpath, automatically. We hate what we fear, and we fear what we do not know. So let’s stop making our opponents invisible, behind a caricature of evil. We’ve got to stop acting out hate.
Truly, only love can conquer hate.
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend”
Martin Luther King Jr.