There is a word I’ve been avoiding using in my writing thus far this year – Trump.
While I’ve appreciated the numerous take-downs, critiques, and analyses of Trump’s origins and impact on our politics – I have been spending time contemplating the man behind the vitriol, hate speech, misogyny and deep, deep insecurities.
Here in Maine, we’ve seen our own share of injured men taking out their personal/historical problems in the political arena to the detriment of poor people, sick people, old people, young people, brown people, women-identified people. CERTAINLY we cannot reduce LePage or Trump to the sum of their neuroses. These men are in positions of power and influence because of systemic racism, classism, and a cultural push from leaders who were committed to bigotry as a form of public politics.
And yet….. there is a human being in there.
As I am inundated with information about the progeny of O’Reilly and Limbaugh and all of the systemic implications of their behavior, I find myself wanting to contemplate what their existence as a person means to me as a person. What does Trump mean to me?
I found an answer in a practice that I started last year. After several years of exploring buddhist meditation, I began a loving-kindness practice as inspired by Sharon Salzberg. The short version is: the sitter offers loving-kindness first to oneself, to ones friends and family, to neutral parties, then to those that are hard to love, and finally those that are the hardest. At the beginning of this year, as I began working on my practice anew I started with myself, then moved to Ben and Anjali, then to larger communities, then to those I found harder to love and finally, when I hit the last ring, there was a big fat toupe in my head.
I found myself staring Trump in the face, and asking myself – could I offer loving-kindness to him – even him? I wasn’t so sure. As the months have gone on, the answer to this question has become even more difficult to answer. So my decision has been to lean in – and give it my best. Each time I sit down to this practice, I end with a final view of Trump (and sometimes LePage). I seek to send to him, and those aligned with him, my heartfelt compassion, grace, and yes…. love.
This practice has had a profound affect on my heart. I can literally feel the sinews of my spirit stretching and groaning under the weight of seeking to love someone who intellectually feels so unloveable. When I am out in the world or on a job, and feeling that rage or anger or indignation coming up – blocking my ability to work effectively within a community, I go back to my sits. I envision the compassion and resources of energy I use to expand my heart and bring it into those moments. Sometimes it opens new opportunity for impact, and sometimes it doesn’t – but the difference in my worldview feels real and important. That compassion does not excuse or accept Trump or LePage’s actions, but it allows me to see them as humans, to see others who are different from me as human, and it compels me to find creative ways to be in community with those that are different from me.
No matter who wins or loses these elections, it is up to all of us to continue to live together, and continue to seek peace and prosperity – whether we (or they) like it or not. Which brings me to questions for you – Can you love Trump? Do you even want to? and What happens if we don’t?