What to do With Mr. Trump?
Towards a Position of Radical Compassion
I am struggling with my feelings about Mr. Trump and his election as president. I am also struggling with some of the rhetoric coming out of the protests in response to Mr. Trump’s election last week. At the crux, I am struggling with, on the one hand, my feelings of outright disgust, outrage, sadness, disbelief that seem shared by so many of those who are protesting; and on the other hand my own beliefs of what it means to be human and our relationships with each other.
I have been so completely disgusted by Mr. Trump’s behavior rhetoric (both prior to and during the campaign) that I have not been able to watch much of anything that included him. I didn’t watch much of the debates, when he came on the radio I’d turn the channel or turn the volume down… I felt so disgusted by his words and actions that I went into complete avoidant mode.
Last Wednesday morning, I woke up and just felt sick – and terribly terribly sad. I still struggle with what it means that our country could have elected someone with his views, beliefs and behaviors as our President.
As a man, and as the father of a son, I find the kind of masculinity that Mr. Trump represents and glorifies to be toxic to the extreme — an expression of masculinity that has historically proven to be really really bad for the planet, for women, for children, and indeed, for men ourselves. An expression of masculinity that I strive very hard to counter not only for mySelf, but for goodness sake for my son and his friends. Mr. Trumps boastful arrogance, prideful self-reliance, dismissive of any critical feedback, unwillingness to acknowledge any mistakes, inability to apologize for the ways he has hurt people or to even attempt to make amends, as so many people have described, echoes the behavior of men who perpetrate domestic violence. He practices and demonstrates, on a consistent basis, what Evan Stark refers to as Coercive Control. For Mr. Trump, coercive control seems to be his modus operandi.
As a white person and the parent of a white child, the expression of whiteness that Mr. Trump embodies and celebrates is a whiteness that is profoundly troubling. It is a whiteness that is based on false-hoods, but which is also based on supremacist notions how we find (and place) value in ourselves and in others. His promises to “build a wall” along our southern Border, his proposal to shut our borders to all Muslims, his calls to white nationalism as a base for his economic and global policies all represent an identity politics that places him as a white person above all others and entitles him to say and do things that are terribly dangerous for so many people.
In short, there is virtually nothing I find to tolerate, much less like, respect and value, in what I have seen from Mr, Trump, and the fact that he was elected President makes me seriously wonder WHAT THE F?!?
So deep is my contempt for his actions, behaviors, and words, that I find it very tempting to hold him in contempt and write him off. I am, at this very moment, finding it very tempting to label him with all the disgust that I feel about his behavior and rhetoric. I very much feel that he, the person, is disgusting.
But I also know that no person is disgusting. No human being is atrocious, regardless of how atrocious his (in this case) actions and behaviors and words are. No Mother’s son is a lost cause. I learned this lesson so profoundly during the period I worked with men who battered their wives or girlfriends. Some of the men with whom I worked perpetrated truly atrocious acts of violence, and pretty much all of them held views and attitudes that were similarly atrocious. But if I had a chance of having any kind of positive impact with these me, I could not slide into thinking of them or treating them as atrocious.
And so I struggle, in my heart and in my being — how do I come to terms with feeling such utter and complete contempt for Mr. Trump’s actions, and fear for what he will do to this country I love and the harm he is promising to do to countless hundreds and thousands of some of the most vulnerable people in our country.
One of the most compelling messages that grew out of this campaign season was “Love Trumps Hate.” In my read of history, this notion continues to be proven true time and time again. But this is not just a slogan. For it to mean anything, this slogan has to guide our actions — which includes how we respond to Mr. Trump. I am not saying, under any circumstances, that we don’t challenge, confront, protest, organize, demonstrate (up to and including civil disobedience). But how do we claim a slogan such as love trumps hate, when so much of what we are saying towards Mr. Trump is downright hateful.
The question becomes not whether we protest and challenge him and organize; but rather how do we do so in ways that are in keeping with the principles and values that hold up the statement “Love Trumps Hate.” If I truly believe that there is inherent worth and dignity to all people, then how do I put this belief in practice when I am organizing in anger against Mr. Trump and his policy proposals?
My faith tells me not only that we are all children of God/Goddess (and yes, that includes Mr. Trump); and that as children of God/Goddess I am called to treat other people as if they have value, and dignity and worth. My faith also teaches me that we’re pretty much all roughly the same degree of flawed and holy.
My sadness, and fear, despair and outrage can easily fuel my arrogance. When I get arrogant, I can quickly slide into someone who becomes judgmental, condemning and harshly critical. When I devolve to condemning people, rather than behaviors; to despising human beings, rather than actions; when I become the someone who can only see the worse in others; when I become that person, I’ve become someone who has lost my effectiveness in working towards the beloved community. When I become that person, I have in fact, lost sight of the beloved community and the ways that the beloved community exists in us all.
When I can get to a point and fully honor my outrage, fear, and sadness at another persons’ actions; and from that place strive to truly hold another person accountable for their actions, behaviors or words, but do so in a way that allows them their personhood; when I am able to do these things, I find I am enormously more likely to have some success. That person can still chose whether or not to be accountable, but the people around us notice what’s going on and that collective experience moves us every more slightly closer to the beloved community.
So what to do with this?
- Remind myself that I am just as flawed as Mr. Trump. My flaws may well show up differently, but I too am flawed.
- Reach out to others who help me to not become the arrogant, judgmental, strident, self-righteous self that I want to be in moments like this.
- Allow myself to sit in my fear, and rage and sadness. Ideally not alone, but I often move too quickly out of my fear, rage and sadness so I don’t get a chance to learn the lessons to be learned by sitting still.
- Commit to using this fear, rage and sadness to propel me to act on behalf of others who are more vulnerable, more threatened, more targeted than I.
- Follow through and act from a position of strength and efficacy – which means grounding myself in a vision of the beloved community.
© 2016 Rus Ervin Funk