I haven’t been sleeping well this week. My conscious desire to patiently surrender to current events evaporates at 230 each morning. I bolt awake, my veins coursing with a toxic mix of anger, fear, dread, and heartbreak. I don’t know whether to pray or swear at the top of my lungs.
As a fierce optimist, I choose to focus on possibility rather than pessimism, fully aware of the darkness within each of us; darkness we must confront to heal individually and collectively.
The pandemic, protests, racial and political division of 2020 have exposed the depth of those dark wounds. We can no longer ignore the ugliness. Waking up on Wednesday, I was shocked to learn that nearly half of this country voted to re-elect Donald Trump. I naively assumed the past four years had adequately exposed the cost of Trump’s narcissism, dishonesty, and abuse of power. I was wrong.
Perhaps I should have known. This Summer, as Herb and I camped around the northwest, we encountered many people we knew shared his values. They included friends in Washington state, militia like protesters in Montana, and a man sporting a swastika tattoo in an Idaho campground.
These people weren’t ogres or derelicts; they weren’t angry or threatening. The man in the campground was warm and friendly, offering us a map to better understand the region. When I glanced down and noticed his tattoo I was genuinely shocked.
“Did you see that swastika tattoo?” I whispered to Herb as we walked away.
“Yes,” he replied, calmly taking my arm.
“But he was so nice and helpful and friendly!”
“Yes, honey,” said Herb, “but we’re also an old white couple.”
“Fuck me,” I sighed. “You’re right.”
My confusion wasn’t so much in our differences, but our similarities.
We, humans, are hardwired for protection. Survival, power, and control largely drive our emotions and decisions. But empathy, justice, and compassion also inspire our choices. It’s easy to own our better decisions, less so our base ones.
Most of us think we’re on the right side of history. I know I do.
I loathe Trump’s dangerous disregard for the truth, our constitution, and the democratic process. But his presence has also exposed our hypocrisy, division, and need for difficult conversations.
Even as historic numbers of voters turned up to the polls, the predicted Blue Wave didn’t happen. But as the remaining votes are counted, there is a resurgent blue ripple.
I pray it is enough to retire Mr. Trump. It’s time to get off this crazy train.
Perhaps then we can begin the process of healing in America and in the world. If we can’t immediately intuit our similarities, I pray we regain our ability to respectfully discuss our differences.