Na­maste Don­ald Trump

While Don­ald Trump may be seen as a hero or a vil­lain, the greater op­por­tu­nity is to look for the sub­tleties. By be­ing in the mo­ment we can each find our ap­pro­pri­ate next step.

Living Now - - Politics - By Cameron Burgess

There have been many words writ­ten about the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump over the past month, and no doubt there will be many, many more. And while those words in­evitably swing between ela­tion and de­spair, such re­sponses are far too easy. The harder, more es­sen­tial re­sponse, is to prac­tise com­pas­sion, and find out who is elated, and who is de­spair­ing, and why.

Com­pas­sion re­quires the will­ing­ness to feel an­other so deeply in our­selves that we no longer know where they be­gin and we end. Com­pas­sion is not selective, it is uni­ver­sal. Without it, we con­tinue to ex­pe­ri­ence ‘ the other’ as some­how be­ing sep­a­rate, as be­ing ‘not us’. And this is the core of our dys­func­tion. We are so used to pro­ject­ing our em­pa­thy and our com­pas­sion be­yond our own boundaries, and es­pe­cially to­ward those who have suf­fered through eco­nomic and so­cial marginal­i­sa­tion. We feel so­cially bound, it seems, to ex­pe­ri­ence com­pas­sion for those who have tra­di­tion­ally been on the fringes, while fail­ing to recog­nise that, in many ways, the edge has moved from where it once was. We have failed to ap­pre­ci­ate that the colour of one’s skin, the na­tion of one’s birth, and the ex­tent of one’s priv­i­lege may be cor­re­lated, but can­not al­ways be con­sid­ered to be causative.

All peo­ple suf­fer. All peo­ple. So if we, in our rel­a­tive priv­i­lege, are at times plagued by rage, fear and grief, is it not pos­si­ble, per­haps even more so, that oth­ers with sub­stan­tially less priv­i­lege are as well?

The elec­tion of Don­ald Trump is not the only in­stance in re­cent times where we have seen the rise of the ex­treme right. In The UK we have seen Brexit, and in Aus­tralia, the forces of ne­olib­er­al­ism have helped to nor­malise do­mes­tic and for­eign poli­cies that have had dis­as­trous con­se­quences for many, not all of them peo­ple of colour. How else do we ex­plain the elec­tion of Pauline Han­son to the Se­nate?

What I’ve been in­ves­ti­gat­ing of late is the fail­ure of the left, of pro­gres­sives, of those de­voted to so­cial and eco­nomic jus­tice. How did we so wil­fully ig­nore our re­spon­si­bil­ity to each other that we pre­sumed that all those who are white are some­how free of the suf­fer­ing that comes with poverty, with the dis­re­spect of their sa­cred in­sti­tu­tions, with the col­lapse of their in­dus­try, and the aban­don­ment of their work­ing class, mostly ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties by their young? ‘ White’ and ‘priv­i­lege’ do not al­ways be­long in the same sen­tence, re­gard­less of what priv­i­lege may be au­to­mat­i­cally in­ferred on the ba­sis of colour.

I am the poster child of priv­i­lege, and I know that I am not liv­ing the same ex­pe­ri­ence as an un­em­ployed white shop ma­chin­ist with three kids, and a mort­gage, in a rust-belt town that has been aban­doned by in­dus­try in favour of cheaper off-shore la­bor. And while it’s true that the neg­a­tive con­se­quences for peo­ple of colour in al­most ev­ery coun­try in the world are sig­nif­i­cantly higher, that doesn’t elim­i­nate the suf­fer­ing of oth­ers. It can’t.

The prob­lem that I see that we lib­eral, pro­gres­sive peo­ple have is that we are right­eous. And in our right­eous­ness, in our patent un­will­ing­ness to shut up and lis­ten, we have missed one of the sin­gle great­est op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to us to prac­tise com­pas­sion – to turn to our an­gry neigh­bours, those peo­ple with whom we share buses, lunch queues and work­places, and of­fer them our sup­port.

We rail against them, even as they make them­selves heard through the demo­cratic mech­a­nisms that were cre­ated for pre­cisely this pur­pose.

Trump is not a cancer. Trump is symp­to­matic of the rot at the core of our ex­pe­ri­ence – the idea that there is a sep­a­ra­tion between us, and that we get to be selective in how we see our­selves in the other. Ei­ther we are all one, or we are not. We don’t get to have it both ways. We just don’t.

This mo­ment does not de­mand any­thing of us. No mo­ment ever does. This mo­ment in­vites us to the pos­si­bil­ity of a deeper see­ing, it in­vites us to the pos­si­bil­ity of know­ing our­selves more fully, it in­vites us to the pos­si­bil­ity of a deep, deep com­pas­sion for the suf­fer­ing that so of­ten mo­ti­vates un­con­scious and harm­ful be­hav­iours. It in­vites us to re­mem­ber the in­no­cence of all peo­ples, and to recog­nise that if we want peace, then it be­gins within.

The in­vi­ta­tion in this mo­ment is to feel all there is to feel, and to sim­ply let it be here, to of­fer the full­ness of our hu­man­ity to each other, and to gra­ciously ac­cept the hu­man­ity of oth­ers, re­gard­less of whether or not we’re re­pulsed by the face that it wears.

Don­ald Trump is a wave, as are his sup­port­ers. They will surge, and crest, and crash, and wash away, as all waves do. Yet we are the ocean, and they live within us. We are noth­ing without each other.

This mo­ment is an in­vi­ta­tion to pause, breathe, and be grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity to know our­selves and each other, and to love our­selves and each other, more deeply than we ever have be­fore.

I in­vite us to aban­don our cities, and our priv­i­leged grief, and load up our hy­brid cars, and art-cars and kom­bis, and drive deep into the belly of our na­tion, and start a con­ver­sa­tion or two. Greet ev­ery stranger with a silent na­maste and bow be­fore the Life that an­i­mates them. Ask them what they fear. Ask them what they need. Ask them what they love.

“... if it is a despot you would de­throne, see first that his throne erected within you is de­stroyed. For how can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their own free­dom and a shame in their own pride?” – Kahlil Gi­bran, The Prophet. ■

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