Donald Trump’s election and presidency has ushered in everything he promised it would.
I’m not talking about lower taxes, or better health care for everyone, or an impregnable border wall. I’m talking about an increase in hate crimes; a coarsened, intolerant culture; and an increasingly blindly loyal and dangerous, cult-like following. In the time since neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville to today, where we see children locked in cages to “send a message,” Trump’s impact on our society is no longer subtext but actual policy.
As rights and equal opportunities roll back like rugs in a defunct business, our world grows increasingly darker.
Frighteningly, too many people—good, loving, caring, heart-centered people—are tuning out, closing their hearts, and choosing to look the other way. By doing this, we are on the verge of resigning our way of life over to the rule of fear and hate—the clear minority of Americans.
As a kid, I disliked history classes. They seemed irrelevant to me and my life. I studied many of the horrors of our past as a country and as a global humanity. I watched videos of Nazi Germany with disgust and horror. I learned of our own history of slavery and civil rights abuses. But I saw it all through the distance allowed me by the privilege of my white, middle-class upbringing. I assumed that our wars, our imagined hierarchies and our atrocities were of the past, and that our future as a human species was rainbow bright. We had learned from our mistakes—from our hubris, our divisions, our suspicions. And all of us wanted the same thing: an evolved and united humanity.
I—we–can no longer afford to believe that the past can’t repeat itself. We can no longer afford to dismiss history, and the repetitions of human error. Nor can we pretend that the time we are living in is a temporary setback. We can no longer assume that we all are good people wanting the same things, or that evil only exists in history books and countries far, far away. For it now lives and walks here, now, among us, in broad daylight.
Take these changes, for example:
We, the United States of America, were once the liberators and the freedom-bringers. Now, we are the cagers and the world’s bully.
Though we often fell short, we were once the feet, hands and voice of the moral high ground. We had soft power influence across the globe. Now, we are the receiver of admonitions from human rights watch groups here and abroad. With each slight of an ally and cozying up to our enemies, we are squandering away the last remaining grains of our soft power and good will.
We were once a country with open arms. We have now closed our fist and are taking real swings at real people. We were once a country people yearned to visit. Yet travelers are, perhaps wisely, choosing to travel elsewhere.
We were once a country pushing for innovation and change, leading the way into the future. Now, we’re dragging our heels into the future like a child being forced to come inside.
Each of us who still believes that knowledge is respected, kindness is a virtue, and political differences take place through healthy discourse and shared facts must be a light-holder.
Holding the light does not mean:
- Being blinded by the Light
None of this is easy to swallow. It’s easier to believe that all this is temporary, a bad dream, or a short-term affair. But if you haven’t already, it’s past time to take current events seriously. We cannot afford to pretend that this is all some mysterious plan by the Creator to make the world a better place. We are seeing how very fragile our democratic norms are, and how necessary it is to fight for them. Please, don’t tell me that there is some greater purpose being worked through and we should all relax and let go. We ARE the great purpose. We are already here. Let’s begin acting like it.
- Downplaying the events of our time
Little by little, our freedoms are eroding. Just because they have not yet reached you or your family does not mean that it won’t. First, it was “them” and then it is “us” is the lesson and the promise of history. Better to speak up when it’s them, because otherwise there will be no one to protect you when it’s us.
- Only focusing on the positive
Holding the light means seeing the entirety of truth, cobwebs and corners too. It is important that we all mourn the losses we’ve faced. Focusing only on the positive in an increasingly dark world will mean continuing to close off our senses to the world, which would only result in our light growing dimmer.
- Withdrawing/Hiding/Making our Circles Smaller
It is quite easy to hold the light of love and peace for all beings when sitting, for instance, in a yoga class, surrounded by beauty, taking in the scent of incense, and listening to the gentle, melodic voice of a yoga teacher. It is easy to be kind to those we love. It is easy to practice compassion and forgiveness toward others who look like us. It is easy to turn off news that is off-putting or painful. It would not be that hard to be lulled to placidity and docility, hoping that a better future awaits.
It is quite another act of light-holding to keep our hearts and sense open to all input—negative and positive. These days, reaching out to other human beings, especially those who may not agree with us, is itself an act of compassion. For many of us with tender hearts, it takes courage to listen/watch the news, to look at pictures of children kept in cages away from their families or to listen to their cries. And yet we must. We must remind ourselves and each other each day of how different things are. We must not buy into the illusions that it’s really not that much different, that it’s politics as usual. It is not.
In other words, we can still chant powerful, ancient mantras for peace and prosperity. But the mantras “This is not normal” and “We will not accept this” are equally important these days.
Holding the light does mean:
- Doing our own research (i.e. don’t believe the spin of either party)
There was, perhaps, a time when you could reasonably trust the news we heard. There were enough checks and balances that the truth had a good chance of surviving being passed through slippery hands. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that our government has never lied to us before. But certainly, not at the level it is now—now, when the best word to describe many sources like Fox News and Breitbart is state propaganda.
Everything we hear or read must be put through the paces—checking sources and cross-checking against other sources—before we believe, or even worse share, information that is incorrect, distorted, or purposefully manipulated.
- Talking with people about current events
We no longer have the luxury of keeping politics out of polite conversation. This is real. This isn’t separate. We need to talk to people. Bring it up. Share concerns openly. Let us be the values-driven, heart-forward poeple we will want your future grandchildren (or any children you care about) to believe we are.
- Stay Curious
Curiosity is not just for children. Especially not these days. Curiosity is a powerful energy of awareness and possibility. It keeps the energy channels in the universe vibrating, rather than locking them into place with our fear. It allows for the imaginable to occur. It is exactly the energy that we need to invest in right now.
I’ve heard many people justify Trump’s election by saying, “We got the president we deserve.” Maybe so. But to me, this is a passive argument. The word “deserve” is laden with guilt, fear and helplessness.
If we continue to sit back and hope that things will turn on their own, or that someone will come along who will save us, our continued passive actions will usher us into a future we deserve, too.
Our cultural fatigue is this administration’s greatest weapon. But we—those of us who continue to work on behalf of honesty, integrity, fairness and justice–are this administration’s greatest fear.If instead we come from a place of active light and inner power, we will get the future we work for.
We cannot create a healthier world by stepping back from the light of the truth.
We cannot create a fairer world by silencing our voice.
We cannot cultivate peace through passive actions.
Our wisdom means nothing if it is not shared.
Our love activates nothing if we do not activate our love.
Our personal ability to transcend the stuff of this world will mean nothing if there is no world.
We must all hold the light of truth, of love, of compassion, as steady as we can every single day. Our human light alone, not the appearance of a superhero or modern-day Arjuna-like warrior, will light our path through the darkness.