I am mad. No, I am enraged. Fist clenching, teeth gritting, seeing red, about to blow…enraged.
You might think that’s an odd way to start off a blog post on a page with peace and love in the title. But then, these are odd times. I typically try to limit my political posts or not to talk politics except with the closest of friends and family members. In most situations I am usually quite empathetic, overly so in fact. I strive to be open to different viewpoints and understand where people are coming from. I listen. I bite my tongue when employees, volunteers, donors, or elected officials that I work with as part of my job say something that is in stark contrast to my beliefs. I try very hard to fight my battles with love and compassion and I am a firm believer in a nonviolent approach.
I am really struggling to continue in this manner.
I have friends, some whom I have known for a LONG time, who supported Trump. Some because they believed in him, others because their options were limited and they distrusted and disliked Hilary and feared for the direction she would take this country. I can attest to the fact that these are good people. They aren’t racist. They aren’t uncaring. These are people who have devoted their life to helping others and/or would give the shirt off of their back to a stranger in need. Friends whose parents were immigrants who risked their lives to come here and worked their asses off to build a life and legacy for their families. I am not naive enough to believe that there isn’t a contingency who voted for Trump based on racist views and/or a desire to strip certain groups of people of their rights. But these people are very much the minority when I look at the Trump supporters I have come into contact with.
After the election, and leading up to Trump taking office, I heard many Trump supporters say that those of us who were concerned should stop being so afraid, wait and give him a chance. Fair enough, I suppose.
I didn’t have to wait very long to see what Trump would do with his “chance” and how he intended to lead this country. With just two weeks in office, Trump has said and/or done things which:
*Have been personal attacks on other people
*Have been out of alignment with facts. Not “alternative facts” but REAL facts. You know, the kind that are proven to be true?
*Are borderline if not actually unconstitutional
*Appear to be illegal
*Demonstrate a conflict of interest
*Could be considered censorship
*Strip people of rights
*Could easily be seen as discriminatory
*Question the validity of the democratic selection process this country was founded on without any evidence or credible data to support his claims and without a willingness to redo an election which he, himself, claims was rampant with fraud and did not provide an accurate vote count.
At times, I have to remind myself that these things are really happening.
I am angry, and anger is not always a bad thing. Whereas grief and fear often immobilize us, anger lights a fire within us and spurs us into action.
What I am afraid of sometimes is losing touch with my center and my power and succumbing to my anger and allowing it reign over my heart. I am usually a gentle person but when you threaten people I care about (and that’s a lot of people) and/or mess with human rights, the dragon in me comes out and I will do anything I can to protect those I care about and fight for those without a voice. Sometimes, I am afraid that I will become so overwhelmed by what I am fighting against and the hate that it unleashes that I will no longer have a willingness to listen, to be respectful, to consider other viewpoints, or to find common ground. If I allow myself to be changed into a version of myself that is not in alignment with who I truly am at my core and the beliefs I have long held dear, I lose and they win.
Yet, I do have hope.
I have this theory that countries (not just ours) go through cycles. There comes a point when the Universe (or whatever you want to call it) sees that there are things, dark things, exponentially growing in the dimly lit corners of our society and yet -whether out of fear or lack of knowledge- so many of us hide it, ignore it, and/or try to pretend it’s not real. The Universe finally says, “Enough of this shit” and sheds a spotlight on every dark thing we’ve tried to hide or have been too afraid to face. All of it is brought to light in a way that it can no longer be ignored. When this happens and the chaos and confusion sets in, the Universe says, “Now you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. You MUST confront it. The question is, what are you going to do about it?” Sometimes enough of us band together and fight to make it better and amazing things happen. Sometimes, too many of us are afraid to take a stand and the darkness engulfs us. The Holocaust is just one of many examples of this. Good does seem to typically triumph in the end, but the casualties can be enormous.
So, what are we going to do about it, and how are we going to do it?
There are those who try to ensure our silence by making us think that we are weak, powerless, and that there is nothing we can do. We must remember that if they truly thought we had no power, they wouldn’t need to expend so much effort in silencing us. ALL of us have a voice. ALL of us have power. We just have to be brave enough to use it.
I am inspired by the millions of people who peacefully marched – in 7 continents no less- to make their voices heard and to fight for basic human rights. I am encouraged by the fact that our current state of affairs has lit a fire in so many women (and men) who may have not previously had their voices heard or thought that they had power to impact change. I am elated that this movement runs across many generations and is represented by people of all different races, religions, ethnicities, genders, abilities, and sexual orientation. Protests are what this country was founded on and a fundamental component of what led to our independence.
Last week I testified at a state Senate hearing to support a bill that would help reduce and possibly even end homelessness. There was testimony given by a woman who had experienced homelessness due to being kicked out of her housing because mold was found in her home. (She did not do anything to cause the mold). She is now separated from her homeless teenage son who has Type I diabetes and they are still trying to find housing so that they can reunite. There was a Lummi Nation tribal council member who bravely admitted that he caused homelessness in his community because a policy that he enacted which was meant to do good had unintended consequences. He said he was there to remind elected officials that this could happen, to take ownership for his mistake and noted that he sleeps at a homeless shelter one night a week to get a better understanding of the needs of his tribe’s homeless so that he can find ways to rectify his mistake. I have testified before and know how to give compelling testimony, but no matter how many facts and stories I share it will never be as compelling as the stories told by individuals such as these who have directly experienced the issue at hand.
Furthermore, I have had legislators tell me over and over again of their fear of voting for or against a bill that is in strong conflict with the other party’s ideologies and there is an ongoing fear that these type of votes will be used against them when they run for re-election. What gives them the strength to do so is knowing that the majority of their constituents want them to vote a certain way and back them. I don’t just mean the constituents who have money; but all voting constituents. There is strength in numbers and every voice matters. This applies to legislators at local and federal levels.
While I know that there will always be legislators that say or do things that baffle and disturb me, my experiences have shown me that there ARE good people in BOTH parties who sincerely want to help others and are there for the right reasons. So, please, don’t lose hope and think every legislator falls into the same dark category or that only one party or the other contains people with integrity and people who care and want to do what’s right.
What about the “how”? It’s easy to let anger and fear take the wheel, particularly when you or someone you know has been impacted by the injustices of the world we live in. I believe it is natural for even the kindest person who has been hurt and pushed past their limit to want and/or choose to counter attack in hurtful ways. I can see how in some circumstances it would be effortless to give in to violence, particularly when you feel that your power has been taken away from you, your voice isn’t being heard, and you have nothing left to lose.I know that in certain situations it may feel like a more extreme approach is one’s only hope. It is said that riots are the voice of the unheard.
I personally am committed to fighting with love. That’s not so easy. By fighting with love, I am NOT referring to being silent, weak, and/or refusing to fight. On the contrary, fighting with love is much harder and requires far more skill than responding with pure anger and/or hate. It takes a great deal of strength and unwavering focus.
Some would laugh at this because we typically don’t associate love with power in our society. Yet, as Martin Luther King Jr. said in his book Where Do We Go From Here:
“One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power are usually contrasted as opposites…What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”
There are times when I am tempted to lash out at those who seem to be operating from a base of hate. There are times when I get sucked into an argument and I want to react from a place of indignation and ire. Yet I know, deep down, that not only is this a losing proposition but if I go down this road I risk becoming a pale version of myself. I risk becoming the very thing that I am fighting against.
Finding my center and ensuring that I am fighting from a place of love in the face of so much hate is extremely challenging at times. I remind myself that if I want to fight from a place of love I must ensure that I focus on fighting for the people and principles I love rather than fighting against hate. To me, it’s the difference between actively holding a space in your heart for who and what you love and letting that feed you instead of letting your rage blindly take over to the point that you begin to allow that which you hate to eat away at your heart and soul.
So, I will find the ways that I can be most effective in fighting and making my voice heard, not just at the federal level but also at the local level. I will cast a light wherever possible on the things that my opposition may be trying to keep in the dark. I will be brave enough to venture into the darkness- including the darkness within society, others, and myself- for that is necessary as well.
I will also do small things. In an environment that is hostile and filled with darkness and uncertainty, I will continue to perform random acts of kindness for both loved ones and strangers, regardless of where they stand in the political spectrum. I will be a sanctuary and offer a safe space for those who need it. I will create, making beauty through instruments of art be it my violin, my guitar, my voice, or my writing. (Truly, the role of an artist in a revolution cannot be understated. An artist’s duty is to reflect the times in brutally honest ways, to inspire people to think for themselves, to show the beauty that exists and to imagine what could be.) I will call people out (in a diplomatic and loving but firm way) on any statement or action that threatens to harm someone or take away their freedom, that could be viewed as discriminatory, and that improperly inhibits anyone’s ability to enjoy our constitutional promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (For someone who as a child was a “people pleaser” who valued harmony over all things and was scared to rock the boat, this is no small feat 🙂 ).
I will, above all, take care of myself. Not only is it ok to retreat for a bit when the world gets too crazy and you feel that there is not much more you can take, it is imperative. We must first and foremost love and care for ourselves if we are to be able to help others and continue fighting to win the war, not just a battle.
When I feel the rage start to get out of control, I will stop, take a breath, and take care of myself. I will remind myself of who I am, who I wish to be, and my purpose and mission in this life. I will remind myself of the people throughout history who accomplished amazing things just be being willing to take a stand and who did so without resorting to violent or immoral tactics. I will take heed of Nelson Mandela’s wisdom in knowing that no matter how much pain we experience, if we don’t leave our bitterness and hatred behind we risk imprisoning ourselves.
I will let the words and actions of Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, Nelson Mandela and so many other powerful adherents of nonviolence act as a touchstone thus ensuring that I am using my power to implement justice and ensure equity and take a stand to correct everything that stands against love without losing myself in the process. I hope you will join me in using your voice, your talent and your power in a way that only you can to fight for what you believe in as well.