I have spent the better part of this week, biting my tongue in an effort not to gloat. I wouldn’t be gloating about my candidate winning the U.S. Presidential election (he didn’t; my candidate lost in the primary to Hillary Clinton, who did get my vote on Tuesday, reluctantly given). No, my braggadocio was of a different nature: the “I told you so” variety.
I’ve been saying for months that Clinton couldn’t win the general election, while I watched the train wreck of the Republican primary as a bunch of dudes (and one woman) didn’t understand the force majeure that was taking each of them out (death by 1,000 paper cuts has been a refrain echoing throughout the country this week). I witnessed a brief glimmer of possibility when Clinton picked Tim Kaine as her running mate, only to throw him and nearly half the country under the bus when she issued her “basket of deplorables” decree. I knew then she had handed Trump the keys to the kingdom.
But I’ve never once felt better saying, “I told you so.”
Here’s what so many in this country—Hillary supporters, progressives, true conservatives, the media, the candidates themselves and many others—failed to grasp: Middle America is no longer sad nor is it hateful. In fact, they are the opposite: respectively, angry and scared.
That’s right: The opposite of sadness isn’t happiness; it’s anger. The opposite of hate isn’t love; it’s fear.
I see people out there protesting (a Constitutional right, last time I checked) and I see a lot of hate on both sides being played up by the same media that tried to convince everyone that Hillary was a shoo-in all while giving candidate Trump a pass on every major outburst (maybe because they wrongly assumed that no sane person would vote for the man). I’m here to say it: A lot of sane people did vote for Trump; a lot more sane than crazy or hate-filled or racist or deplorable.
The reason why Hillary lost this race was not the Electoral College or the right-wingers; she lost because the silent majority—or more accurately, those in the majority who chose to remain silent—didn’t bother to cast a vote at all. Out of a nation of nearly 250 million adults, only 60 million voted for Donald Trump (so roughly 1 in 4 citizens). It is estimated that roughly two-million fewer Obama supporters showed up at the polls than in 2012, more than enough for the Democrats to have stayed in the White House (and possibly taken control of Congress).
However, I’m neither here (today, anyway) to chastise those who didn’t vote nor am I here to talk about those who could not vote (for whatever reason). I’m trying to parse what happened this week in the hopes that the majority can learn from its mistakes and combat what are some very negative forces in this nation that are hardly new to the political arena. The flock needs its shepherd, and if the path to the slaughter is negative or positive, mutton is still served at the big boys’ table. We all need to stop, take a moment, and figure out a plan that really effects change instead of SSDD.
Before moving forward with action, we need to know what we’re fighting, and what we are fighting is anger and fear. One of these alone is damaging; both together are incendiary. Think I’m wrong about anger being the opposite of sad? Go ask a Hillary supporter if s/he/they are waking up happy after being sad for a few days? I’m guessing their sadness is already morphing to anger. And ask if their love of country has turned to hate? I can 100 percent clue you in that they don’t hate Donald Trump and the powers that will be taking over this nation; they fear him and them.
However, more anger and more fear will not solve any of this. How does one combat anger? With compassion and passive resistance. How does one combat fear? With bravery. Or to put it into “Disneyese” for ya: Have courage; be kind.
The alternative is anarchy, which would make for good reality television no doubt. Commanders in Chief aside, our nation is not a spectator sport. Nor do we live in a vacuum, no matter how we potentially restrict entry across our borders. Extremism is everywhere, and it comes from our own populace, as well. A failure to seek middle ground is what got us here in the first place. Other nations look to us and whither we go they will follow. Already extremists on the right in Australia, New Zealand and France are being galvanized over the shift in American “values.”
But I don’t think our values have changed; not really. When you corner an animal, it will fight back. When an ignorant person reaches out a hand in search of contact and you smack it away because “it’s not my job to educate you,” don’t be surprised if that person fails to see how his/her/their vote may impact you and your demographic.
I have said for decades that the great tragedy of these United States is that we have more than enough wealth to share: Make a “maximum” wage law whereby no CEO can make more than 100 times his lowest paid employee. You’re paying an office clerk $30,000/year? Well, then, your compensation (including bonuses) will be punitively taxed once it goes over $3,000,000/year. You want to make more? Pay your employees more!
Okay, that notion may be Pollyannaish, but the point is we do not live in a desert, struggling each day just to find food and water. Most of us do not live in ramshackle surroundings that blow over every time a gust occurs or the local authorities want to “clean up the slums.” Despite what our news outlets would like you to think, we generally walk down the street and without getting shot (let alone beheaded or set on fire, which happens nearly daily in other parts of the world). We need to face our fears and resist anger at what we perceive are insurmountable obstacles.
Because it really didn’t matter who won on Tuesday if we’re so preoccupied by the machinations of our politicians that we fail to take responsibility for our own selves. There is a part of me who doubts the messages of JFK (“Ask not what your country can do for you…”) and FDR (“The only thing to fear is fear itself…”) would resonate at all in 2016. We long ago abandoned personal responsibility for some bizarre cocktail of entitlement, instant gratification and finger pointing.
It’s not easy to purge oneself of negative emotions, but I remember oh so long ago when I was studying Buddhism that there were whispers on the edges of my practice that once I had tired of praying for myself, I would learn there is only one thing to pray for: Peace.
Because it is only through a peaceful existence that we can truly create lasting change, combat anger and fear, and bring back happiness and love.
If you need a meme to help you, well, it’s in the photo above. Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, know that the people who stand opposite of you have a right to be heard as well. If only we could listen more and shout less, we might all knuckle down and do the hard work that our forefathers didn’t expect someone else to undertake. Compromise and personal responsibility are not the enemies here; we are our own.