When I first heard the election results I had precisely the same feeling as when I saw the planes flying into the Twin Towers on that pristine-blue sky day: The world has changed. At first, many turned toward us with open hearts, until the Bush administration created a nightmare that we live with to this day. I’m holding out that the pre-existing rupture that this election revealed may present its own opening for a different future. We have to start by acknowledging that the deep rift in the American people, the unattended wound in the fabric of the country that was exposed in this election, cannot be ascribed to a single man. We also shouldn’t delude ourselves that it was because of the deep mistrust of Hillary Clinton, the complacency of the Democratic Party, nor because of the majority of women who voted for Trump, or a supposed cyber-espionage mission by the Russians, or the lukewarm turnout by Latino and African-American voters for Clinton. Yes, these are factors, but at the heart of the matter is the indubitable factor of inequality: the disparity between those that have and those that don’t have, which has been with us for decades. This is the wound that has to be healed. We are a fractured nation that has been negligent in facing into the moral insult of inequality.
Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery, said, “We have sought to bind the chains of slavery on the limbs of the black man, without thinking that at last we should find the other end of that hateful chain about our own necks.” Now is the time for us to recognize that inequality is a chain around everyone’s neck, the resulting calculus is electing someone who is ethically challenged, a toxic misogynist, and a self-serving impostor; an empty, hollow man. While Trump got some things right – the estrangement of people who feel unacknowledged and condescended to by political elites and beltway academics – I am deeply troubled that millions of Americans, regardless of the depth of their dissatisfaction (and much of it credible), voted for a calculating, petty tyrant. When a person told me that she had voted for Trump because he was “authentic,” I understood she was speaking of a contrast to the polish of the professional politician. But I was totally bewildered when she couldn’t see that, if he was authentic, what about what he was saying?
So what now? Set our alarms to 2020? No. No numbing ourselves or putting our head in the sand.
In the embodied life we practice noticing our reactions and then returning to the present moment. We center. We don’t do this by thinking of a cheery thought or putting on a smiley face, but living squarely and fully inside our skin. This means feeling. Directly connecting to the fear, the loss, and the vulnerability while breathing in the dignity that is the heritage of life in a human body. We bear witness to what is. We grieve fully so we’re not overtaken by despair or rage; we let the feelings wash through us so goodness and right action have a place in us.
As we do the necessary, hard work of being with what is we face into our situation. We align to what has to be done. We face, in the upright stance of our human lineage, what is in front of us. We seek to embody the goodness and righteousness of the moral universe. We ask ourselves: what am I working for, what do I stand for, what are the next steps, what does it look like in four years? With whom can I collaborate and partner?
In aikido and somatics we say that the resolution to the conflict is in the problem itself. We enter into the conflict. In Japanese this is called irimi and it’s a commitment to courage. We take action by engaging all the elements that are polarized and at odds with each other. We move to the heart of the quarrel, listen deeply to the concerns of all, blend, and lead out of the reality show bubble to the conversation of race, poverty, gender, and class inequity. It’s a matter of rolling up our sleeves and going to work. This doesn’t mean reifying the “other,” but starting with extending across the divide with deep listening and acknowledgement of what’s in the heart. Together we can make a better world.
Take it Easy but Take It