Compassion & politics – yes, it matters

“Never, ‘for the sake of peace and quiet,’ deny your own experience or convictions.”
— Dag Hammarskjold

I shared these words of former UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold in the early days of this blog, looking at it from a slightly different angle than the obvious one, but now I think that his words, and intent, are important to bear in mind.

I normally keep my compassion-specific posts pretty far removed my more politically-oriented posts, but we are who we are, and there is occasionally a bit of an unintentional overlap.  Now I am attempting to combine the two intentionally. Because I think it’s time. And I think that the reality that the two should not be separated needs to be better understood. My focus is on the current social and political climate in the US – because I live it and understand it culturally a bit better, but, unfortunately, the US is not alone in this. Nationalism, xenophobia, public expressions of hate wrapped up in patriotic fervor, or religious zeal, are all too common globally at the moment. In many cases, especially in Europe, the causes are not all that far removed from the causes here in the US – a shrinking middle class, displaced immigrants seeking new homes in countries that are grappling with their own internal problems, a continual rise of terrorism in the name of religion magnifying the fear of the ‘different’, globalization of business and trade that  largely benefits larger corporations, but often hurts consumers. And that list could go on (and on). And if only it was just the US and Europe – the recently elected Philippine president seems more than a little bit frightening.

Here, in the US, that has led to the spectacular rise of Donald Trump from campaign joke, to presumptive Republican presidential candidate. It’s interesting to me how deliberately so many people I know are choosing to tune out the strong negatives – including his very disturbing economic comments which would be recessionary, at best. Former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, called Bernie Sanders probably the most honest person currently campaigning, stated that Trmp was not a conservative, and then urged his audience to support him. WTF? Much cognitive dissonance going on? But of course Beohner is a long-time golfing buddy of Trumps, so there you go… But the negatives that most disturb me (outside of the arrogant narcissism, incredibly poor grasp on economics, diplomacy, government, and governing) is the xenophobia that he’s played on to woo his base – while disingenuously claiming to not be familiar enough with the white supremacists supporting him, or blaming a computer error for naming on on his delegate list.

From the moment he announced his candidacy, he has been insulting Mexicans, Muslims, women, anyone he views as ‘weak’. He speaks in hyperbole with few specifics. And the specifics provides are frequently negated by other statements he’s made. In the wake of the Orlando shooting he has implied the President Obama was somehow supportive of ISIS.

This cultivation of fear and hate – and quite frankly it doesn’t matter that his uneasy GOP supporters claim that he’ll moderate after the campaigning – has done irreparable damage to the Republican Party, and long-term damage to the spirit of the United State and a weary electorate. In some respects it reminds me a little of 1968 and the implosion of the Democratic Party over Vietnam, Civil Rights, and a host of grievances. The Republicans are now facing their own 1968.

“Hatred and fear blind us. We no longer see each other. We only see the faces of monsters, and that gives us the courage to destroy each other.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

It is incumbent upon us to recognize that compassion is active – that we are compelled to act – to speak out – to write. That we have that we also have the responsibility to not merely sit back – or even sit out the election because we don’t like or trust Clinton. There are alternatives running. I normally think that, in the long run, it doesn’t really matter who wins our presidential elections, but I’m less sure now. Trump is an obnoxious, autocratic, narcissist huckster who is exceptionally skilled at playing to his base without take responsibility for half of what he says. There is an ugly underside to humanity that has been brought to the forefront, and emboldened, by Donald Trump, and the United States cannot afford to have him serve even one term a President. I’m not sure the world can afford it.

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” -Amelia Earhart

We may never be able to educate or appeal to most of Trump’s ‘base’ – most made their decisions long before Trump became a candidate, but we can try to reach the hearts and minds of everyone else – those reluctantly supporting him, those on the fence, and those that are still disengaged. And if we can stop the slide into a government built by haters and disaffected people looking for someone to blame here, perhaps there’s hope for the rest of the world, too.

“There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world even though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.” — Hannah Szenes

We must be that light.

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