The Trump Presidency: An Invitation to Dig Deeper

The Trump Presidency: An Invitation to Dig Deeper

Quite the pickle America and the world finds itself in. While I am Canadian, I’m just going to say “we” for the rest of the piece because a Donald Trump presidency is unprecedentedly significant for the rest of the world. Besides, we all have a hand in this.

Confusion and fear reign as many wonder how on earth this election outcome was possible. Collective shock has taken hold. Dazed, and on the heels of Brexit and the US election, we immediately find ourselves at yet another crossroads.

With the nuclear codes having somehow been placed into the hands of such a damaged and volatile human being, the dysfunctionality of our economic and political systems have been laid bare. Why are we here? There is plenty of blame to go around, between the ratings-hungry and fear-mongering cable news networks, both major political parties and the people. But the challenge is to move beyond the partisan fingering-pointing. There are bigger picture, deeper issues facing the Unites States, and the world, that are more relevant to the situation than anything to do with Democratic or Republican parties, both of which have become transparently corrupt and ineffective.

The nature of the current citizen response is critically important. If those on both sides continue to parse and cherry-pick information in order to vilify each other the danger to the nation, and the world, could be catastrophic. The reality, masked by decades and centuries of avoidance and denial, is that America is beset by disowned foundational trauma, revolving around the Native American Genocide, Slavery and The Civil War, the effects of each of which continue to wreak havoc, hundreds of years after the fact. Standing Rock, the police shootings of African-Americans and the recent election highlight the explosive synergy between these three historic traumas, which has now come to a head.

In all three traumas, responsibility and contrition have been largely avoided by Christian Americans who now suffer from a generational and profound shame that nobody wants to really look at, for obvious reasons. Some will balk at what is being presented here, suggesting that those things happened long ago. The argument that those are issues of the past has never been as hollow as it is at this moment when the continued impact of these traumas is now plain as day.

In the long term, when traumas, personal or global, are left untended to then the perpetrator becomes the victim, a slave to the guilt that has not been reconciled. Carrying around this burden has become debilitating for the United States, but also for the world as much of humanity struggles under their own versions of terrible betrayal of their fellow humans.

Our avoidance in tackling our traumas is totally understandable. We are afraid to look in the mirror because of what we will see. It’s painful. Between the latent historical traumas and our personal childhood trauma, which so many of us have, we find ourselves at a tipping point. This state of affairs can no longer be endured. One way or another, it must shift.

Enter: Donald Trump, an extreme manifestation of our collective neglected trauma screaming for attention, desperate for acceptance, yet perpetually rejected. It’s not on purpose. It’s too painful to engage with, so we distract ourselves to avoid the truth that has become patently obvious: America, the world, is sick, the severity of the condition represented by President-elect Trump.

Whether you voted for him or not, his is the prevailing energy at the fore at this point in time. And everyone has a piece of it because nothing happens without the tacit/active approval of the people. At the extremes, which have become increasingly normalized, some of us hate along with Mr. Trump, and others just hate Mr. Trump. In the end, beneath the veneer, there is little difference between the two positions.

What does it mean that Congress has a 13% approval rating? In what other arena are the players so inept yet still allowed to keep doing the same old same old? What does it mean when a paltry 53% of eligible voters participated in one of the most consequential elections in the history of the United States? By the way, let us not distract ourselves with the Electoral College and the argument that Hillary Clinton won more of the popular vote – by an unconvincing 2%. The more important figure is that almost 75% of eligible voters cared neither for her nor Donald Trump. Does democracy get any less watered-down than the ‘winner’ sporting a 25% mandate?

Like it or not, our representatives reveal how well we think of ourselves. We are the bosses. These are the people we have hired. A 13% Congress persists because of a 300 year old legacy of sacrificing our feelings at the altar of The Age of Reason. Regardless of gender, the feminine, the emotional, the instinctual, the gentle and the big picture have been overwhelmed by a masculine, logical, specializing, practical and penetrating perspective that crosses class and religious boundaries. The result of this profound, historic imbalance between the masculine and the feminine is a fearful, abusive, violent, misogynistic, racist, pornographic culture that has relegated community, compassion and empathy to sideshow status, leaving in its wake a traumatized and confused culture that escapes and survives via its cornucopia of addictions that have become normalized.

Mr. Trump is the living embodiment of what is axiomatic but still not well understood: what we reject most vigorously in others is an energetic match for what lies within ourselves. That’s tough, because it requires us to look within. It requires us to take responsibility for ourselves. Unfortunately, self-reflection is not a strong suit of the hyper-rational mind, since it lies in the emotional sphere, where the heart connection resides. How many of us have only limited access to that receptive and loving place? Who amongst us knows what joy really tastes like? Instead, how many of us are fixing for a fight, our latent anger and frustration lurking just beneath the mask we deploy every day to engage with a world that makes so little sense? We chide our children for throwing tantrums or bullying when we have taught them everything they know. Things haven’t gone the way of Trump haters so they’re going to throw a hissy-fit – a tantrum because things didn’t work out the way they needed them to; so that they could feel okay; so that they could feel that things are still under control.

How many of us regularly unleash our incredulity on a random person over a harmless infraction? As pedestrians, cyclists and drivers we are ready to wag an accusatory finger at one another over some apparent advantage taken, or a moment of unawareness, that might have delayed us from reaching our destination by thirty seconds. And while we are fiercely condemning them for their act, we instantly take in their appearance, their race, their gender, their age, their sexual orientation, their fitness level and come up with a personality profile that is born of ego, fear, judgment and bias; that conjures vulnerability in the other; to make us feel better; superior; to give us the justification we need to avoid recognizing our role in creating that very experience in order to show us our state of consciousness; empathy on life-support.

 

THE CIVIL WAR AND THE CREATION OF THE CONTINENTAL POVERTY DIVIDE

Nothing more needs to be said about the lasting ignominy of both the Native American Genocide and Slavery. However, the third trauma, The Civil War, is not so straight forward. A closer look at the motivations behind The Civil War sheds an important light on the ever-present North-South divide, represented here in a map which details the aptly named, Continental Poverty Divide:

07_0091_05lg-gibber-actual

How did this grossly unequal state of affairs come to be? A great myth of American history is that disagreement between North and South over Slavery was the primary reason for the Civil War, and that Slavery was mostly a Southern problem. In fact, the reason for the conflict was overwhelmingly economics. Of course, the victor always gets to write the history, and so it is that Abraham Lincoln has deified, having been credited with acting on behalf of slaves when in fact he only became an abolitionist, and a limited one at that, when it suited his political ends.

In September, 1858, during his campaign for the Senate, Mr. Lincoln said to a crowd in Charleston, Illinois:

“I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races (applause); that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people… And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

Furthermore, “racism in the North was as entrenched as slavery in the South, and it would take the war to shake both. New York blacks could not vote unless they owned $250 in property (a qualification not applied to whites). A proposal to abolish this, put on the ballot in 1860, was defeated two to one (although Lincoln carried New York by 50,000 votes).”

For Lincoln, the overwhelming imperative was keeping the Union together with Federal Government supremacy over fiscal matters, especially taxation. During the Civil War, in a letter to one of his generals here wrote:

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy Slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about Slavery and the colored race, I do because it helps to save this Union…”

When the Emancipation Proclamation “was issued January 1, 1863, it declared slaves free in those areas still fighting against the Union (which it listed very carefully), and said nothing about slaves behind Union lines. The London Spectator wrote concisely: “The principle is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States.”

153 years later, the revisionist history is gospel, which keeps alive the idea that the South was, and is, clearly more racist than the North. Jessica Barron, a sociologist at Duke University, says, “We as a nation do not like to talk about slavery in the north or our 12 presidents who owned slaves…” She goes on to say, “we need to understand that the entire foundation of the US is built on a racial hierarchy that has always said that white is better than black – not just in the south.” No doubt African-Americans in Chicago, Baltimore and New York would concur. (Sidebar: while African-Americans are almost 3 times as likely to be killed by police than Whites, any guesses as to who has it worse? The long forgotten who are even lower on the totem pole, if it can be believed, than African-Americans: Native Americans)

In short, despite conventional American denial, The Civil War was largely about economic and political control (which, of course, included control over decisions regarding Slavery). The Southern states resisted; in keeping with the ideals of the Declaration of Independence in which they would be free from the tyranny of centralized control. Indeed, it could be argued that inasmuch as the South might be ‘more’ racist than the north, that this position has been heavily influenced by the disingenuous prevailing history that the Civil War was about Slavery.

Regardless, The Civil War resulted a horrendous loss of life and the economic devastation of the South, from which it has yet to recover. The trauma the North inflicted on the South has not been reconciled or remedied, which means the trauma still remains in place, the deep distrust of the Establishment forces within the Federal Government passed down from generation to generation, still fresh, 153 years later.

Presently, the focus of the Left is, mistakenly, on the racist component of the vote instead of on what is more pertinent: namely, the continuing alienation of, and humiliation of, the Tier 2 Americans in the South. Add to this, the nation’s general Depression-era level income inequality and you have many millions of people who have been left in the economic dust and who have little faith in a political system that has not acted on their behalf.

After 153 years, millions of people are still tired of not being heard, tired not being acknowledged, tired of being so taken advantage of by a political and economic system that is absurdly skewed in favor of the Establishment and tired of being dismissed as simply racist. Is there a racist component to the Trump vote? Undoubtedly, since the Republican Party and their new President, have cynically used the racial card to gain support from frustrated and disenfranchised people. But to focus too much on the racial component, at the expense of the aforementioned factors, misses the larger point and perpetuates the divisions that brought about a Trump Presidency. If this chasm is allowed to persist, and expand, it could boil over into another national conflict.

 

THE MORAL AND INTELLECTUAL BANKRUPCTY OF AMERICA’S POLITICAL PARTIES

The status quo is so intolerable that millions risked electing, yes, a dangerous man, but also a man who spoke some truth to power, which no other Republican, or Democratic, candidate did. No doubt, to the extent that Mr. Trump spoke truth to power, it was self-serving. Nevertheless, he tapped into the national, nay global, push by people who have had enough of a system that benefits the few and abandons the many.

America is still living with this unresolved Civil War trauma, which has come to a head in our extreme left-brained culture that has trouble seeing, and feeling, the spaces between right and wrong, Left and Right, black and white, Democrat or Republican. We are stuck between a revisionist history rock and a binary approach hard place.

The emperor, the political system, has no clothes, or more accurately has had the clothes torn off. Do politicians really underestimate the people this much? Do they think we don’t see when they are being so crassly obvious? Well, we are starting to see. Don’t you see that? No, as amazing as that sounds. They do not see because the blinders that the elite have worn for centuries have engendered a generational myopia. Politicians of all stripes are so embedded in the game, so obsessed with maintaining or gaining power, so rationally divorced from their feelings, so beholden to their financial backers, that they are literally incapable of acting in the best interests of the people. This dog-eat-dog virtual-reality bubble that the Establishment, political and economic, has marooned itself in, has been at play for so long that they cannot see the forest for the trees – with grave consequences for the citizenry. Meanwhile, the confused citizenry extends the unconsciousness deep into the culture, unable to see through the fog…

This lack of vision and clarity has America on the precipice as their deep shame, entombed as it has been in the netherworld, rears its ugly head. The knee jerk reaction, generationally practiced, is to avoid and reject, in order to protect ourselves from the pain. The question is, will we open the door and engage with the beast on our terms, which will require unprecedented courage, or will we try to barricade the door, shut our eyes and cover our ears while shouting, la la la la la la, as loud as possible to drown out the sound of the battering ram that will, eventually, smash down the door?

We are all now perpetrator and victim, all rolled into one. None of us are purposely trying to make things worse, not the people and not the politicians. We’re all just trying to keep up, running, hair straight back, afraid to slow down, to stop. Afraid it will all catch up to us, like it has with 25% of Americans who suffer from mental illness, and countless more who are wondering what the hell is going on. We hear of epidemics all the time, none of which materialize, while we ignore the true epidemic in our midst. We are doing the best we can with a limited emotional toolbox.

How much global hate and ridicule have been, and continue to be, hurled Mr. Trump’s way? Many will argue that he clearly deserves it. After all, he’s just a loathsome, irredeemable fellow isn’t he? In our binary, rational world, we want to paint him with a single, vile brush. There. Done. Moving right along.

 

WHO IS DONALD TRUMP?

Speaking of a limited emotional toolbox, who is Donald Trump?According to biographers, Trump’s father was a workaholic, a ruthless, cold and authoritarian man who believed life is a competition where the “killers” win.” He passed his public bigotry and trauma on to Donald, who was such a trouble-maker that his father sent him off to military boarding school. We don’t usually have to dig too far to glean that it’s likely the unruly child has been damaged, unconsciously to be sure, by the family. How many of us unwittingly pass off our trauma to our children, then deny it, then leave the confused child to try to figure it out, foreshadowing the seemingly inexorable continuation of generational betrayal and trauma.

Rest assured, like many of us, Mr. Trump has suffered – mightily. How can we know this? He infamously suggested to the Pakistani-American father who lost his son in combat that he, Mr. Trump, had sacrificed as much as Mr. and Mrs. Khan. Of course, he was roundly condemned for his apparently absurd comment, which he then doubled down on for good measure. We write him off as a fool, but his life and actions reveal deeper truths.

Many people are afraid of Mr. Trump. That they are correct to be concerned is ironically and frighteningly displayed in this video of Mr. Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, recounting their father’s foundational advice when they were 11 and 4 years old, respectively. It is with pride that the brothers speak of their father telling them that they must never trust anyone, including each other, and including himself, their father. What a thing to tell your children. Why would Mr. Trump tell them that? It’s not because he’s just a jerk, though that’s one aspect of his life experience. It’s because he has unquestionably – yes unquestionably – been visited with extreme betrayal in his childhood, his heart connection severed. The extremity of this betrayal, on one end of the continuum, mirrors the extremity of the absence of trust that he so unconsciously bequeaths to the world and to his sons, who continue the tradition. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

If we don’t trust our parents, our gods, then how can we trust life? That’s exactly the point for Mr. Trump. Life is not to be trusted. Only someone who has come from trauma and betrayal feels this way. Earnestly believing he is helping his children, Mr. Trump brands his “wisdom” onto his children’s foreheads, for all to see. To Mr. Trump, anything other than this realpolitik approach would be naïve and irresponsible.

A person who has no trust is capable of the gravest actions. This is the person who is now steering the ship.

So, in a way, Mr. Trump has sacrificed more than Mr. and Mrs. Khan. The Khans’ lost a son yet exude dignity and decency. At some point, unable to cope, Mr. Trump lost himself, as do many of us. He sacrificed himself to survive. The alarming consequences are on display for the world to see; alarming because quite a few Americans are so traumatized and/or far gone with their disgust towards the Establishment that they will consider voting for such a man. Dig a little deeper and understand that some of these people are an energetic match for the traumatized Mr. Trump. The ascendency of Donald Trump reveals just how widespread the trauma is, and how badly the Establishment, bolstered by the populace, has mismanaged the country.

Meanwhile, the more his supporters are derided, the more emboldened and unpredictable they become, including the millions of them who may not display the obvious unsavoriness of Mr. Trump, but who feel deep-seated and unbearable dissatisfaction and insecurity with the status quo. Despite the complexity behind Mr. Trump’s support, our extreme black and white culture, like the old Loony Tunes cartoons, creates simplistic explanations to try to account for the widening chasm that is threatening to derail the American experiment. We’re afraid to see that all involved have legitimate beefs; and that the anger and confusion on both sides are simply two sides of the same coin.

Exiled from our emotional selves, we are suffering from a major compassion deficit. How can we have compassion for those apparently on the other side when we are so uncompassionate with ourselves? Well, in the place of compassion, what really may have won the day for President-Elect Trump is a national American pastime: Ridicule.

Where does this endemic ridicule come from? It is born from a deep insecurity that has been in place since America wrenched independence from Britain. America is still trying to prove itself; a brilliant but immature nation that resorts to constant self-aggrandizement to cover up rot upon which the self-professed greatest country in the world is built.

It is said that Donald Trump decided to run for President after the infamous 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner at which President Obama savagely humiliated him before the country’s elite. During the same dinner, comedian, Seth Meyers, also unleashed a full-scale assault on Mr. Trump. All told, it was a public humiliation for the ages. That dinner came on the heels of Donald Trump’s relentless harping on President Obama’s birth certificate. The frame of reference has drastically changed in recent days, but how many of us in the past laughed along with the ridicule, easily able to convince ourselves that Mr. Trump deserved every ounce of what the President dished out?

Before the election, Frontline on PBS had an excellent short video chronicling the events of that fateful night which helped set forces into motion that have somehow led to a Trump Presidency. In the video, Michael D’Antonio, author of the book, The Truth About Trump, says, “Donald dreads humiliation. And he dreads shame. And this is why he often attempts to humiliate and shame other people. So, in the case of the President ridiculing him, I think this was intolerable for Donald Trump.”  The legendary level of Mr. Trump’s crassness perfectly reflects a man who has been deeply humiliated and shamed in his childhood. It has all been about payback ever since; to show the world that he is worthy, in the face of a never-ending barrage of insults that he has endured for decades, first from his father, then from the world. It all came to a head that night, when one of the most respectful men to ever hold the presidency succumbed to the ubiquitous ridicule that is not just tolerated but celebrated in the culture. All in good fun right? Short-term laughs and ego-boost; long-term underestimation and heartache. The truth is, dismissiveness and sarcasm, normalized in our culture, are outgrowths of deep-seated trauma that we are taking out on others instead of healing.

There is a fallacy that one needs to meet the bully head on; toe to toe; take them down a notch. Bully the bully. That will show them. This approach sometimes may appear to work in the short term, but in the long-term that violent impulse within the bully is only affirmed, with predictable collateral damage down the road. Does that mean we stand by and watch the bully wreak havoc? Certainly not. But the intention behind the response to the bully is key. To hope that he gets his just desserts connects us to the very same energies we condemn in the bully.

How many of us have been, and continue to be, on the Trump-bashing bandwagon?  Egging him on; fueling the wounded beast within; confirming for him the unforgiving nature of the world. It is at our own peril if we persist in making fun of, and underestimating, a man who has achieved the remarkable, the unthinkable, especially if we understand the dark place that he is drawing his inspiration from.

 

THE ROAD AHEAD

We, and our ancestors, all created this mess but we just can’t believe that this is our baby.

Humanity is now presented with a stark choice:

(1) Have the courage to look within, to re-ignite the heart flame, and work to heal our own pain and shame; to look beyond the borders of labels like Democrat-Republican, gay-straight, black-white, Christian-Muslim, etc. Seek out the wonderful nuance that lives on the continuum between these limiting, extreme positions. Embark on the ultimate journey to identify, acknowledge and heal the betrayal and trauma within, while inflicting as little of it as possible on the world. For Americans, there’s also an opportunity to address the still-festering and unacknowledged trauma from the three main traumas; or
(2) Continue down the current divisive path by attacking and denigrating President Trump and his supporters, feeding the beast that already presents a solemn threat to the well-being of the nation and the world. Match their ferocity and disdain with our own.

How are we any different from Mr. Trump and some of his supporters if we spew fear and vitriol? This path sews within it the seeds of unfathomable suffering – again – because when we return similar fire, the recipient, the original bully, gets to divert their attention away from their own culpability and shift their blame on to us, thereby justifying their bad behaviour. After all, they suppose, in the end everyone’s an asshole just like me, and we confirm that for them.

If we are searching for a glimmer of hope in a sea that has been colored Red, ponder this: Many are afraid of the Republican control of all levels of government. But, maybe things are, as usual, not so cut and dried. After all, President Trump is not a Republican, and never has been. He’s an independent that flew the Republican standard only to achieve power. He has about as much time for Republicans as he does Democrats. He has no allegiance to anyone but himself (remember the one debate when Mr.Trump didn’t hesitate to dismiss and embarrass future VP, Mike Pence, regarding Syria policy). He will put forward his agenda and if the Republican Congress obstructs him, he will use the bully pulpit to appeal directly to the people, including his millions of rabid supporters, but also including everyone else

Might he use the bully pulpit to nefarious ends? Possibly. If we keep hating him and his supporters, will we exacerbate an already volatile situation? Most definitely. Might things become ugly? Maybe. If so, we will have to learn another difficult lesson on the collective human journey, the severity of which will depend on our ability to grasp that our reaction, more so than his action, carries the day.

There is an incredible liberation that comes with not taking the bait to denigrate another, especially when they ‘deserve’ it. The alternative is always further separation – and consorting with the very same negative forces we so often condemn in the recipient. Once we cease to take the bait, a challenging journey to be sure for most of us, we have the opportunity to dissolve the historical and personal patterns of trauma that keep us trapped within an interminable tit-for-tat existence.

Let’s see what President Trump will do. His tendencies remind us of some of the worst leaders of human history. However, let us not assume, because we heard some things during the campaign, that he will follow through on the most unsavoury aspects of his platform. Let us not bow to the relentless armaggedonization of our culture, which promotes extreme positions, while undermining community. After all, Mr. Trump, and every politician, will spout all kinds of nonsense to get elected. They don’t or can’t follow through on most of it anyway. Conversely, while seemingly preposterous, since the Establishment has made such a crazy hash of running the country, let us be open to the possibility that he may help the situation, just probably not in a linear or obvious way that is familiar and comfortable.

Neal Gabler said, post election: “We all knew these hatreds lurked under the thinnest veneer of civility. That civility finally is gone. In its absence, we may realize just how imperative that politesse was. It is the way we managed to coexist…  No more can we pretend that we are exceptional or good or progressive or united. We are none of those things.”

The police shootings of this past year, Standing Rock and the election, have revealed what lurks below the dishonesty of that civility, which could no longer be hidden. The faux-civility bubble had to burst. The imperative ‘politesse’ that has now been lost, and that Mr. Gabler presents as having been positive, was in a fact a tool of denial. As we can now plainly see, the very best that could have been hoped for in its shadow was grudging tolerance, emphasis on the grudging. That civility was a lie that has, over generations, contributed to a collective American depression, and to the election of Donald Trump. Of course, the problem lay in the original presumption of the exceptional nature of America, or any group of humans, a position that automatically creates separation with others, and contains within it the potential for perpetual conflict.

It is from this uncomfortable place of being laid bare, distracted from the hollowness of our unfeeling, individualistic and materialistic culture, that we are presented with the opportunity to evolve as a species.

The road ahead is not to make America great again but to make America and humanity great, for the first time. Though it may seem counter-intuitive because we are so bad at loving the badness within ourselves and each other, let’s try sending the President-elect some good vibes. Throw him a bone. He needs it badly. So do we all.

It may have to get worse before it gets better. If so, we can, as individuals, not only do our utmost not to exacerbate the situation, but try to muster as much compassion and non-judgment for ourselves and our perceived enemies as possible, to lead humanity in a more empathetic direction. Despite our rational need for solutions, and quick ones at that, this is, and has always been, about the long game.

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23 thoughts on “The Trump Presidency: An Invitation to Dig Deeper

  1. Bard: this is a very fresh and enlightened perspective on this epic historic event. I’ve been reading so many different articles on why Trump won, what he’s going to do or not do, what are some possible worst case scenarios…the whole thing has been entirely exhausting. Then along comes your point of view and it’s refreshing to hear some background into the mind of Trump and what might make him tick the way he does.

    One thing you didn’t get too much into though is Trump’s underlings. I’m more worried about Pence and Bannon and what their intentions are. Maybe you’ll get into that in a part-2 to all this?

    But I agree, continuing to lash out against him will not serve any of us in a positive way, as he’s clearly not going to back down or go away…we’ve got him whether we like him or not. Let’s just see what he does…with a keen eye.

    Great piece. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Many thanks for your comment Brad – and your appreciation. As for Pence, Bannon et al, these people are the logical outgrowth of a warped system that has brought about a Trump presidency. It is to be expected and so further comment on their presence and role is purely redundant at this point. The establishment has so dropped the ball in the US for the last 30 years that they have created this. Getting in to the nitty gritty of who these people are will be yet another distraction from the difficult work ahead for Americans to chart an evolutionary path, for themselves, and the world. Thank you!

  2. ?Let’s see what President Trump will do. His tendencies remind us of some of the worst leaders of human history. However, let us not assume, because we heard some things during the campaign, that he will follow through on the most unsavoury aspects of his platform. Let us not bow to the relentless armaggedonization of our culture, which promotes extreme positions, while undermining community. After all, Mr. Trump, and every politician, will spout all kinds of nonsense to get elected. They don’t or can’t follow through on most of it anyway. Conversely, while seemingly preposterous, since the Establishment has made such a crazy hash of running the country, let us be open to the possibility that he may help the situation, just probably not in a linear or obvious way that is familiar and comfortable.” Sorry, but this rings hollow for me. I agree that we all need to take responsibility for our own contributions to the current political climate, whatever those may be, because we are all currently true. However, in the less than two weeks since Donald Trump apparently won the Electoral College vote (yet to be finalized on December 19th) he has appointed blatant racists, homophobes, xenophobes and misogynists; talked to Putin on his personal cell phone (a national security risk); settled a $25 million fraud lawsuit, which he will use as a tax break, and distracted the media from that with his criticisms of free speech (Hamilton and SNL). Today he apparently invited members of certain news networks for an “off the record” meeting in Trump Tower. He has done nothing yet to show that he will be anything but as divisive as he promised to be. His surrogates are still talking about the Muslim registry (unconstitutional). His hotels are raking in millions from foreign diplomats staying there already. I agree that we have to listen to those voices who have not been heard; attempt to understand where his supporters are coming from; and respond with peaceful protests and nonviolent action. But I vehemently disagree with “let’s see what he will do.” I can tell you that none of my friends or family who are people of color, LGBTQ, immigrants etc. feel that we can just sit back and watch and hope for the best. Rights and lives are at stake here. I agree that it does not help to demonize “the other side,” and we are all one human family. We have to find the common ground. However, that does not mean that it is loving to sit back and just accept misogyny, racism, xenophobia or homophobia or to let Trump ran rampant with corruption. It is loving to stand up for others, and it is loving to find unity with others. That does not mean being quiet in the fact of injustice.

    1. I don’t disagree Lisa and as I’ve said, i certainly don’t advocate for sitting back and doing nothing. Only that to engage with the worst aspects of Mr. Trump and his supporters from a place of self-righteous judgment, which often stems from the Left being in avoidance and denial of just how terribly they have run the country, is problematic. Indeed, the early signs from Mr. Trump are troubling. Please note that my piece came out 6 days ago, just before the cabinet posts started to be filled. I would say that the extremity of the people who are filling these positions is commensurate with how badly the establishment has mismanaged things. To not grasp this is to avoid the self-reflection that is required to move things in a more egalitarian direction.

  3. The Brazilians are out in the streets em masse these days protesting their undemocratic Federal Government.
    We too ,in the United States , must take Swift and Immediate actions em masse Against this Authoritarian and Unstable Character that we have manifested.
    We can do this with as much Non-Violence and Compassion as possible -but with the Conviction and Purpose such as MLK showed us.
    This is an Emergency -let’s put out this Fire- and Chase him from office or limit his effectiveness – and not Succumb to this Bully -No Way, No How.

    1. Thanks for your note Gary. I agree, though I’d add that if we are unable to see in a clear way the underpinnings of why we are in this position, then we risk further exacerbating the situation. We are called to engage at the next level of human interaction, which begins with courageous self-reflection.

  4. Bard: Thanks for this post, the first of your writings I’ve seen (it appeared in my FB feed, hmm). There is much to like in what you said, it rang true with me from multiple perspectives. I happen to believe that what we have is a national emergency, and constitutional crisis, (conflict of interest, Emoluments clause), and that would be true if Trump was a stable person of outstanding character and strong emotional intelligence, which of course, he is not. While you did not explicitly call for it, I think your essay calls for the need of a “Truth and Reconciliation” process, coupled with a major systemic reform effort, addressing systemic corruption in the system. I hope this is part of what the Dems (and/or non-Trumpland Republicans) can incorporate into a new agenda for America. Thanks again, I will look for other writings.

    1. Many thanks for your comment and appreciation Jim. Ideally a T&R process would be great, though probably unrealistic. However, a few steps in that direction would surely make a big difference. Alas, I’m not confident in the Democractic Party, as it is currently led, to take the steps required to take America in a good direction. In my opinion, there is a false dichotomy that has been presented to the American people – liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican. To me these are distractions as in practice both parties operate under the sameish principles. After all, it was Bill Clinton that crippled the social welfare system, as well as did away with Glass-Steagal. Drone assassination has happened under Obama, as has acquiescing to Monsanto, as has an expansion of surveillance that began under Bush – which caused ‘liberals’ such consternation then, but which Obama and Democrats have been given a pass for. There is Obamacare, but when you dig deeper there are many issues with it and in the end it has mostly been a boon for insurance companies. I think it’s funny that Republicans constantly take ‘liberals’ to task for America’s issues, when Democrats have been anything but liberal in practice – including Hillary who is a far right Democrat and a military/foreign policy hawk. The one hope for Democrats is to bring in actual liberals back into positions of power. Bernie was undermined by the Clinton-led DNC. I’m not sure the establishment will allow him to do anything useful – though he may have a window to break through. Of course, the Democrats have now dropped the ball so badly that all the levers of government power, including the judiciary, are now in the hands of Republicans. Hard to see any ‘major’ or ‘minor’ systemic reform efforts coming into play for some time now. Of course, there is always the grassroots. However, as i point out in the piece, if Democrats keep mistakenly focusing on the bad guy Republicans, without the commensurate self-reflection required to take the Democratic side to task, we can only expect the same, or exacerbated, divisions to endure, with the people fighting against each other instead of seeing what the establishment is up to below the surface – the establishment having nothing whatsoever to do with political parties. Thanks again for your comment 🙂

      1. Bard – you are welcome and ty back. I agree that the Democratic party also has many issues and also has not been focused on reform and transformation. Also agree T&R is unlikely, but still needed. There are some minor reform efforts underway – http://represent.us has achieved some successes this year, starting at local levels and moving up; Zephyr Teachout, a NYU law professor and someone who wrote the book on the history of Corruption in the US as a letter to the Supreme Court has excellent ideas (unfortunately she lost in her bid for NY’s 19th congressional); and lastly I think the work Steve McIntosh has been doing at the Institute for Cultural Evolution, looking at values and the need for a “new left” and “new right” – vs a compromised middle, is work that holds promise – http://www.culturalevolution.org/. There are many other grass roots efforts at new norms and approaches around building community wealth and sustainability centered on new values and models. All of this is “small ball” though, and without visionary leadership at the national level looking to lead in a new direction, it is difficult for any transformational change to gain traction unless there is a national emergency (think WWII, Great Depression). So, we are left with resisting tyranny, minimizing damage of enflamed autocratic populism with empty, self-serving promises. Its the hand we have been dealt.

        1. Hi Jim. Apologies for the tardy response. Busy days and I want to do justice to your thoughtful remarks. I’d say, we must have faith in the small ball because that’s where the magic lies. As that expands, the proper and visible leadership will come to the fore. Though the evolutionary things humanity is engaging in are almost completely ignored in the mainstream media, I see in my research and experience that while it doesn’t have a voice yet, it is growing in power – and it will continue to flourish with the current circumstances. The danger, as i will discuss in my next piece in a few days, is to focus blame and anger on Trump and his people. That would miss the point and only move things in the wrong direction. I’ll check out the links you have included – they sound excellent. As for left and right, to me these are anachronistic concepts that are outgrowths of a hyper-left brained culture that feeds off of opposition and separation. At some point, I don’t believe those terms will be relevant in human discourse. After all, if we look back over the last few decades, America does what it does, domestically and globally, regardless of the party in power (with a few important but veneer differences). As i just wrote in a response to another commenter, the ‘left’ thought that George Bush was a disaster and yet Obama’s presidency has simply carried on much of what came into place under GWB. Indeed, under Obama, some of the worst aspects of the GWB admin have been expanded (eg) surveillance, drone assassination, the complete letting off the hook of the financial industry and the signing of the Monsanto written Agriculture bill, among other things. And Hillary is to the right of Obama. As for the hand, for me, it is the hand that the people have dealt themselves, albeit while being severely manipulated by establishment forces who have no stop button – and who represent the most unconscious aspects of the unfeeling and extremely rational mind. Great to communicate with you 🙂

  5. Bard,
    Thank you for this.
    Unfortunately many people in my country are incapable of
    Self-examination.
    Religions and so-called spiritual systems are followed like sports teams, each separate group convinced that their side
    will “win”.
    The pathetic state of public education in the USA has rendered
    the massses ill-equipped to attempt critical thinking.
    I admire the fact that your heart is filled with love,
    but fascists aren’t generally moved by compassion.
    You’re correct that finger-pointing
    and name calling won’t move us forward but the oligarchy must be reined in, or the humanistic approach to organizing and governing our people won’t stand a chance.
    Best wishes to you.
    Alan Ruck

    1. Hi Alan, it certainly is a troubling state of affairs but I do feel strongly that there is a parallel force at work in the world which gets very little air-time but is moving towards having more of an influence. While this may seem naive, when I see the forces of status quo becoming more strident and brutal it tells me they are feeling threatened – and they are emboldened when they receive back the same dark energies they unconsciously perpetrate on the world. What they don’t know how to deal with are an increasing number of people who see through their unconsciousness and insecurity and understand that they aren’t doing it on purpose. They are lost. The only way they might be found is with compassion and non-judgment – which humanity has dabbled very little in – hence why it may seem like naivete. But, we haven’t tried it yet because humanity has not yet had the courage to undergo the self-reflection required to address the generational trauma – and to create a different experience. Might this evolution not happen? Sure. But, human history is rife with instances where the unthinkable, the outrageously impossible, has become the norm. So, let’s see what happens shall we 🙂 Many thanks for your message!

  6. Your essay offers a refreshing analysis of the election of Donald Trump and provides an alternate way to respond to this new world in which we find ourselves. I really appreciate your ability to stand back and ‘bear witness’ to the outpouring of anger and vitriol we have seen from both sides. I agree with your assertion that one of our highest priorities should be self-reflection; to see what is held in our own shadow selves. Every time I get caught up in emotionally reacting to Trump’s election, it all seems like a nightmare or a badly scripted film. The antidote is to bring myself back down into my body and settle my fractured mind. And be kind to myself and everyone with whom I interact. I’m not sure where this will lead, but it’s the best place for me at the moment.

  7. You are totally describing me. I am a white male, moderately liberal, believing in reason and rationality as the main guide to public life and see other truth seeking, art , feeling, as belonging to another province, self care maybe. I take some exceptions to your alternate histories and have many questions for you but I will share my reaction and let it stand on its own. I did not expect this outcome. I was alarmed that trump was even going to win a few states but I expected a landslide despite Hillary’s flaws. My reaction has been to intentionally catastrophize the event, which I am certain will be a catastrophe. To raise the ante and the temperature and call forth all the furies of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. For me this election has been a call to war, metaphoric spiritual war but war nonetheless. I don’t have any desire to communicate , empathize, or understand the enemy beyond what is necessary to see them destroyed. They seem to me so far gone that your approach is hopeless. Obviously I don’t want a literal war but I know that no one cares what I want, a better vision is receding form view so in its stead I want the enemy to know how I feel about them, that I want them negated, again not literally but in spirit. Why? People will suffer, including myself in this drama. But there is justice and karma is a bitch. A big ferocious beautiful bitch. I am ok with that. Everyone must do what they must. I live comfortably and will be happily non violent, but in spirit a message must be made clear. Sharing my truth is my way of prompting someone else’s empathy. I’m not currently in the mood.

    1. Hi Daibhi. I really appreciate your note and where you are coming from. Certainly, things could really go sideways. But, I am not convinced of a catastrophic outcome, though in my opinion, in the short term, if the establishment continues to try to undermine the results of the election, that is what could lead to catastrophe. (I’ll be posting another article in the next few days that discusses Trump, Syria, Russia and fake news). I guess the overarching issue for me is the notion, which certainly appears to be the case on the surface, that people are on different sides. To me, below the surface, most people want the same thing but in an age of unprecedented media ascendancy and manipulations by those behind the scenes with political and economic motivations, the people, unwitting accomplices, have been pitted against each other. Furthermore, I think what is most dangerous at this juncture is blaming those on the ‘right’ for this result, when those on the ‘left’ keep supporting a party that long ago ceased to be anywhere near the left. Obama strikes a wonderful veneer but in the aggregate, his presidency has simply carried on much of what came into place under GWB. Indeed, under Obama, some of the worst aspects of the GWB admin have been expanded (eg) surveillance, drone assassination, the complete letting off the hook of the financial industry and the signing of the Monsanto written Agriculture bill, among other things. And Hillary is to the right of Obama. In the end, in my view, the main political parties in the western countries only have veneer differences. The establishment behind the scenes runs things and it is their arrogance and miscalculation, in addition to their taking their taking advantage of the people to stratospheric levels that has invited in someone who should have been a fringe candidate. Now, we must all endure what Mr. Trump and his people will pursue. There are some very troubling signs but also he did well because he understands the establishment well and spoke truth to power – unlike Hillary and her people who were more concerned with self-aggrandizement than in putting forth the Democratic candidate with the best opportunity to beat Trump (and instead worked overtime, and underhandedly, to undo Bernie’s candidacy). I’d guess that the Trump admin will actually do some useful things also. In short, I believe to focus anger primarily on Trump and his ilk is to miss the larger issues at work, which will prevent the changes you so wish for your wonderful country. To me, the way forward is self-reflection, humility and personal responsibility and understanding that many Trump supporters have legitimate beefs that have been ignored and ridiculed for so long that they have entrusted their country to a very damaged man. That they are now angry, and in some cases unreasonable, makes it even more important that those who wish for a better outcome do not engage with the same psychological violence that has brought Trump to the fore. A catastrophe outcome will be made more possible by fighting against, as opposed to feeling where people are really coming from. There is a tremendous amount of trauma and betrayal out in the world, and America, the results of which are now plain to see. It may seem counter-intuitive to hold out an olive branch but I’d suggest that it is because we have such compromised access to our feelings and intuition that this seems to be the case. We have an opportunity to chart a new course. It is unfamiliar and scary. The familiar, with predictable results, is to meet violence with violence. Maybe there is another way 🙂

  8. There is much here of interest and I am fascinated by the complexity of thought. One thing I cannot get past in what you write centers on this sentence: “Add to this, the nation’s general Depression-era level income inequality and you have many millions of people who have been left in the economic dust and who have little faith in a political system that has not acted on their behalf.” I don’t understand if this is true, what is the reason for continuing to vote for the same members of Congress over and over and over. The two are so inconsistent and I don’t see anything else in your writing which could explain this. Also I am curious if you may have read “It Takes a Village” by HRC.

    1. Thank you for your comment. You’ve answered your own question. Here is a graph which shows income inequality in the US since 1917 – https://www.thenation.com/image/extreme-inequality-chart/
      In other words, there is certainly no reason at all to vote for the same type of members of Congress. The people already know that, hence the ridiculously low approval ratings. The road ahead is open a path for more honest and ethical representatives to come to the fore.

  9. I’m going to persist here because I do not feel you are willing to consider what I am asking. The approval rating for Congress has been abysmally low for well over a decade yet voters have not been sending them home. This is inconsistent with your premise which I put in quotes in my first reply. Projecting that voters will start voting them out does not answer the question of why they haven’t done that especially in light of the 2016 election of DJT.

    “In this article, I am going to share with you a complete list of the members of Congress that have been “serving” us for at least 20 years. They believe that they are “serving” us well, but without a doubt most Americans very much wish that true “change” would come to Washington. In fact, right now Congress has a 15 percent approval rating with the American people, and that approval rating has been consistently below 20 percent since mid-2011. So of course we took advantage of the 2014 mid-term election to dump as many of those Congress critters out of office as we possibly could, right? Wrong. Sadly, incumbents were re-elected at a 95 percent rate in 2014. This just shows how broken and how corrupt our system has become. The American people absolutely hate the job that Congress is doing, and yet the same clowns just keep getting sent back to Washington again and again.

    Our founders never intended for service in Congress to become a career, but that is precisely what it has become for many of our “public servants”. As of this moment, there are 79 members of Congress that have been in office for at least 20 years, and there are 16 members of Congress that have been in office for at least 30 years.” The claims you make regarding Obama’s non progressive agenda were very much due to the obstruction he faced by a congress voted in by the people. I don’t see where you consider this in your otherwise fascinating essay

      1. As it says in this link, “No matter which political party you prefer, this should greatly disturb you.” Because there are similar numbers of Democrats and Republicans who have served for over 20 years. And behind all of these people are the establishment, pulling the strings of both sides. There is no difference.

    1. Congressional approval has been low (20-45&) since gallup began monitoring it – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/14/congress-approval-rating-all-time-low-gallup-poll_n_1777207.html. The idea that Democrats in Congress have been much better than Republicans is not born out of the evidence. As for Obama, notice the graph in the link provided. In his first 2 years, Congressional approval went up to a maximum of 39%, which is about the historical average since 1974. That is when the Democrats held both houses as well as the presidency. Now notice the graph. Even with a majority and the ability to pass bills to help the people, congressional approval dropped to 16% when the mid-term elections took place. At that point, Democratic voter support of their own party in Congress also dropped like a stone. This is the place to look. If the Democrats, in total control of the government, had done right by the people, had created proper jobs, had addressed the rampant economic inequality they wouldn’t have gone down to such a bad defeat in those mid-terms. The reality is that there is little difference in practice between what Democrats and Republicans do while leading. Under Obama, the national security state expanded, more countries were bombed, including drone assassination and the awful collateral damage, which became a fixture of the Obama presidency (he personally approved each and every one of them), etc. etc. The issues with America is systemic and deep-seated. The longer Americans distract themselves with relatively small differences between the two parties, the longer it will take to get on a better path.

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