Watching the 60 Minutes focus group piece that aired just before the election was a turning point for me. It was at that moment that I realized there was a good chance Trump would win. That thought was frightening enough, but what really terrified me was the notion that Trump was not just an enigma or blip on the radar of our existence, but was in fact, representative of a who we are as a nation, at least representative of a large enough population of people to get him elected. A young man in his twenties expressed the feeling ever so eloquently, “My biggest fear is that these candidates are not a mistake, that the American people have elected the future of America — what we aspire to be and what we are deep down inside.”
Since the election I have worked hard to try to find the good, to keep my heart open and my spirits high. It has not been easy. That said, it is in these challenging times that we realize our strength and find out who we really are. Had Clinton been elected, there would likely have been little change, and no real “ahas” or gut wrenching awakenings.
The night of the election I was more fearful than I’ve ever been in my life. It was the first time I can remember that I wanted to crawl up into a fetal ball and hide in the back of my closet. “What exactly is it you’re afraid of?” I kept asking myself. Although concerned about the safety and wellbeing of Muslim, Mexican, and gay friends, and worried about the rollback of abortion rights and a host of other good things, I knew the fear was about something deeper and more personal.
Prior to the events of 2016, I believed that the majority of people in the US were kind and caring and had similar values and world views. When Trump was elected it was as though that world completely disappeared and was replaced by this crazy Nazi-like reality. After much reflection, I realized (or remembered) that each of us is in charge of our own reality. We can choose to see the world as a kind and loving place or a scary hate-filled place. The world didn’t change in those few weeks. The only thing that changed was my view of reality.
Author Allen Cohen did a fabulous online program on how to make sense of and move forward from the election. He talks about how we vote with our votes, but we also vote with our consciousness. “Trump was elected because there was a stream of consciousness that he was a match to.” It goes back to what the young man said in the focus group — “these candidates are what we aspire to be, what we are deep down inside.”
As frightening as that is, I also find hope there. Consciousness can (and does) change and shift. We, as individuals, make up this country’s consciousness and as we change, so too will the country and the government. The way we best deal with a Trump administration is not to resist, get nasty and hateful or play the victim card. That simply puts us at the same lower level of consciousness as Trump and company. The better approach is to go high, to respond with love and compassion, to find the good, the lesson(s) learned, the opportunity. For a brief time I let Trump’s election change the way I viewed the world. In that moment I gave away my power. I am now taking it back.
I want to end with two quotes shared by Alan Cohen. One is attributed to Patricia Sun — “The key to personal and planetary healing is to love people and situations we once believed were unlovable.” The second is from A Course in Miracles — “the holiest spot on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.” Amen to that.