People who value compassion are generally people who realize that life is a struggle for most of us. Some of us battle with health issues. Others struggle with domestic violence, poverty, drug or alcohol addiction, unemployment. There is no life that unfolds without challenge. When we look inside our own hearts and accept that we are often both fragile and strong in the face of adversity, we also find the warmth and abundance of heart to embrace others, even those people whose company we don’t particularly enjoy. It takes concerted effort and work to know ourselves, to love or at least to accept the dark corners of our own hearts. Without this work, we cannot be truly kind, and we cannot create a society in which freedom and opportunity are values extended to all citizens and inhabitants of our land. A human heart is a place of both light and shadow, and none of us is exempt from this description.
But for many humans, to be vulnerable is to be weak. Self-knowledge feels dangerous to many people. For most humans, inner darkness is rejected. Projected onto others, who hopefully will be thrown out of the country, reviled, hated with public sanction. Our inner darkness is part of our birthright and heritage as human beings. But it is something that only the few and the strong have embraced throughout the history of humanity. The weak pretend to be strong. They band together and lash out against a group which appears to be vulnerable. The truly strong are not afraid to appear weak or vulnerable. To be perceived as weak by others is a death knell to many humans, especially in a highly competitive, capitalist society such as the United States of America.
We progressives may collectively ponder why an unscrupulous, antagonistic, racist man without a trace of morals or conscience has captured the imagination of so many Americans. Of course I speak of Donald Trump. The man holds no respect or trace of kindness for any being, and he worships only himself and the attention he draws feeds his narcissistic gullet as a vulture feeds on carrion. And this clever man has found a vein in the American psyche from which he can draw sustenance for his bottomless addiction to winning.
Make America great again? When was America great? And for whom? As Mr. Trump addresses various segments of primarily white America, we can gather that those who with nostalgia remember a time when they felt great…at the expense of someone who was less than they. To feel superior is an antidote to fear. To declare superiority over another “race” or segment of the population and to have that superiority enforced by law apparently stirs up great emotion in the hearts of many Americans.
In fact, today, despite the great social inequality which tears apart our country today, a large portion of the American people still does not want to work to promote more equality or a promise of a better life for all Americans. Some of these Americans may regret the days when they held well-paid factory jobs with great benefits and pension plans. Do these people think Donald Trump will bring back those jobs, social protections, benefits and lifestyle they afforded to white, working class Americans with a high school diploma? This is not going to happen. Donald Trump has no intention of creating jobs or new wealth for the victims of our wealth-worshiping corporate economy, which either exported those jobs to countries where they could exploit workers, or replaced workers with robotic technology. Donald Trump just likes to win. And frustrated, angry, unemployed workers who have lost out as so many have in the plutocracy that America has become, are just that. Frustrated, angry, and confused. They would like to win too. What will they win, if they elect Donald Trump to the presidency? More inequality? More poverty? Less healthcare? Less retirement benefits? Lower salaries? Is this winning? Or is it the promise of being allowed to hate openly to stoke the wounded egos the real prize?
We cannot and should not want to move backwards. The last forty years of American policy has liberated a form of destructive capitalism that has devastated our economy, the lives of millions of Americans, our health care and food systems, and our environment. The wealthy conservatives who spawned this nightmare continue to elicit support from Evangelical Christians and Americans who imagine a constant threat on their freedom from imaginary terrorists and enemies at every corner. I personally support Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Bernie Sanders is a man of integrity who is a true leader. He does not change his positions to garner public support. He is true to himself and to his beliefs, and his devotion is to social justice – to giving all Americans a fair chance at a good life.
What the fearful should know is this:
- It is not Christian to be hateful and to spurn or exploit the poor. Jesus was a progressive and a man of great compassion who felt the deepest kinship for social outcasts. He would have embraced those who Evangelicals condemn today in America. Jesus professed love, fully embraced his own demons, and in his philosophy, to be vulnerable was to be strong. It is strange that in the USA, so many people claim to be strong in their Christian faith, yet so many of these same people are not only intolerant, but also ignorant of the ambiguity of their own hearts.
- Wealth and power are not signs of good leadership. A loud voice and a brash demeanor do not make a person worthy of trust. Integrity, humility, and character are qualities we should seek out in a leader. Kindness, and strength under pressure. Calm and consistency.
- To harm, reject, or lash out at others and to engage in scapegoating or bullying is a sign of weakness. Loving compassion and empathy are signs of inner strength.
- A great country is one in which each and every human being and living creature is respected and given the same opportunities for a good life.
- Life is abundance. There is enough of everything for everyone. Stop hoarding resources. There is no need to be afraid that you will not have what you need.
- Stand up for what is right.
- Serve others, and don’t worry about what people may be taking from you.
- If you care about other people, even those whom you think may be your enemies, you just may see their behaviors change. It is the hardest thing in the world to love other people. But being fearful breeds more fear, while kindness plants the seeds of hope.
Like Jesus, I want to see more love in the world, this beautiful world which we have been given as our home. He too lived in a time when people were polarized into many factions, in a country occupied by the Romans, with a divided government. In Biblical times, people struggled with the same issues that we do today. The rich and powerful dominated the working class and the poor, just as they continue to do in our time.
Our egos convince us that resources are scarce, that love, money, and security are always just beyond our reach. That we must grasp and fight others in order to survive and to get our fair share. This is the illusion which keeps us lonely and alone, holding others at arm’s length. If we choose the security of knowing that we are the embodiment of love on earth and we allow ourselves to feel vulnerability, we have the strength to vanquish racism and prejudice against people who are different from ourselves, and to banish fear. We can choose to stop viewing others as enemies and allow these same individuals to see a confident form of kindness in our eyes. The softness that is strength.