During this difficult week, as my emotions swing to despair and fear, I have tried valiantly to return to this concept so clearly voiced by Gandhi. There are moments when I feel totally at a loss for how so many in this country chose Mr. Trump to be their leader. I find myself thinking of the people in that vast sea of red as Other. The divide between us and them seems to be a deep and uncrossable chasm. What could possibly make a woman vote for a person who has treated women so poorly? What allows a those with deep Christian values choose a man who has flouted those values over and over again? I struggle. I just don't understand. I just don't understand...
I meditate and I pray for help and the message that I receive is everything appears differently depending on where you stand. How many, on either side of the political divide, cast votes based on fear - fear of what might be if the other candidate won? I'm reminded that, in Maslow's hierarchy, food, clothing, and shelter are the most basic needs; followed by safety. Self-actualization only comes much further up the pyramid, after love and esteem. I'm coming to the realization that for many in this country the ability to meet basic physiologic needs is so tenuous that they'll vote for a person who promises to address those over the person who speaks to the higher needs every time. A woman who struggles to feed and clothe her children doesn't have the luxury of worrying about whether she is esteemed. The man who has experienced crime wants safety so much more than wanting a leader who shares his religious values. It is because I do not live with daily fear of hunger, homelessness, or crime that I can debate which candidate and party speaks to my values, ideals and vision for the future. I can look to the future and worry about what will be while others' concerns are in the now - the need for a job, a place to live, food to eat, clothing and safety.
So what do I do now? Putting all of those red state voters into the realm of Other only deepens fear and that fear is fed by lack of knowledge and understanding. How do I connect and build community? Is there a way to get more people in this country to look to the higher level needs by assuring that their basic needs are met? How do we create more and better paying jobs? How to improve safety and reduce crime? Can we provide food security and housing for those in need? Can we help those who find that they have fallen out of the middle class regain a confidence in a better future for themselves and their children? We can't make America greater without moving more of us up the pyramid - past satisfying only the basic needs and into the realms of love, esteem and self-actualization. We need to stop thinking of life as a zero sum game - that the only way to help one group is to take away from another. We are not made safer by taking away the rights of others.
So now is the time to do more, and hopefully despair less. Yes there are some who hate - and unfortunately, some of those haters have been emboldened by the election results - and we need to unwaveringly oppose hate. Remembering that fear is the enemy helps focus my work plan. Each day I'll take a few steps to reduce fear through connection, understanding and nurturing a diverse and inclusive community. I'll strive for an open mind and open dialog, and working together we'll fight the fear that is our true enemy.