The US election is over but our nation remains in turmoil. To say that Trump was not my candidate would be a gross understatement. The man represents a HUGE step backwards for all the social and environmental progress we have made as a nation over the last several decades. And that frightens me.
But I am white. As a woman I can expect to experience more misogyny. But it will not come close to the level of oppression directed at my friends and colleagues who are people of color, trans or Muslim.
And there is where I believe we must keep our focus. If any of us fall into complacency because our individual lives have not changed much, we risk allowing our nation to degrade into a racist, homophobic and xenophobic tragedy.
Some are admonishing us to keep our focus on love. I think that is always good advice. But my love is a verb. And that means taking action. What kind of action? That is a question I live with every day. For now, I am following the news with an eye toward which communities are already suffering more than before.
And that is why I find this opinion piece from bestselling author and president of The Food Revolution Network, John Robbins, to be particularly inspiring in this moment. Please post your comments below. More than ever we need to show up and make our voices heard.
I appreciated the article “Buddhist teachers respond to Trump’s presidential win.”
I found the author’s views interesting, but I found myself disagreeing with something Norman Fischer, one of the Buddhist teachers wrote. He said:
“For those older among us who hold liberal and progressive political views, lets not forget we survived Nixon, Reagan, and Bush. It wasn’t pleasant but we survived. We will survive Trump. This is not to say that the policies of those presidents weren’t bad, and that they did not make any lasting impact. They were and they did. Still, we survived.”
Why would I disagree with a sentiment obviously intended to give us comfort in such a dark time? Because the “we” who survived Nixon, Reagan and Bush are the privileged ones, and it pains me to see us be unaware of our privilege. And it pains me to see us forgetting those who did not survive.
Yes, America as a nation and system of governance has endured Nixon, Reagan and Bush. But how many of “us” only survived the Vietnam War because we had a college deferment, while a young man who did not have the privilege of higher education went in our place? How many of “us” only survived the war on drugs because our skin was white and we lived in the “right” (wealthy, white) neighborhoods? How many people perished in the AIDS epidemic because Ronald Reagan was oblivious to the suffering in the gay community? How many New Orleans residents died in Hurricane Katrina because George W. Bush was oblivious to the suffering in the black community?
Don’t we have a responsibility, now, not to remain oblivious?
It’s true that many of us survived Nixon, Reagan and Bush. But a lot of us didn’t. Somewhere between 500,000 and one million Iraqis were killed as a result of Bush invading Iraq. Are they not “us”? That war cost the US more than $2 trillion. How many have died or will die because that $2 trillion was not allocated on behalf of life? It was another Republican president, a former five-star General in the US Army who had served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during World War 2, Dwight Eisenhower, who famously told us:
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”
I wish I could take more comfort in the soothing sentiments expressed by Norman Fischer and others. In some ways I envy those who can. But I do not want to take the privileges I enjoy, as a white man in this country, for granted. Particularly now.
I’m frightened by what may lie before us with this man as president. But how much more frightening must it be today to be a Latino, a Muslim, a black person, a member of the LGBT community, or even a woman?
We all need to find our inner peace and spiritual path in times like these. And I appreciate the thoughts of the Buddhist leaders whose words you published, including Norman Fischer. But a spiritual path that doesn’t engage fully with the planetary and human anguish we are bringing about does not call to me.
With great respect,