Today was a beautiful day for a 4-mile hike in the forests of the Berkshire mountains. The weather, here in Western Massachusetts, was blue bird perfect – clear, sunny, moderate temperature for November. I think a lot of people went hiking or walking or watched football or cooked a nice dinner or visited friends and families. We all needed a break from the incessant stress of the past year.
But there was no hateful graffiti carved into the trees in the woods. And when I returned to town, there were no racial slurs spray painted on the churches or schools around here, and no burning of cars, or attacks on police, or breaking of store front windows. The electoral votes of this state went to Hillary, and the popular vote was overwhelmingly for Hillary. (If Elizabeth Warren had been on the ballot, the count would have been higher no doubt.) Certainly folks had a reason to be upset. But even though the very “blue” state of Massachusetts “lost,” the election and there has been a feeling in the air ever since Wednesday of disappointment, disillusion, and worry about the planet and it’s inhabitants, people weren’t getting crazy and hateful.
Last night there was a mellow vigil at the town library. And the night before, people were making their signs for the vigil at the local millennial watering hole. Is this an atypical community? No, I don’t think it’s that different in Boston, at the other end of the state, or even in New York City. I have a feeling that there were similar peaceful demonstrations in thousands of small towns and big cities, whatever the demographics, across the country for the past few days. I don’t think “most people” went berserk and spray painted hateful graffiti on the walls of their local churches, mosques, schools, and synagogues.
Yet when I turned on the television to watch the weather report, the focus of the news was on hatred and violence. Not much new there. Much of this violent anger, whether expressed through bigotry, racism, sexism or speciesism, has nothing to do with the outcome of the election – it’s just an excuse. Rather, it is a deep seated, long smoldering primal scream from a small, but unfortunately ever growing, percentage of the “have-nots,” – the fearful, the abused, the impoverished, the addicted, the mentally ill, the traumatized, the un-educated, the forgotten beings of this culture, who really – in many cases – don’t give a hoot who is president. “I’m pissed off and I’m in pain, and it is the fault of everyone who has what I don’t have and I’m going to attack the cops, the mall, the school, or just about anything that represents the “haves”.
And it isn’t Donald Trump’s fault that in the past 6 months or so there is more expressed hatred and bigotry. Trump made it seem, to those who needed an excuse, as if it were OK to insult people who are of a different color, religion, or sex from your self. He made it OK to speak your mind, regardless of what you had to say, which gave a bit of a blow to political correctness. But it didn’t cause people to become racist. Donald Trump did not win the election because America is racist. He won because, by and large, he performed well in areas that Obama performed well in. When the white middle class voted for Obama, they proved they were not racist. People don’t think philosophically when they vote. They think, “What is best for my family? Will this guy help me pay my rent, make my car payment, send my kids to college?” People voted for Trump despite, I heard one woman who voted for him say, his “rough edges,” because he promised to ease their pain.
“Rough edges? Is she kidding? Trump is a sociopathic demagogue,” others might claim. “He could dismantle executive orders on climate change, trade, and immigration, roll back Obama care, destroy the environment and on and on. We could lose ground on civil rights, gay rights, animal rights, women’s rights, environmental rights.” Yes he could do all that. Is it scary? Yes, it is – especially to the minorities, immigrants, refugees, and to those who worked hard for the gains we have made for the environment, for our planet and its people. But Obama is still the president, at least at this moment. Today, in this moment, things are still OK. Nothing too radical, in terms of national policy, has happened yet. If we are healthy and awake and not afraid, let us give comfort to those disillusioned, depressed, and disenfranchised citizens who are fearful and then, let us stand up and recognize our obligation to kick the spiritual revolution into high gear, and take action for those who cannot or do not have a voice.
In many of the Eastern wisdom traditions, as well as the Judeo-Christian tradition, and I’m not sure about Islam, but probably in Islam as well, it is taught that the most trying times are the greatest teachers and the times of greatest forward progress. The positive thing that I see happening in all this is the rude awakening that is taking place. Many of us – both black and white – were too complacent and too comfortable. I don’t believe Trump was elected president by mistake. Nothing is a mistake. It is as if the Universe said to itself, “Hmmm, these guys are really heading down the path to perdition – time for the shit or get off the pot lesson.” Out came the 2X4 over our collective heads. Wham. And there was Donald Trump – leading the parade. Yikes.
In yoga, the practice of finding balance between what is called sthira and sukha, or the hard and the soft, is present in all aspects of the practice. This balancing act plays out not only in the physical practices and in meditation, but in life as well. Finding balance between a hard and steady sharp focus on an objective, and a soft, relaxed and compassionate willingness to let go – isn’t this how we determine what is right action in any given moment? What is appropriate? Hang tough – stand my ground, stick up for what is right and what I believe in? Or let it go, back off, keep my mouth shut and let it go? Some things are worth dying for, but not everything is.
Finding this balance engages two of the most important principles in yoga philosophy – satya, or truth, and ahimsa, or non-violence, non-harming. The hardness of truth without the soft suppleness of non-violence, can become a deadly weapon. The softness of non-violence without the balance of incisive, fearless, clarity, can lead to non-action, oppression and enabling. Each needs the other. Speak your mind. Take action. Do the work. But be kind.
Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering
. . . . . . Yoda (thanks to Danielle for texting the quote)