“What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”― Robert F. Kennedy First, a confession: Although I pride myself on my ability to dialog and find a common […]
One thing that I always tell aspiring Life Coaches is that you must always be your own best client. It’s important to use your tools and live the same advice you’d give someone else. Since walking our talk is how we avoid becoming hypocrites.
So, when faced with difficulties, I step back and ask myself what I’d tell one of my coaching clients to do, and the I do that thing myself. The purpose of this article is to give you an idea of exactly how I’m processing all of this—a process that is by no means finished—in the hopes that it might help you process things, too.
UPDATE: On a recent episode of Rise UP with B. Dave Walters I talked more about this, how my feelings have changed in the days since this article was posted, and where we need to go from here. Click here to listen.
The way I have set up the rest of this article is as a dialog between me, regular guy with all the same feelings so many others are grappling with, and B. Dave Walters, who always works to bring people together and shine some light into the world.
Me: I am shocked. SHOCKED. My heart is broken, I have never been so ashamed to be an American.
BDW: And why is that?
Me: Why is that? We just elected a racist, sexist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, homophobic, xenophobic, narcissistic egomaniac with the business sense of Krusty the Klown to the office of the Presidency.
BDW: Apparently, his supporters didn’t see it that way.
Me: Oh, they saw it. They just didn’t CARE. He appealed to everything that was worst not just in Americans, but in humanity and it worked.
BDW: That might be a bit of an exaggeration. They have some legitimate issues, like—
Me: I am SO tired of hearing about their ‘legitimate issues.’ You know who else had legitimate issues? Anakin Skywalker. His mother died because the Jedi wouldn’t listen to him. They lied to him, and hid things from him, they forced him away from the woman he loved.
BDW: All valid things to be upset about, yes.
Me: Exactly. The problem is when he then said ‘since I’m upset with the way things are, I’ll destroy ALL of it. I’ll burn down the Jedi and cause the collapse of the Republic. Because my feelings are hurt . That’s what happened on Tuesday: Trump voters killed a room full of Younglings because they’re ‘mad.’
BDW: I thought Darth Vader was your favorite character of all time?
Me: HE IS. Another thing they’ve taken from me.
BDW: Now who sounds like Anakin Skywalker?
Me: Don’t make me laugh. I don’t feel like laughing.
BDW: Fair enough. But you will feel like it again soon. This feeling will pass; you’ll be ok. We’ll ALL be OK.
Me: I know. I’ll get back to ‘can’t we all just get along’ soon. But I am NOT there now. My psychology is in a very adversarial state right now. I can’t even validate, much less support, the mindsets that won on Tuesday.
BDW: Racism, sexism, all the other isms are very dangerous. But they are also learned. And anyone who learns them can unlearn them. But really, although racism and sexism were obviously a huge part of the Trump campaign, I don’t think that’s why most people voted for him.
Me: OK, so they may not have been racist or sexist themselves, but they apparently were totally ok with racism and sexism. The KKK endorsed him openly, none of this was a secret, and yet they went with it. What if I said to you ‘I don’t abuse kids, I just let guys pay me $50 to bring kids to my house to abuse them; that doesn’t make me a bad person, I just have to pay the rent!’ You would think I was a HORRIBLE person.
BDW: Maybe. But we won’t get anywhere calling people names and labeling them as stupid, racist, sexist, etc.
Me: If you don’t want to be labeled deplorable, stop doing deplorable stuff. That’s the other thing, I keep hearing about how ‘we didn’t listen to them,’ but how do you dialog with someone who isn’t listening? Dunnings-Kruger is REAL.
BDW: I’ve been grappling with that myself. But step one is definitely to even be willing to talk without judgment or condescension. Since the truth is they feel great right now, and we feel awful. But if Trump does even half of the things he promised—which I don’t think he will, since the things he promised aren’t possible—the repercussions are going to fall on his supporters the hardest. The proposed budget cuts will hurt the working class more than any other, and once they start suffering they’re going to be even more upset.
BDW: You don’t mean that.
Me: Fine, I don’t mean it. I’m just mad.
BDW: Then you should understand how they feel!
Me: I hate it when you do that.
BDW: Remember, he who angers you, masters you. Don’t let this temporary defeat change who you are. Yes, it’s very irritating always having to be the bigger person, but SOMEONE has to. And we both know nothing good comes from everyone trying to be the lower person.
Me: I don’t see anything good coming at all.
BDW: OK, don’t be too dramatic. It’s true that there are substantial risks facing us all now, but it will probably be fine. Tough times are almost certainly on the way, but the world will keep turning. We’ve made it through tough times before, and we’ll make it through these. But we have to hold on to each other and lift up as many people as possible along the way.
Me: Who knows, maybe Hillary would have gotten us into World War 3 over Syria; chances are now we’ll just end up with another Cold War, which is preferable to a nuclear one. As long as no world leaders say anything mean about Trump on Twitter.
Me: You know who else I’m mad at? The Bernie or Bust people, the 20 million people who voted for Obama and just didn’t show up this time, the 57% of white women who voted for Trump, and everyone else who voted against their own images.
An Atheist, Socialist, Jew wasn’t going to win against what showed up on Tuesday. The racist rhetoric still works as anti-Semitism. Socialism is still ‘he’s going to take your money and give it to brown people!’ Atheism would have still activated the evangelicals. Bernie had minimal support in the Black community, and wouldn’t have had the same financial resources from the establishment liberals. I don’t see it ending any differently. Trump sold them a fantasy that Bernie wouldn’t have been able to counter any more than Clinton could. Biden, however, would have smashed him.
BDW: I can tell you what really won on Tuesday: Selfishness. The belief that what I want is more important than the good of the nation, and I don’t care who suffers because of that. That’s why I can say that not everyone who voted for Trump is ‘deplorable,’ but they didn’t care about what was going to happen to anyone else outside of their bubble.
Me: Wow, Coach.
BDW: I still gotta call a spade a spade. But now we have dueling bubbles with the no desire to see where the other side is coming from. How do we bridge this gap?
Me: My plan for dealing with it is specificity. When they talk about how Trump is going to ‘fix things,’ ask them how exactly. When they rail against Obama messing things up, ask how exactly. In a post fact world, sticking to the facts is an act of rebellion.
BDW: Sadly so. What else?
Me: I’m working to release the idea that voting for Trump makes you a bad person. But I must admit I’m not there yet.
BDW: You’ll get there. This is a grieving process, and it takes as long as it takes; don’t rush it.
Me: I may still have to rip up some trolls…but only the ones who have it coming.
BDW: If that makes you feel better. But, again, what do we gain from making people feel dumb?
Me: I’ll remember that when I get around to being the bigger person.
BDW: Here’s what I’d like you to remember: The majority of the people voted for her. The MAJORITY of the people wanted the same vision for the future that you want, where there’s room for everyone at the table. So don’t feel like your world view is the odd one, because it isn’t.
By the same token, we need to understand what moved 50 million people in strategically valuable states to reject that vision. We need to understand their concerns, their hopes, and their fears, not necessarily to validate them—even I may never get to that place—but to help heal this divide. Since until we accept how people feel, whether or not we agree with them, we can’t start the work of finding a common ground to build on.
Me: It’s going to be a long four years, isn’t it?
BDW: It will pass faster than you think. The first Hobbit movie came out four years ago. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was THIRTEEN years ago. Time flies.
Me: I’d give my left foot for Mitt Romney right now.
BDW: You and me both, brother. But keep your chin up; your country still needs you, now more than ever.
I waited a long time to say anything. I’ve you’ve been following me on Facebook (and you should) I didn’t say anything from the night of the election until when I posted this article. I will just say it’s ok to let yourself feel how you feel. I think the clouds are already starting to part for most of us, but don’t make yourself wrong for feeling how you feel. The stages of grief are a spectrum, and you might still be moving back and forth between depression, anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance, and back again. So if you need to cry, cry. Scream, scream. If you need to stay in bed all day eating ice cream, do it and enjoy it.
But at the end of the day, this is where we find ourselves, and the work of building a country and a world that works for everyone still falls to us to do. We can’t give in to anger, hopelessness, pessimism, or despair, or the haters win. And the haters must never, ever win. The only way for us is the same that it’s always been: Forward.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” -Maya Angelou
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B. Dave Walters Writer, Life Coach, and Talk Radio Host
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