For me, politics in this election started with Bernie Sanders. I was so excited by him! But as I argued with people on Facebook, I started to realize that some people knew a great deal more than I did about the political system and our governing history. I started to realize that I had very strong opinions that were based on only partial knowledge. I was convinced I was right, and I didn’t have all the facts.
This embarrassed me.
Plus, I hate to lose arguments.
More education seemed like a good idea.
But as I read about Hillary Clinton’s voting record, her work internationally with women and children, as I read the horse race who-is-more-likely-to-win stats, as I read, for the first time (I’m embarrassed to say), Noam Chomsky, I started to notice that I was far from the only person who had strong opinions based on far too few facts.
Most people seemed to fall in the camp of I-am-right-though-I-do-not-really-know-my-facts-and-don’t-want-to-learn-them-from-you-unless-you-agree-with-me-about-everything. (Me on a very bad day, I have to admit.)
The rhetoric heated up. Name calling, explicit or implicit. Blogs that told only a small piece of any story. Misinformation. Quotes from the Huffington Post that contradicted other quotes from the Huffington Post. Siting of political web sites. Accusations of voting tampering. Accusations that anyone who believed there had ever been voting tampering was a conspiracy theorist.
It seemed that the hotter the temperature, the less facts mattered. It seemed it was all about who could be more insulting. Courtesy and basic respect fell by the wayside. Swearing and name-calling became a way of winning. Tone! Sometimes, it was humor. Sometimes, just attacks.
My own pseudo Buddhism started ringing in my head, so I tried to understand, to find compassion for all these shouting people. The common denominator was clearly emotion. Rational discourse was rare, and especially rare if people disagreed.
We are all so scared right now. The world seems unsafe. Survival. Opportunity. Care. Safety. How can I protect me and mine?
On my best days, I want to speak to this. I’m not a political theorist. I’m an artist who seeks the center of the human experience, who writes about being an outsider, who writes about loneliness, absurdity and redemption. I believe in social justice, but mostly I believe in the power of kindness. I believe in welcome. I believe in truth and witnessing. I believe there is nothing stronger than love.
I occasionally find these things in FB political discussions if you can believe it…but rarely. I love it when it happens, when I am humble, when I learn, but much more often I’m doing my own version of heating up the fire by posting as many different points of view as possible just to freak people out. Or make them think. (It’s unclear.) This entertains the imp in me, but doesn’t necessarily help anyone. Because people are so scared they can’t listen to anything but that one answer that the emotional voice in their heads says is going to fix this dangerous world.
An answer they’ve found based on…well…emotion. More than anything else, that’s what we do. We call ourselves thinking beings, but we are emotion first. We really are.
This morning my partner showed me a clip of Trump demanding a baby be removed from an auditorium. She crowed with delight at what a jerk he was. I’m looking up at her and I’m like, “Um, I think this is funny.”
I thought it was funny that he talked about loving babies then did this reversal about of course he doesn’t love a baby crying when he’s trying to speak. His communication wasn’t at all skillful, but I understood exactly how he felt (having had my own crying baby experience while performing), and his bluntness made me like him. Of course I don’t want him to be president, but I totally got and get his appeal. His supporters say, “He tells it like it is.” And he does. No filter, no finesse, but there’s an honesty in that. There’s a relief. If you’re pissed off and scared and not thinking.
Here’s my heresy for the day: people here in the liberal Northeast are just as scared and filled with emotion as people in the Heartland. People in the Heartland see themselves in Donald Trump–in his take-no-shit-tell-it-like-it-is attitudes. In his paternalistic promises. I understand his appeal. Of course I don’t want him to be president. That doesn’t mean I can’t see, with compassion, that to which he speaks. I don’t need to look down. I get it right from where I’m sitting.
I watched the DNC because my partner was so into it, and I was genuinely moved by the video about Hillary Clinton. In it, she reminded me of women I’ve met in the last year, all of whom are white, straight and privileged. I understood how they saw themselves in her. She represents them, she is them, and they look at her and see all the sexism they have ever faced. And, let’s get real…Hillary has battled vicious misogyny her entire public life.
I don’t know if I want her to be president. But that’s not the point, is it? I get how women see themselves in her, and since I have lived with misogyny, since I have been a victim of violence against women, since I have been sexually harassed in the workplace when I was very young, I understand the emotion, too. I cried when they did the shattering of the glass ceiling. I cried when Chelsey talked about her pride in her mother.
I have these emotions. But I don’t see myself in Hillary. I’m white and female and a feminist, but I am also strongly queer-identified, have been poor and on food stamps, among other differences. I don’t see myself in white, straight women in general. I feel like an other when I’m around them. Pulse made this incredibly clear. Right or wrong, I don’t think white, upper middle and upper class women have it so bad. Most of them have never worked for my rights as a queer person, and they don’t ask about my life either, so I have a ton of emotion about the barriers between us, barriers I don’t think they see. Hillary flip-flopped on gay marriage like a crazy person. I have EMOTION about this.
I can’t escape my own emotion. I’m human.
We feel way before we think. We feel…and then we think to justify how we feel. I can’t help this more than anyone else can.
But I want to be peace. I’m terrified about the world. If I run, can I run far enough? These are my old questions. But with the shootings, terrorism, economic fears, bigotry, police persecution of African-Americans, laws targeting LGBTQ in the South…somehow we’ve passed business as usual and with climate change there may be nowhere to run to at all.
I want to be peace.
And, old strategy of mine, welcome any time…I want to know. I want to understand. I want to learn everything I can. I believe in education as an answer.
I wish we would stop, consider other points-of-view, before we post, before we speak.
I want to be peace.
I don’t always know how to find peace, though I have studied, though I have, as the Indigo Girls have sung, gone to the temple, the mountain, the ashram, the ocean, the doctor, the poetry, the bodies of women, men and trans people, though I have loved, though I have raged, though I have gone quiet, though I have sung my one and only song, with no idea if anyone would want to listen.
I want to be peace.
Feel and do nothing about feeling.
Think and do nothing about thinking.
Until I am moved by something wiser than passion, fear or anger.
Until I can simply love, listen, hear.
Until my song is compassion, and nothing else.