Like many socially liberal people, I was beyond distressed to learn Trump got in. I’ve woken with nightmares two nights in a row. You already know the reasons for my concerns. Today I’m going to share the ten things I’m doing to reduce my distress about his ideas, past actions, and plans.
1. Meet Strangers: I believe the fastest way to create peace is to meet each other. It doesn’t have to be live—we can do this over the phone, online, whatever. But meet each other we must. In knowing each other—in hearing each other’s stories—we develop understanding. And when we develop understanding, we usually want to support and help each other.
Did you know this is the whole premise of the organization SERVAS? Some years back, I took several of their hosts up on their offerings, and thoroughly enjoyed sharing a home and meals with people in various countries. These days, I have no craving to travel, but I make a point of getting to know strangers locally, usually about six every week. I don’t mean I say hello—I mean I take up to two hours with each and just listen. It’s amazing the struggles and triumphs people will share when we do that. After every encounter, I have more perspective.
If doing this live feels beyond you, join an online, international forum on which people have at least one thing in common, yet are also diverse in multiple ways.
2. Hang With “Others”: This relates to Item 1, but goes further. I intentionally go to people’s places of worship, activities, schools, and so on. I’m not religious, but I attend worship services, religious practices, and study groups offered by people of any path: skeptics pub meetups; Hindu kirtan; Buddhist meditations and retreats; Dawali events; Sunday services of progressive Christians and fundamentalist Christians (really, these are like two entirely different religions); near-death experience discussion groups; you name it.
I also listen to people who want the whole world vaccinated against everything possible, and to those vaccinating selectively. With compassion, I hear the courage and the fear in both. I listen to the elitists who believe only a select group is intelligent enough to make decisions for others, and to those so disempowered they see no point to voting. I carefully hear folks who are into innovation, and those into tradition. I consider the stance of one relying only on concepts that can be scientifically proven and of one experimenting. I line dance with one group, and farm organically with another. I join the lobby for private, second-stage homes for those who crave that and advocate for the option of communes for those keen on this.
My philosophy? How can we talk tolerance, acceptance, or celebration if we won’t even go into each other’s spaces? When my core sense of self is strong, I can be with others without feeling threatened by a mere difference in belief.
I thoroughly enjoy hanging with all my communities, even without being a “member” of any. And, when someone spews prejudiced garbage about a group I’ve spent considerable time with, I have enough real life experience that I can recognize the crap and peacefully request accuracy.
3. Read Opposing Thoughts: Again, in a similar vein to the above, I intentionally read ideas and views that may or may not differ from my own. Last year I read a book by a fellow opposed to social programs in the US, claiming they harm the very demographic that liberals are aiming to help. By the end, I still disagreed with the writer. But, I had read with an open mind, seriously considered the writer’s views, and reevaluated my own. Good enough!
Books by some others have in fact changed my mind, my work, or even my life: those by people who choose to live in so-called cults; books by people urging bloodless surgery, medicinal LSD, and diet vs drugs; books by people choosing non-mainstream approaches in education; articles that urge us to help a neighbour rather than immediately report her.
There are countless experiences, minds, and views out there. I don’t have to adopt all of them, but I feel strongly about my responsibility to listen well.
4. Examine My Prejudices: Many people describe Trump as a “caricature.” His actions and words are just that extreme. But, can his distressing ways teach me something about myself? While I don’t treat women as objects, do I have a more subtle hatred for any other group? Do I write off men as “inept”, for example? Am I horrified by Trump’s words about Muslims, yet lump all “old white people” or all Republicans into a group? What happens if I allow Trump’s most disconcerting ideas to inspire reflection on my own?
5. Sponsor People Locally: Recently, I heard a young, wealthy person claim there is “no real poverty” in the US or Canada. What? I get the variation between poverty in Haiti and that of a person receiving welfare in Canada, but one manifestation of poverty doesn’t make Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside comfortable, nor a situation one “chooses” or “can just get out of.”
In the US and Canada, there are people lying on sidewalks, under a plastic tarp (if that), soaking wet, malnourished to the point of delirium, losing fingers and feet to frostbite. They have literally zero pennies. That’s not poverty? What strange and beautiful castle does one have to live in to not see these very real situations?
So, while I support efforts far away, I also advocate locally. I pick one damaging policy to push for change in. (Do you know how many laws have changed because one person took their case to court?!) I sit in a kiosk, hear the experience of a neighbour, and “translate” it into an application for disability benefits. I drive a struggling mom to a support appointment, so that she is resourced enough to keep her children.
If Trump wants to dismantle some social programs, we as individuals must stand up and deliver them. What if Trump’s presidency inspired 150 million people to start delivering social change?!? Cool.
6. Spread The Word: When you learn of a funding source for post-secondary education, tell all your student friends. When a dietary change resolves your asthma, blog about it. When a mom loses custody of her kid because she honours the child’s gender identity, post word to Facebook. Recognize that everything you share has the potential to change the health, finances, or happiness of one or more struggling person. Imagine! Changing a life! Regardless of what the politicians do! Yay!
7. Give Financial Awareness: This new presidency may exacerbate personal poverty in the US, as well as beyond (e.g., by forcing people without specific pieces of paper to return to places of low employment). Help each other budget. Point neighbours to emergency resources. Help them fill in forms for government subsidies. Host free recreational opportunities for friends and—at a community centre—for the public. Give a twenty-minute talk at your local library about how to save on a small income. If you thought it was good, ask your local library or helping agency to order in a copy of my book.
8. Sponsor Refugees: While some refugees are supported by a government, many wait years for private support. Most of us can’t afford to support a whole extra person or family, but when we band together in groups, we can. Find a local group organizing to sponsor a person to come to your country. Join. Fundraise. Help find their future apartment. Collect furniture donations to fill it up. When the individual or family arrives, spend time with them. Share meals, learn some of their first language, show them how the laundromat machines work. Hug them.
9. Adopt: Do all of Item 8 for a local person who has fallen on hard times. Don’t (just) give him a can of food. Treat him like an adult son. Connect him with local resources, include him in family meals, give him a birthday present, drive him to an advocacy appointment.
10. Stay Inspired: When I focus on the above nine, I feel happy and powerful. I remember how much I can do! I am energized and focused. When I think instead of the new US president, my stomach turns, my energy drops, I feel like crying. His name or image alone has become a trigger. I need to recognize the effect on my spirit, will, and oomph of “meditating on” that dude. Note that this is not the same as “putting one’s head in the sand.” I learn, I vote. But I focus my mind and time on strategies for building the world I dream of. So, in day-to-day life I’m not using his name. At home, I’m calling him Robert.