Lets build a wall to keep Trump out.
So, over 1 million people have signed a petition to asking to prevent Trump from making a state visit to the UK.
Trump it seems is the unacceptable face of western civilization. His shiny, brash confrontational upfront-ness disgusts and repulses us. His fear and control based policies anger us.
But we live in a world of wounded people and Trump’s rise to prominence is no accident. His presidency is a reaction to that wounding. He has been voted in on the back of a growing epidemic of unhappiness and disconnection.
An acceptable Demon.
The Obama administration, in contrast, was an all-singing, all-dancing, handsome and charismatic acceptable face it appears. In 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs. This means that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day. (Source- The Guardian)
Where were the protests then? Where were the petitions?
Perhaps we should have more appreciation for Trump’s transparency? The bombings, both real and metaphorical, will no longer be obfuscated behind the façade of a charismatic leader?
The Big Shadow
Trump brings the shadow of western civilization out into the open for us all to see. There’s no hiding behind niceties. With Trump it’s all unashamedly out in the open. So now that we can really see into the shadow, via the opportunity he has so kindly offered us; we have the opportunity to be curious and transform that which calls to be transformed.
There’s a curious discord in the echo chambers of social media. Take Trump’s latest border control policies, his recent ban on Muslims from certain countries entering the US. An enormous amount of the people that voted him in wanted this, they voted him in so he would keep the ‘others’ out out. This is based on fear, misinformation and ignorance. Trump tweeted that there’s ‘A lot of bad "dudes" out there!’ Meanwhile in some ironic twist the same people who decry this fear mentality and ‘othering’, who support more open borders, are the very same people who shout that we should keep Trump out and that he should not be allowed into the UK. Because he’s not like us: because he is other. Perhaps because he too is a ‘bad dude’?
Inviting Mara in for Tea.
In Buddhism Mara is the lord of misfortune, sin, destruction and death. He features in stories throughout the Buddha’s life in different guises and forms. The most well known story being on the night before his enlightenment, the then Siddhartha Gautama, fought a great battle with the Demon God Mara, who attacked Siddhartha with everything he had: lust, greed, anger, doubt, etc. Having failed, and witnessing the Buddha’s awakened enlightened state that morning, Mara then left in disarray.
But Mara was a persistent foe. He made continued visits to the Buddha throughout his life and although the Buddha’s loyal and faithful companion, Anand was always on the lookout and wary of some harm the Buddha may come to at Mara’s hands, the Buddha himself remained very calm and each time his old foe appeared simply acknowledged him with an, “I see you Mara.”
One time Mara appeared and despite Anand’s attempts to send him away, Mara stood firm in his demand to meet with the Buddha. Anand went to the Buddha letting him know that “the evil one” was demanding to be seen. So what did the Buddha do? He invited Mara in for tea. He placed a comfortable cushion for his place and offered him tea.
Whilst the story of the Buddha and the demon Mara points ultimately to how we can befriend our own inner-demons, I see much usefulness in expanding the potential.
“ I see you Trump.”
In the same way that the Buddha welcomed Mara, I say we should welcome Trump: we should invite him in for tea, and thank him. Thank him for this gift- he has offered us by being who he is in such an upfront and in-our face way. In doing so he has offered us a clear mirror, an opportunity to be confronted by our collective en-shadowed demons. Our choice is this: do we continue the cycle of hate and blame and refuse to face our collective responsibility in creating President Trump or do we sit with those aspects of our human experience and make conscious decisions about how we respond in a way that can support our human potential and collective healing? Otherwise it’s all knee-jerk unconscious acting out and the cycle just keeps spinning out of control.
A welcome Demon.
So there are two key processes at play here. The first being that Trump is the elected president of the USA. Whether we like that or not he is a representative of the current views and beliefs of huge swathes of the US, and as such, I would suggest that it’s imperative that we ‘invite him in for tea’.
The second process at play is that Trump is our perfectly personified demon. He is our 21st century Mara. He is our shadow side and everything we seek to disown and project out. He is our fear, our bigotry, our cruelty, our greed and our need to control. He is everything we do not wish to see in ourselves and if only we could push him away into some small corner where we do not have to face him. But how much more powerful to stand up and say, “I see you Trump”, and then invite him in for tea.
What can we discover in doing this?
We can face him, and possibly face those parts of ourselves, both on a personal and collective level. We can offer ourselves the opportunity to respond, rather than react, and to allow a compassionate response to emerge to all that he represents. This is already happening in the unfolding international network of peaceful protest. Individuals and groups facing the demon and not vilifying but choosing a different response, one found in collaboration, action, connection and compassion.
Given the fragility of the current world situation, I would offer that compassionate courage has the potential to help us find more dynamic solutions than reactive hate.
So I will not be signing the petition.
What I see is the rising tide of global peaceful protest and action against hate, disparity, injustice and exclusion. I see the exponential rise in people being willing to stand up, and speak out and take peaceful action against the hate. This is the gift that Trump offers us, by showing us our collective shadow so clearly, a possibility to unite, build bridges and create connection in our world.
Originally written 17/12/16
Witnessing events and devastating suffering unfolding in Syria this week, exposure of yet more corruption in US politics, mass starvation in Yemen, the latest reports on the runaway ecological impact of the human species of our planet, it's no wonder that this also gets accompanied by a mass attempt to understand, know, work it out and have a fixed answer.
Once found, we often want to pit our own fixed answer against another's fixed answer and anyone else who disagrees.
I've seen lots of that this week, social media threads that turn into all-out offensives against anyone who questions or disagrees. We all cling on so desperately to the need to know, understand and be right. Maybe then we can fix it?
Watching my own process unfold in this way and the accompanying urgency to figure it all out, I start to feel disorientated, stuck in my head, lost and utterly hopeless for the world.
That's when I remember at times of such overwhelm it's more important to 'feel into' rather than try to grasp it all with my head. I'm reminded of Joanna Macy's wise words:
"Refusing to feel pain, and becoming incapable of feeling the pain, which is actually the root meaning of apathy, refusal to suffer, that makes us stupid, and half alive," she said. "It causes us to become blind to see what is really out there. We have a sense of something being wrong, so we find another target and project our anxiety onto the nearest thing handy."
Most of us have plenty of other targets, whether it's Assad, Russia, lying western media, 'fake' Syrian children, Muslims, Zionists, Trump, people who disagree with us on Facebook, our neighbours, our partners, our children etc etc..
What about if we just stopped for a moment to actually feel what we are feeling? Again, Joanna Macy says on this:
"The most radical thing any of us can do at this time is to be fully present to what is happening in the world."
For me, the price of admission into that present is allowing my heart to break. To be completely with the grief and despair I feel for the world, for those suffering and for the future of my children. just to be with that grief and despair and hold it as tenderly as I would a young child.
And, when fully felt, despair transforms, in the face of overwhelming social and ecological crises, into a clarity of vision, then into constructive, collaborative action.
Again, Joanna Macy: "I look at the path we're on, to the future, as having a ditch on either side," she continued. "We have to hold onto each other, not to fall into the ditch on the right or left, which are, on one side panic and hysteria, and on the other side is paralysis and shutting down."
I can't recommend Joanna Macy's work enough, in times such as we are in I don't see any other way forward but to find ways to reconnect - to ourselves, to the pain of the world and to each other. My sense is that it's through embracing our very disconnected state that we can ultimately find true connection and healing in the world.
You can find out more about Joanna Macy's work 'The Work that Reconnects' via her website - http://www.joannamacy.net