It’s been a week now. Seven days since I woke up and discovered it wasn’t just another PTSD nightmare. Donald Trump really no shit actually won the election. A full week, and folks I’ve been struggling.
Here’s the thing: I’m a Buddhist. I’m not a particularly good Buddhist, but for the most part I try to abide by the basic tenets of Buddhism. I don’t often talk about this Buddhist stuff because 1) who cares? and 2) it’s nobody’s business. But I’ve been struggling, because one concept lies at the heart of all the various Buddhist groups: compassion. So I’ve been trying to practice compassion for Trump voters.
It ain’t easy. For example, I read a New York Times column by Rabbi Michael Lerner entitled Stop Shaming Trump Supporters. I’m going to quote a chunk of his column:
The right has been very successful at persuading working people that they are vulnerable not because they themselves have failed, but because of the selfishness of some other villain (African-Americans, feminists, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, liberals, progressives; the list keeps growing).
Instead of challenging this ideology of shame, the left has buttressed it by blaming white people as a whole for slavery, genocide of the Native Americans and a host of other sins, as though whiteness itself was something about which people ought to be ashamed. The rage many white working-class people feel in response is rooted in the sense that once again, as has happened to them throughout their lives, they are being misunderstood.
No. As Donald J. Grabbembythepussy would say, wrong. The left has NOT been blaming white people as a whole. The right has been telling white people that the left has been blaming them — and a LOT of white folks have fallen for that lie. The political right-wing has also promoted the lie that the ‘failure’ of some groups of white folks been the fault of “some other villain”. Rabbi Lerner has got the wrong end of the stick.
Here’s where I begin to struggle. When I was formally studying Buddhism I was taught the greatest impediment to compassion is our attachment to a personal belief about how the world should be. I was also taught that compassion and forgiveness went together like peanut butter and milk chocolate. I have no problem feeling a good Buddhist level of compassion for folks who’ve been lied to and whose suffering is exacerbated by their acceptance of those lies. It’s the forgiveness component that’s kicking my ass.
Which leads me to this: if you voted for a candidate who is racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic, then even if you’re not personally racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic, you’re at the very least willing to support racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia. I can feel compassion for folks who are scared of other races, who are fearful of women, who are anxious about folks who are different. But right now I’m just not capable of being forgiving of such bullshit.
And if you voted for a candidate who explicitly advocates torture and the revenge killing of the families of terrorists, then even if you’re not personally in favor of torture and revenge killing, you’re at the very least willing to support torture and revenge killing. I can feel compassion for folks who are so afraid of the world around them that they think hurting other people is the only way to protect themselves. But right now I’m just not capable of being forgiving of such bullshit.
So right now, this week, I’m struggling. Right now, this week, I’m in Mose Allison’s camp. Everybody cryin’ mercy, when they don’t know the meaning of the word. Right now, this week, I have no time for racists who suddenly feel safe to be racists, and who whine when they get called on their racism.
Right now, this week — and maybe the next, and maybe the week after that — I’ll do my damnedest to be compassionate, but I’m putting a hold on the forgiveness. I figure the Buddha would understand. That dude had compassion down.
Postscript: I just found out Mose Allison died yesterday, Fuck me with a chainsaw.