Our democracy would be stronger if we stopped hating politicians and instead focused on the effect their words and actions have on people’s lives. We need action, not animosity.
Trump may be a despicable person in the eyes of many people, but he wasn’t born that way. His family, his peers, the capitalist culture with its win-at-any-cost, profit-by-any-means greed made him into the person he is. He’s made choices in his life, many of them bad ones, but those decisions didn’t come out of a vacuum; they were conditioned by the natural desires we all have for a modicum of financial and personal security and at least some power over our future. He’s just taken to an extreme all those same desires and aversions that affect our own behavior.
Politicians are human, some of them with more intelligence, integrity and compassion than others, but they’re all the result of a multitude of factors that carried them along on the waves of history and deposited them on the shores of power. Trump wasn’t born greedy, narcissistic, racist and misogynistic. He became that way over time; he’s the end result of many causes. People aren’t born conservative or liberal. Their life experiences make them that way. If a person is inclusive, tolerant, forgiving and compassionate, they’re fortunate, and we’re fortunate to have them in our lives, but they didn’t choose to be that way, they weren’t born that way. If they’re egoistic, vindictive and contemptuous of others, the same holds true. It’s not their fault, either of them. They didn’t choose their character; it evolved over a lifetime of incidents and experiences. I suggest we criticize their demeaning, not their demeanor.
When liberals hate Donald Trump, cringe at the sound of his voice, and make fun of him, they debase themselves and sink to his emotional level. They waste their time and energy on useless, counterproductive emotions that only cloud their vision. They allow themselves to be taken prisoner by his negativity. Their time would be much better spent focusing on what they can do to remove him from office to end the dissolution of our country.
It may sound hokey, but the compassionate thing to do for our angry, hateful politicians is to put them out of their misery – and our misery – by putting them out of office. Honestly, can you imagine how painful it must be to be constantly trying to appeal to an intolerant, hateful, mean-spirited base so that you can leech off their negative energy to get re-elected? It must be excruciating.
Politicians who care deeply about the lives of others run on a platform that brings them joy and satisfaction. Those who breed hatred for others, others of a different skin color, a different religion, a different economic class, must wake up every morning wondering why they ever thought being a legislator, being a politician, was a good idea. They suffer more than we can ever imagine, and we, as compassionate electors, need to put them out of that misery. It’s not such a hokey idea. It’s an act of kindness.
I don’t condemn my father for listening to Rush Limbaugh on the little transistor radio he carried around in his shirt pocket. Nor should anyone. I hope my friends don’t condemn me for listening to Rachel Maddow. I don’t think less of Dad because he thought that if Clarence Thomas could become a Supreme Court Justice, then any Black person should be able to pull himself up by his bootstraps and improve his life. Dad was a fine person and a wonderful father, but he was not schooled in history, sociology and economics. He didn’t understand the insidious constraints placed on people of color. And it wasn’t my job to fill in those gaps.
I hope that my conservative friends don’t blame me for believing that Black people’s lives matter as much as Whites’; that diversity makes our country stronger; that wealth should be more evenly distributed throughout America and around the world; that tolerance is better than intolerance; that guns are dangerous and the more guns there are the more dangerous life becomes.
I don’t have control over my beliefs any more than you do.
Try to judge the results of my actions, not me, and I’ll do the same for you. Then we’ll be able to have a civil conversation not about who’s right and wrong but what in our past brought us to this point. That’s the conversation America needs.
When we focus on the politician who puts children in cages or our neighbor who throws her beer cans on our lawn or Uncle Bob who comes to our family gatherings and shoots up the place with his hair-trigger conspiracy theories, we burn up all the useful energy – and ourselves – that we could be putting toward the need for action to prevent their bad behavior. Hatred and schadenfreude toward people who believe differently than we do only robs us of the passion we need to move our country forward toward healing, equality, compassion, equity, and peaceful coexistence with people who are actually more like us than we can imagine. And, we need to have compassion for those who are so angry these days, ourselves included. Anger and hatred are painful and misdirected emotions. Healing begins with the right understanding that people are not personally the problem. The greed, racism, and hatred that compels their words and actions, these are the problems. Let’s learn to attack their words and actions rather than attacking them.
Jim Pesout is a retired high school teacher who lives in Mountain Ranch. You can reach him at email@example.com.