Shock, dismay, rage, disbelief and disappointment all declared with variations of “I don’t get it- how the hell did this happen?” upon the election of Donal Trump and Mike Pence as US President Elect and Vice President Elect.
In yoga, we call this limited knowledge vidya. It is one of five sheaths that cloud our internal wisdom. I think this Presidential cycle was largely built upon the video of Americans who have traditionally hunkered down in their comfort zone of “ignorance is bliss” for a very long time, believing that their single vote doesn’t matter (perhaps a residual from the 2000 election where the popular votes were superseded by the Electoral College via the Supreme Court).
People have surrounded themselves with others who share their beliefs and values, finding it too difficult, uncomfortable, or simply not safe to dialog with people of opposing views. This is so true that I know on both sides people ignored their intuition and voted for candidates they did not believe in but disliked (even hated) the other side more. Yet, people ask how we got here.
Though disappointed, I wasn’t surprised. Trump touched the rawness in people that has been restrained for 50 years. For those voters who weren’t born during the civil rights and desegregation era, those beliefs are generational. You can break free from your families beliefs and values, but it’s far easier to stay in them. Our DNA is, after all, hardwired for belonging as a means of safety and security.
Trump went to the places both Republicans and Democrats have overlooked for a long time. He listened to the soundbites from conservative media sources that attracts viewers from these “fly over states” and spoke directly to those talking points. Plus, he managed to do it in the language that tapped into the aforementioned rawness.
The Democrats and much of the media essentially forced Secretary Clinton on the voters. Was she better qualified? Yes. But how many of those believed in her or were they simply voting against a conservative, seemingly misogynistic, bigoted, xenophobic duo? That, at least in my mind, is a huge difference. Both sides led fear mongering campaigns that undoubtedly did severe damage to our countries ability to respectfully communicate by pitting the other side as evil.
Now we have to figure out how to move forward as a nation regardless of how you voted (or didn’t). If we want to slip out of this sheath of vidya, we must be willing to turn inward and do our work before pointing fingers and casting blame. We are all responsible for where we are now; from apathy to inherent privilege, divisiveness to self-limiting beliefs.
We have to find a way to ask, listen, ask deeper questions, listen closer, and ask even deeper questions, remaining willing to listen even when we do not understand or agree. We need to try to understand why we believe what we do and seek to find our common interests. Along the way, we may agree to disagree, but at least we will get there on a road paved with respect and compassion.
What we learn on the yoga mat- strength, flexibility, balance - are necessary now off the mat in order to move forward. Perhaps those of us who have been practicing yoga have actually been training for this moment in time. At the very least, we know how to breathe.
There is much healing to do in our country. If we are to be “great” (which, for the record I think we never stopped being great), surrendering the need to be right is a start. Re-defining success and surrendering the greed would be useful. Committing to kindness, respect, and compassion would not make us weak, it would make us bearable. And we have to be more involved- from local to federal levels, actually paying attention to what is happening is worth the time invested (and if you can binge watch TV, watch a movie every week, play an hour of video games or surf social media an hour week, you have time). Hold your elected officials accountable. Teach our children that our voices matter and that will hold true regardless of who is the President as long as we allow it to be true.