I’m still heartsick. I’ve been sort of sad and down since the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America. I honestly don’t know how so many people could have voted for him. Well, actually, I do. I think I know exactly why.
I’ve been reading as much as I can about what others are saying. There was a lot of anger and resentment in Middle America. People are pissed off about Obamacare, jobs, taxes, and foreigners. Many people feel left behind and don’t think they’ll ever be part of the American dream. They don’t have enough money and can’t imagine how they will ever afford to go to college, buy a house, or retire comfortably. And there are clearly a lot of folks who are just mad as hell about gays, Muslims, illegal immigrants, terrorists, and all the people who work in Washington, DC.
Hillary and the Democrats just didn’t understand the rage out there, they say. They ignored the plight of the middle class, whose wages haven’t really risen in decades. They didn’t understand how flawed of a candidate she was. Those rich liberal elites think they’re so smart, and just don’t get how scary it is out here.
Exactly! That’s exactly right. What is the common thread behind all of the disgruntled votes who didn’t give a crap what a contemptible con artist Donald Trump is? They were angry. And what is at the root of all anger? Fear. Big time. The whole country. I think the United States has a bad case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I’ve studied fear like this for going on twenty years. I’ve read all sorts of books, articles, blogs, you name it, with a primary goal of trying to figure out why humans are so damn stupid as to keep hating, fighting, killing, and raping. I’m not a psychologist, but a lawyer, father, ex-husband and husband, cancer survivor, and aspiring musician. But I,m pretty sure I have it figured out. Here’s the deal.
Fear is Different than You Think
What is fear? I know, that fight or flight response that kept us safe from lions, tigers, and bears. That’s only part of it though. Let’s look for a second as to who we are, and then I can explain what fear is.
We are stardust, as the scientists say. Made up of atoms, molecules, and energy that are the same stuff as everything else around us. We are specks of vibration clinging to life on a planet zooming around a ball of fire. And our fireball is just one of squillions. At the atomic level, there is no separation between us, or anything. Quantum physicists know that we’re actually illusions of time and space, and so nothing is really as it seems. We are indisputably all one and the same. We’re in this same planetary boat together. There’s a lot more about quantum physics that can help us understand life, but we’ll leave it there for now.
Life is pretty weird though, and these concepts are hard to fathom. We feel like we’re separate from all the other stuff on earth, and definitely different than the other people. Those other humans just want to take everything from us, our home, farm, house, cars, and even our women and children. They’d just as soon kill us and feed us to the fish.
That clearly is what most humans have thought for a long time. That’s the way we’ve acted for freakin’ ever. War, war, and more war. We have been afraid of each other all our lives. And that’s what fear is; the perception of separation. But we are really not separate, we are one. Oneness is our true reality.
What does Fear Lead To?
Well, first, what does an understanding of oneness lead to? It provides an amazing perspective that we’re in this thing called life together, on this crazy spaceship called planet earth. It helps us understand that our lives are short and nothing in this human society lasts forever. It leads us to an appreciation of community, compassion, truth, empathy, family, and sharing.
Fear is the opposite. Fear is at the base of all anger, hate, jealousy, discrimination, murder, rape, greed, resentment, sexism, racism, homophobia, judgement, and – I think you may see where I’m going with this.
There is no right or wrong about fear, or oneness – which I also call love. There’s no good or evil to it. But make no mistake, fear leads to all division among humans. Fear is at the root of nationalism, and you can see if you look at a map that humans are quite proficient at separating themselves into nations. And dividing up by religion, race, social class, money, culture; we can think of a lot of ways that people use to try and preserve individual identity and security. This is the key to understand; fear has an Us versus Them perspective. Us versus Them = Fear.
That’s what our country voted for – fear. That is what gave rise to all that anger, resentment, hatred, and the desire to vent all that paranoia, toss that bomb, and see what happened.
Now, let’s take a look at our new president. Would you say he has a Gandhi-like approach to life? Sort of like the Dalai Lama, or Martin Luther King, or Saint Francis of Assisi? Serene, thoughtful, gentle, kind, and loving. Ha! Of course not. People can make any kind of judgments they want and ascribe narcissism or whatever, but I’m just looking at the dude and saying, that is one insecure man.
He is so angry and judgmental; so thin skinned. He blames other people all the time. He complains about not being treated fairly; whines when people criticize him. Doesn’t this sound like the person you never want to have to sit and talk with, because they judge, complain, and blame all the time. And nothing they every do is wrong.
Think of a person who is completely accepting of life, confident in who they are, kind, and loving. Does a peaceful person like that bitch and moan, blame and complain, and say stuff like, “such a nasty woman;” I mean, really? Of course not.
Donald Trump is so afraid and full of fear. He is not strong enough to take criticism and acts like a child. He’s greedy and desperately afraid of not being rich. He is the schoolyard bully, hiding behind bravado. His lack of empathy is only matched by his disdain for people who might challenge him in any aspect, whether financially, intellectually, or morally. If he worked for you, he would be so disruptive, unpleasant, insubordinate, and selfish you’d fire him in a snap.
What about the People Who Voted For Him?
Donald Trump is the epitome of a person who is afraid. Just like Klansmen are really afraid (of non-whites taking over their world). Religious ideologues are afraid (of God and going to hell). Militant extremists are afraid.
You know who else are afraid? Misogynists (afraid of women). Racists (afraid of minorities). Homophobes (afraid of gays). Evangelicals (afraid of God and hell). Ideological extremists (afraid of uncertainty). The ultra rich (afraid they won’t have enough money). The open carry gun fanatics (why would anyone need a gun for self defense unless being afraid?). And, honestly, many Republicans are afraid. They all have an Us versus Them attitude.
Do you think I’ve gone too far now? I haven’t condemned anyone. I’ve only said they’re afraid. There is no right or wrong in that. There are different extremes of fear- based behavior. ISIS is WAY at the end of the fear spectrum. But a lot of Trump supporters are toward that end.
What about liberals and Democrats? I’ve written and spoken about this often. We’re just not as afraid. An African American friend said to me one time, “The only thing I’m afraid of is Republicans.” I wasn’t sure what he meant then, but now I do. Republicans in his lifetime are the guys who try and keep Blacks down, and they’ve tried to take not only their families and lives back when, but now their opportunities, their right to vote, their place in society, and whatever else they can.
Liberals driving philosophy is we want everyone to have a chance. We want all people to be treated fairly and with respect. We want education and healthcare for all. We want security for seniors in their old age. We want lunches for the kids and public parks for everyone to enjoy. Hey, this world is an amazing, beautiful place, and we just want to live our short spans here in peace and harmony. We don’t want wars. We really, truly, don’t want to send our talented young people to carry assault rifles in other countries and drop bombs on people we don’t even know. Liberals have an All of Us attitude, which is love-based.
Yea, I was for Bernie Sanders, because he really gets it. He’s in it for all of us. For anyone who can think outside the ideological bubble, a democratic socialist is a love-based person. But I did vote for Hillary. My own view is that she had been attacked by the haters for such a long time it just stuck. Bill was attacked too; even impeached for some dumb sex thing.
And there were several other aspects that I was sincerely looking forward to in a Hillary presidency. For one, that woman has advocated for women, children, and families her entire life. The book Hillary wrote in 1996, It Takes a Village, is testament to that. She was passionate about it and, you know what, that perspective is seriously love-based.
Second, she is a grandmother. In the human family, the grandmother is the most revered of all. Grandmothers are thought of as wise, with the deep love and intuition of a woman, and the perspective of long and often difficult experience and dedication to the family. I was sincerely looking forward to having not just a woman president, but also a grandmother as president. And I was just so devastated for the women and especially young girls who saw their grandest dreams dashed by a man who they all knew bragged about grabbing women by the pussy.
Third, we know that Bill Clinton was a man who loved women, though I don’t feel in the same way that the Donald creepily walked unannounced into dressing rooms at pageants filled with half-naked girls. But think about this; in spite of how difficult the whole Monica thing was for her, Hillary demonstrated an unconditional love for Bill. Many thought that was enabling. I just view it as love.
Why They Voted for Him
So, there were obviously a lot of angry, resentful, and pissed off souls who voted for Trump. I think in some ways they’re just terrified and even humiliated by their situations. It is really sad. But as the allegorical Jesus intoned from the cross, “Lord, forgive them, they know not what they do.” That was the case in the election. Seriously, they don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to love. Why?
Fear warps peoples’ minds. I mentioned that the country has a bad case of PTSD, mainly from 9/11, but also from two ugly long wars, and a recession that was the scariest economic time in my life. In early 2009, I was honestly worried that we might have 25% unemployment and soup lines like during the Great Depression. (Back then, Roosevelt used many tools like the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps to put people to work, including artists; boy, I sure wish the Republicans had let us do that sort of thing.) It’s not crazy to think of a group of people having PTSD. And what happens when returning soldiers and other victims of severe stress, such as sexual assault survivors, experience PTSD? The have nightmares, can’t sleep, are wired, become even more angry and trigger happy, strike out, and act erratically. Welcome to America in 2016.
Now let’s think of a few of the main issues that the voters focused on in voting for Trump:
- Building a wall, a yuge wall, to keep those Mexican rapists and criminals out. Very judgmental, of course, which is fear-based. Clearly Us versus Them.
- Rounding up Muslims and stopping them from coming into the country. Us versus Them.
- Repealing Obamacare and replacing it with – what? Did anyone know? Did they care? But the remnants of Tea Party racism against President Obama prevented people from seeing that we were just trying to get more people health coverage so they wouldn’t go broke when they got sick. That’s what Medicare and Medicaid are about. Trying to help and protect All of Us. But the rabid hate of the Affordable Care Act was also Us versus Them.
- Voter suppression. What can I say here? There is virtually no evidence of voter fraud, yet Republicans worked hard to impose all sorts of restrictions with the admitted intention of preventing Americans who were unlike them – poor, minority, elderly – from casting their ballots because they were more likely to vote Democratic. Taking away the most cherished rights of our vaunted democracy because they didn’t want to lose power. So Us versus Them.
You know, thing was, it worked. The angry and resentful got what they wanted. All through the campaign, Trump mocked and belittled not only his opponents, but also the disabled, women, parents of an Iraq war veteran, the media, anyone from Washington, and most of all Hillary. I watched some videos taken inside Trump rallies and, man, were they scary. An anti-immigrant tenacity that was literally unhinged. Acts of violence encouraged by the candidate, which clearly were Us versus Them. And the infamous “Lock Her Up” chants, also supported by Trump himself. I mean, that stuff was disgusting by any measure. Not at all in the manner of political reasonableness that we have become accustomed to here in the United States, which now has become the Land of the Afeared and the Home of the Angry.
Why it Worked
You’d think rationale people would see the ugliness of the Trump campaign and be repelled. Almost everyone I know was. But here’s the thing, when people have a fear-base – whether as a result of religion, conservative principles, financial greed, or sexual repression – they have a difficult time getting out of that mind set. Fear is contagious like a virus and overcomes rational thought. It comes from a confirmation bias of what they believe, where anything that supports what they believe is believable. You can’t talk with an evangelical about whether or not Jesus was a myth or whether discrimination against gays is in the spirit of Christianity, because of their confirmation bias. If the Bible – or the Koran – says something and I profess a belief in the religion of that book, then even discriminatory, murderous, or racist behavior is condoned. That’s how Nazi Germany happened; fear. Just like is happening now.
People can be so fear based they can’t see or understand what they are doing. They get so caught up in Us versus Them that no other fact based or reasonable concepts can dissuade them. They have to be against a Them; they can’t function without an opponent or an enemy. Even peacenik, dope smoking, hippies are evil. What else could have led German Christians – the German Nazis were Christians – to commit genocide against six million Jews. Or allow the Turks to basically murder and starve to death a million or more Christian Armenians. Or serve as a rationale for the millions killed in the Hutsi-Tutsi wars. Or South African apartheid. Or even the American Civil War? It’s Us versus Them, I’m telling you, and that fear can rationalize anything.
Donald Trump said he could shoot someone in the street and his supporters would not care. He was right. We liberals were totally horrified at the things he said and did, the way he treated minorities and women, and the vile nature of his twitter attacks. Now that he’s president-elect, we see the thin skinned, irrational, defensive, and off the wall tweets continue and think, “Holy Shit, this guy is going to be our president?” He is nominating for cabinet posts billionaires and others who are totally against the good that the government does for the people. They basically want to destroy the government from the inside.
A common theme of the Republican right and the deplorable racists, climate deniers, homophobes, and misogynists is hate of the government. The rally cry of the entire slate of Republican presidential candidates was hating the government. Lots of them would love to just shut it all down, and some of them actually did. Screw clean air and water, and a healthy planet, they say, we need business to create jobs (completely missing the point that the businesses are really the ones controlling their lives and taking away jobs, not the government). Did it ever occur to anyone that what they are really saying is, “We hate the United States Government?” They hate our government of the people, by the people, and for the people. But this is what I am saying, the Us versus Them fear-based attitude is so blinding that they can’t even see that.
The parallels to Nazi Germany are very real. Trump is assembling quite a few generals in his leadership team. Does anyone really think that Trump would not want to be just like Putin? That’s why he adores him so much. Putin helped elect him. And I can easily imagine Trump deciding that his life and business, and opportunity to make tons of money (which is fear-based in and of itself), would be much better for him if there were no press, dissenters, or even elections. I can see his new attorney general nominee Senator Jeff Sessions wanting to put Bill Maher in jail for smoking a joint on TV. Why not get rid of all Trumps critics and opponents? Shut down the press. That’s what Putin does, and that’s what Castro and countless other national leaders have done throughout history. And the paranoid militia guys would be right behind him, because – Us versus Them.
What To Do
One of the best books ever is Love is Letting Go of Fear, by Jerry Jampolsky. It was a main source of my analytical belief system. The key is that, once we recognize fear, we can let it go, and then we have – love and peace. It’s not that complicated, but you have to learn to recognize fear first. And I’m pretty sure that neither Donald Trump nor his supporters recognize that they’re acting out of fear. How do we deal with this?
We have to call them out on it. When they say they are angry, say why, what are you afraid of? We have to help take away the blinds with facts. And we have to show them oneness – All of Us – and that there is really nothing to fear if we trust one another and work together. Yes, Stronger Together is a love-based slogan. It simply was not understandable to the millions who think that America isn’t great.
Obviously, we have to resist the coming onslaught of attempts to take down the New Deal constructed by Franklin Roosevelt. I don’t think that most Trump voters felt or understood that draining the swamp, a particular obscene concept when it comes to the Government of the United States that I love, would mean trying to increase further tax breaks for the rich, attempting to privatize Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, trying to gut the EPA so that clean water and air can only be bought, or potentially installing a Fascist government or military dictatorship. So, we’ve got that going for us at least.
One way to ameliorate the effects of this national PTSD is to face the fears that gave rise to the stress. So, we have to clearly describe and explain the true nature of the perceived perils of modern life on the planet. Some of these things are really complicated. But we need to demonstrate that just being scared and unaccepting doesn’t relieve fears. And that we can work together to surmount any problems that we have. We have to continue to argue the facts. We can’t give in to the BS and fake news that conservatives in particular seem to dine on. It’s because of their fear-based confirmation bias that they can actually believe Hillary Clinton was raping, killing, and chopping up kids in a pizzeria down the street from my daughter’s house in northwest Washington DC.
We also can’t feed into their fear. Many conservatives believe liberalism is inherently evil. How is that, when we know and understand that it’s love-based and about All of Us? Well, because if we disagree with them, then we have to be evil because – Us versus Them – just like in the Bible and the Koran and pronouncements of political leaders who don’t understand compromise anymore. (By the way, please bring back earmarks in Congress, and stop this obscene gerrymandering, please, we need compromise desperately!) Many conservatives and Trumpists have become hard-line, ideological extremists, just like the Ayatollahs in Iran. But let’s not call them idiots, stupid, and all those names that just get down in the gutter with them. Let’s not demonize them. Let’s not enhance their view of us as enemies; that’s what they want. That’s what they need. We have to be better than that. We have to focus on the good stuff in life – our families, friends, amazing places we can travel to, the arts, and music especially! We have to look at them as blameless. That’s key to forgiveness and letting go of fear. Trust me, if we can look at them as blameless and suffering from self-induced trauma, then we won’t have to suffer the scourge of those who condemn.
We still can move ahead and restore sanity to the nation, and the world. We can achieve peace in our time. But I think one of the first steps is forgiving them, even as we contest their paranoia in the public forum, because they honestly do not know that what they’re doing; it’s simply a result of their fearful perception of this fabulous world. And if we forgive them, even as we fight to retain our benevolent society, at least we won’t have PTSD. Let’s regain our collective vision and commit our intention to make this world greater still.
Jefferson Glassie is author of Heaven is Everywhere and other eclectic books, a lawyer for nonprofit organizations, and Chief Spiritual Dude of the Planetary Gigs Society.