“Wake up, Trump has COVID,” my husband jerked me awake recently with a smile on his face.
“Oh good?” I said, not quite sure as I opened my eyes.
After fully waking up (did I mention I was in my girls’ bed…again?) I understood why practically everyone I knew was so happy about the news. Strictly from a political standpoint, those of us who badly desired change saw his illness — after months of downplaying the pandemic — as his comeuppance. Still, something in me stopped me from feeling gleeful.
“When they go low, we go high,” former First Lady Michelle Obama had said. I wanted to go high; I wanted as many people as possible to go high. Because I know that whatever energy you put out is also the energy you create within yourself.
“For every force, there is a counterforce,” I read in my longtime spiritual reference, the Tao Te Ching, translated as The Book of The Way. “Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.”
How We Empowered Him, Spiritually Speaking
Just a few years back, Donald Trump won his presidency with the motto, “Make America Great Again.” He positioned his supporters as patriots and everyone else as the destroyers — and rapists and criminals. It worked. And as vitriol from the left followed, it only added fuel to his fire. Folks ended friendships over this divisive man, families had blow-out fights (my own included). Trump supporters were lumped in with Trump himself. As the years rolled on, the hatred increased — or perhaps it just rose to the surface.
Many of us found ourselves angry, hurt, torn up by the behavior of this polarizing president, and our natural reaction was to demonize all who supported him. What we didn’t realize is that in so doing, we bought into the very divisiveness Trump had counted on to come to power. We played according to the very lines he’d drawn in the sand.
What We Can Do Instead
Thanks to the Tao Te Ching and other Eastern philosophies, I’ve developed an allergy of sorts to an us-versus-them mentality. It forces me to remember that, despite my personal opinions, there are people of different political proclivities who genuinely care for their nation. These same men and women can also be self-righteous hypocrites. Such tendencies exist in everyone — different sides of the very same coin.
“If you need rules to be kind and just, if you act virtuous, this is a sure sign that virtue is absent,” says the Tao.
How, then, do we find virtue within ourselves regardless of the rules, regardless of who is in charge?
I honestly don’t know what the answers are. But because of my experiences as a Jew in the Soviet Union and then an unwelcome “Rusky” in post-Cold War American classrooms, I’ve gained the ability to find my center beyond labels. I am thankful for the present moment and for the possibility which it holds. Staying calm on the journey is now as important to me as the end result.
Do Your Tao
When today’s politics makes your blood boil — especially in these last days before the election — I invite you to apply Eastern wisdom to keep your cool and to anchor yourself in the very peace you want to see in our world. Here are five techniques that have helped me and will hopefully help you as well:
1. Feel good about your deepest beliefs and truths regardless of what you hear from others or see on the news. Remember that you don’t need anything outside yourself to be kind and just, and to sow tolerance.
2. Revel in the world’s indomitable goodness and celebrate it wherever you see it. When you witness hypocrisy understand it for what it is, but don’t let it shake your core. Have faith in yourself and in your connection to the Universe, to Source, to Tao, to Oneness, to the world at large (call it what you will) — when this connection is strong enough, no outer event can sever it.
3. Every time you’re about to lose your cool, find something beneficial you can do for another person, an animal, the planet, or for your own spirit — like voting, which is a power we sometimes take for granted (I know I did). The ripples of small virtuous acts are endless.
4. Don’t forget that it’s not only okay to unplug, it’s a necessity. Take a break from watching and reading the news and from ingesting politics. It’ll be there in the morning — I promise.
Side note: Election Stress Disorder was a term coined in the tumultuous 2016 elections; we don’t need any more disorders in 2020!
5. Reconnect with nature. Take a walk, watch a deer, a squirrel, or your pet frolic. Look up at the stars and remember what astronomer Carl Sagan pointed out: we’re just visitors on a pale blue dot. ?