I’m an optimist by nature. Some of that is personality, some life experience, and much of it, I’m learning from my neuroscience study, may stem from how my brain is wired. But I also believe in the power of spirit, of universal love, to overcome mean spiritedness, brutality, evil. And I don’t mean “believe” in a tooth-fairy or Santa Claus way, no matter what Bill Maher may say about faith. I’ve experienced miraculous redemptions, large and small, in my life, through love. Not rom-com style romance, or the easy-to-give devotion I feel for my children, my husband, my family, but the hard-won reconciliation that comes when I’ve sacrificed some of my precious ego-turf in the interest of repairing a rupture or healing a wound. It’s happened many times in my marriage or family; it’s occurred with co-workers whom I was ready to throttle for mistreating me; it’s worked its magic in situations when I bit off way more than I could chew and doubted my abilities to handle a challenge, but stepped forward anyway because my help was needed. I can’t tell you the number of times love has delivered me from fear, rage, or despair.
I’m as susceptible to fear and loathing as anyone. I can be prone to self-righteous fantasies where I dress down some nincompoop I feel has abused me. I’ve day dreamed about having a conversation with the jerk who flipped me off in traffic: “Hey, who are you to do that to me? So you don’t like my driving, but for all you know, I might be the doctor who treats your elderly mom’s pneumonia. Or maybe I just got laid off, or had to put my seventeen year old cat ‘Miss Demeanor’ to sleep. Who the f#%* are you to give me the finger?” It’s so easy to go that place, where righteous wrath roils, where we feel wronged and so surely it must be the case that we have been wronged, right?
Like so many of us, I’ve been trying to understand Donald Trump’s appeal. I hear Trump supporters interviewed who are angry. They like that he is a bull in a china shop. They often remark: “He says what we all are thinking but are afraid to say” – i.e. that other people are stupid, fat, losers, terrible, horrible; that Mexicans are rapists and all of Islam hates us and women are either hot, or dogs. These statements and the arrogant disregard for decency they represent are precisely what make people want to vote for him. So Donald Trump, in essence, is the untrammeled id of our nation. He is our worst, basest self. It makes sense that people are choosing him out of anger, because no one makes their best decision out of anger. Ever. That guy you slept with because you were so pissed at your ex? Not a good decision. The bender you went on after the client defecated all over your hard work, and then you called to give her a piece of your mind? Not such a swift idea. The time you clicked send on a bellicose email to your child’s teacher and later found out that perhaps little Susie wasn’t so innocent after all? Oops. There are reasons why we can’t all walk around saying stuff like, “hey, yo, you fat, ugly moron, I hate your stupid, mean, sexist, racist ass,” even though we may be thinking it.
This hatred in our society stuns us all. I’ve tried to listen as impassively as I can, to be reasonable, to be curious about views that differ from mine. I don’t want to meet hatred with hatred. It’s ineffective, for one thing. And it’s bad for my soul. But I, too, am angry. I, too, feel that my country has been hijacked. I, too, despair that there is no relief in sight.
Today, the President did his job, as outlined by Article Two of our constitution, and named a nominee for Supreme Court justice. Donald Trump, before he famously said “delay, delay, delay” about a potential Obama nominee, acknowledged that of course, he’d put a name forward if he were in Obama’s shoes. Props to him for his candor on this particular point. And c’mon: What Republican President in the last six months of his tenure would sit back and say “not my job. Nope, I’ll leave it to the next guy-or-gal” ? It’s hypocrisy plain as the nose on your face when Mitch McConnell accuses Obama of politicizing the Supreme Court by naming a nominee. I ask you, in what universe is it not political to refuse even to hold a hearing on a nominee? You don’t have to confirm the guy, after all. Mr. McConnell claims he wants the “voters to have a say” in the next Presidential election. The SIXTY FIVE MILLION Americans who voted for Obama (five million more than voted for Governor Romney) are no longer relevant, because it doesn’t serve Mr. McConnell’s politics, pure and simple. He certainly doesn’t care to give me a voice in this decision, since I voted for Obama and will most certainly vote for the Democrat this coming election, given the choice of Trump or Cruz. He is rolling the dice that we get a Trump presidency, I guess, and the Donald nominates Judge Judy or God only knows who.
It makes my blood boil.
And you know who loses in this scenario? Love loses.
I happened to be home this morning doing some paperwork, so I watched coverage of the President’s introduction of his nominee, Merrick Garland, while I was working. Judge Garland, of whom I never heard before this morning, has served our country–mine and yours, Democrats, Republicans, Trumpeters –with distinction, sacrifice and yes, love, for over twenty years. When he stepped to the podium to make his remarks, his voice cracked with emotion at the deep honor of being nominated to the Supreme Court. He teared up when thanking his wife for her support. This unassuming man presided over bodies being pulled from the Oklahoma City bombing site in order to better prosecute that case. He tutors inner city youth in DC. He is a brilliant legal mind, a moderate jurist, by all accounts a modest individual who is thoughtful and collaborative in style. NOT a kneejerk liberal. NOT an ideologue or an egotist bent on having his own way. NOT even a fifty year old with the prospect of thirty years on the bench. News sources indicate many Republicans acknowledge him as a palatable choice, if they were inclined to uphold their constitutional duty of advice and consent by holding a vote. He is the epitome of what it means to be a public servant. Accepting this nomination, knowing that his considerable merits and his lifetime of service would be swept away on a tide of political posturing and bickering, may be his greatest sacrifice yet. Clearly, he has a profound belief in fairness (how ironic), or he would never subject himself to this process. Seems to me like a pretty good qualification for a justice.
I feel gut-wrenching frustration over the vitriol and obstructionism to which we’ve sunk. It is heartbreaking. It’s childish, and as we are coming to understand, the unintended consequences (aka Mr. Trump) are dire. We are wasting our time fighting the wrong battles, and the words of Lincoln, quoting Mark’s gospel, come to mind: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” But I refuse hatred. I reject racism, sexism, name-calling, rudeness, pettiness. I will work to prune my own righteous indignation because it can blind me. I will cultivate a desire for reconciliation, knowing that if we continue on this path of recrimination and blame, we are lost. I may be angry, but I stand for love.