JANUARY 2017 BEE BLOG "Bringing It Back to the Mat: From Despondency to Contentment"
*** Readers can usually be divided into two categories: those who believe that “less is more”; and those who believe that “more is needed.” For those of you who fall into the former category, please quickly skim through the BOLDED sections; for those of you who prefer to circumnavigate an issue (or for those of you who are constipated and require extensive toilet tales), please enjoy this post in its entirety. ***
Let me just say two things at the onset of this “blog” article: 1) the yogic connections will come indirectly and parenthetically; 2) my preferred candidate did not win the election. I am deeply disturbed by this loss and believe that the election results indicate a real and present danger in American Culture. I realize that any critiques I have must be “filtered” and mitigated by the possibility that I am simply a “poor loser.” One of my yoga students asked me if this situation makes me wonder about how the “other” side has felt for the past eight years under an Obama presidency. And it HAS. If I expected McCain and Romney supporters to “buck up” and deal with the “will of the people” for the past eight years, were my current feelings not only hypocritical but proof that I was not maturely and gracefully accepting that I don’t deserve to win all the time? Do I need to realize that to expect to win each election is not only unreasonable, it is also unfair (and ultimately, unproductive to our democracy)? I have given this possibility as much credibility as any subjective being can. And still, I confidently come back to the declaration that: THIS IS DIFFERENT. Here is why . . .
. . . I have never felt this way before. I have been voting since the 1984 election between Reagan and Mondale and have been on both the “winning” and the “losing” sides of the ballot box. I have certainly been “disappointed” and “frustrated” with election results in the past. But, I have reverted to one of my core beliefs in the importance of “good sportsmanship” and acted like a “gracious” loser – or in other words, I have “agreed to disagree.” I have never before felt this sense of depression; of demoralization; of hopelessness; of abject shame. My reaction to Hillary’s loss FEELS very, very different. And, it is not necessarily because of any intense support I have for her, personally. I entertained serious doubts about her during the primaries; I debated long and hard about whether to vote for her or Bernie. I have been incredibly cautious about my endorsement of her – constantly checking myself for “hypocrisy” by asking “would I disregard this (or that) “issue” if this candidate were NOT of my preferred political party?” I am far more informed about her than I have been about any previous Democratic candidate precisely because I wanted to make absolutely certain that my decisions were free of hypocrisy; to make absolutely certain that my support was not misguided; to make absolutely certain that my decision was informed rather than predisposed. I have checked and double checked my facts to make sure that I was part of the “solution” rather than the “problem.” (Why? Because the Yogic Yama or “Universal Discipline” of “Satya” aka “Truth” is important to me.) No . . . my current reaction is the result of feeling that the forces of darkness have won, Young Jedi. I am truly terrified that we have seriously undermined not only the integrity, but the stability, of our democracy.
In my attempt to convince myself that I am not a hypocritical sore loser and that my points are legitimate, I have been exploring my despondency by analyzing the “formal” aspects of my dissention. (Why? Because one of the Yogic Niyamas, or “Necessary Internal Practices” is “Svadhaya” aka “Self Study.”) There is a critical difference between disagreeing on policy and disagreeing on “structural” principle. YES, I want to preserve Obama’s “Affordable Care Act”; YES, I prefer to think of Immigration as a “complicated” issue; YES I am more afraid of collective racism than I am of targeted terrorism. But these are policy debates. I honestly believe that an intelligent, legitimate, opposition to my opinions does exist on these policies – and I have the privilege of entertaining this opposition almost every time I triathlon train with one of my friends, who just so happened to vote very differently than I did in this past election. I believe that I have a responsibility to understand this opposition, to respect this opposition, and to factor it into account when formulating my political positions. This is why I was disappointed and concerned, but not despondent when Reagan and Bush and Dubya won. I did not agree with their policies but I recognized (and therefore, respected) that their policies were built upon a “valid” foundation. More importantly, I trusted that despite our policy differences, we agreed upon the deeper, “structural” issues – or in other words, I trusted that we were all playing by the same “rules of democracy.” Currently, I am cycling between catatonic depression, righteous indignation, and political panic attacks – not so much because my “opinions” lost on Tuesday, November 8th, but because my confidence in this “social contract” was dismantled.
Where to begin? Let’s start with “catatonic depression.” Here, I have to agree with Amy Poehler. I am deeply sorry for (and more than slightly annoyed with) the “blue collar working class.” Inexplicably, they have believed that VULGARITY + A TRUCKER HAT = HONESTY. Trump won this election, for many reasons but not the least of which, because he convinced people that he was a “straight talker” and that he “spoke his mind” and “told it like it is.” In reality, he neither said anything of substance NOR said anything resembling (the) “truth.” Instead, he used base, vulgar language to relate to the “common man” and he donned an iconic symbol of the working class – a trucker hat. In no possible world do those two things mean that he is actually sympathetic to the concerns of the working class OR that he is connected to their needs. I do not claim to be “connected to the needs” of the working class. I am the daughter of two, middle class, college educated parents who operated their own structural engineering business. I hold both undergraduate and graduate degrees in ridiculously esoteric fields – English & Philosophy. Both myself, and my college educated (male) life partner, have been consistently employed in traditionally “white collar” jobs – education and insurance (for goodness sake). But, at least I express my sympathy for working class concerns by educating myself about historical facts and researching economic philosophies rather than by speaking crudely and wearing a hat. I am deeply saddened and truly worried by the fact that our nation has defined vulgar language and simplistic costuming as “honesty.” Hillary’s pantsuits are an actual symbol of gender reconstruction; Trump’s hats are a misleading gimmick. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE . . . and it IS a significant one! As someone who DOES respect the concerns of the Working Class, I am truly sorry that they have been used and exploited by a billionaire who designates a million dollar loan from his parents as “small.” Even if that particular dollar amount represents a “small” percentage of his family’s net worth, a person who truly sought to “represent” the Working Class would understand and appreciate the extremely “large” privilege involved with designating $1,000,000 as “small.” That amount of money is transformative not inconsequential. (And to not understand that is to completely disregard the importance of the Yogic Yama/Universal Discipline advocating that we practice “aparigrahah” or “non-possessiveness.”)
Let’s move on to my “righteous indignation.” I spoke with another yoga student who voted for Trump. His main point was “I don’t care about his personal life; the political system needs to be changed.” I DO care about the personal because it IS political. I am furious, and deeply ashamed, when I hear a person who wants to represent me and my country to the entire world claim that his social and monetary power entitles him to “grab her by the pussy.” I am apoplectic when I hear people claim that this statement is irrelevant to his national and international leadership abilities. (Why? Because I truly believe this statement violates the Yogic Niyama/Internal Practice of “Sauca” which advises that we seek “purity in thought and body.”)
How to deconstruct this for you, the apologists who think that this is not that big of a deal? Let me begin with pointing out that, most likely, YOU also believe that the personal is political. When Trump said that he could grab “HER” by the pussy, he had the audacity to claim that he could grab ANY female, ANYwhere, ANYtime by the “pussy.” YOU, (the apologists who think that this is not that big of a deal), deluded yourself by believing that because he used a generic pronoun, he wasn’t really harassing any actual individual female. However, I dare you not to be offended if that generic “her” was to be replaced by the actual name of an important woman in your life. Please, I am begging you, fill in that cataclysmic blank and actually utter the following sentence out loud: “I, Donald J. Trump, am going to grab YOUR MOTHER/GRANDMOTHER/SISTER/WIFE/DAUGHTER by the pussy simply because I am famous enough and rich enough to get away with doing so.” If you, (the apologists who think that this is not that big of a deal), are willing to actually utter this sentence out loud, you will feel, on a visceral level, how essentially wrong that utterance is. In an ideal world, both men and women would acknowledge the degree to which that Billy Bush interview “rubbed them the wrong way.” They would admit, “wow, when I heard those words expressed out loud, I noticed how badly they sounded.” They would consider that, “maybe, since those comments really didn’t sound very good, I ought to rethink the casual, private terms I use to discuss women and the unintentional sexist sentiments I unwittingly express.” I am furious that instead of doing the honorable thing and “folding” when one’s unwinnable “hand” was exposed, both Trump, and his apologists, decided to “double down” and excuse his deeply misogynistic comments as mere “locker room” talk.
I can agree to disagree with a president whose foreign policy differs from my own; I can agree to disagree with a president whose religious beliefs differ from my own (Why? Because the Yogic Niyama/Internal Practice of “Ishvara Pranidhana” espouses that we each align our attention with the omniscient seer within ourselves); I can even agree to disagree with a president whose beliefs on abortion differ from my own. But, I cannot tolerate a president who casually, but sincerely, utters deeply disrespectful rhetoric and then defends himself by claiming that language is irrelevant. I expect that the person most responsible for representing my fellow citizens’ ideas and my country’s beliefs appreciates, rather than dismisses, the power of language to liberate and to oppress. I expect that someone who wants me to take what they say seriously will respect the degree to which words really do matter.
Now, let’s address the political panic attacks that have plagued me since the election. I think that their root lies in the fact that another one of my core beliefs is that: THE ENDS SHOULD NEVER JUSTIFY THE MEANS! (Why? Because the Yogic Yama/Universal Discipline of “Brahma-Carya” advocates a “spiritual [not an opportunistic] resolution of desires.) I thought this BEFORE my candidate “lost” this election and I am even more convinced of this now. I have always believed that, regardless of political differences, any civilized, decent, non sociopathic human being would agree with this seemingly self evident truth: “the ends do not justify the means.” Unfortunately, the panic which ensues when this foundational belief is threatened causes me to ask rhetorical questions. So, let me pose this one: what is one of the main reasons we abhor terrorism? I would assert that a significant reason is because terrorists do not “fight fair.” Their ends DO justify their means. They do whatever they need to do in order to achieve their self interested goals. They do not concern themselves with collateral damage. And neither does Trump. He wanted to win. In order to win, he knew he needed to mobilize an untapped source of votes. And he chose White Supremacists as that latent fount. He deliberately incited white supremacists in order to tip the electoral scales in his favor. And in so inciting, he empowered them. He now owes them. And they KNOW that he owes them. And, most surely, they will collect upon that debt. That thought, which is more likely than it is paranoid, truly terrifies me. As Van Jones so poignantly lamented, “You tell your kids: Don't be a bully . . . don't be a bigot . . . do your homework and be prepared. And then you have this outcome. This was a rebellion against the elites, true, it was a complete reinvention of politics... but it was also something else. We haven't talked about race. This was a 'white-lash' against a changing country ... against a black president in part. And that's the part where the pain comes.” (What is another reason why the rallying of White Supremacists is so offensive to me? Because for Trump to NOT support the White Supremacists after he allowed them to believe that he would, is a form of “theft.” Unless he advocates for White Supremacist policies, he has basically “stolen” their vote. The Yogic Yama/Universal Discipline of “asteya” clearly dictates that we practice “non-stealing.”)
After the election, my 17 year old son tried to console me (aka get me to stop droning on and on) by saying, “I don’t see why you are so upset, Mom, he won’t do any of the things he has said he is going to do.” Rather than consoling me, this ignited my desire to deliver a diatribe (just what every teenager wants). With my voice getting thinner and more strident, I ranted about how irresponsible it was to base a campaign upon promises that are not only untenable but unintended. (Why? Because I am known far and wide for cultivating the Yogic Niyama/Internal Practice of “tapas” which promises that an energetic “heat” or “intensity” is produced when one manifests one’s willpower into action.) Millions of people voted for Trump precisely because they DO want him to implement the policies upon which he campaigned. To use those policies to “whip” desperate, frenzied votes and yet feel no imperative to implement them constitutes a degree of hypocrisy that crosses over into recklessness. (And this “recklessness” is indeed “hurtful” to the individual people and collective demographic groups which Trump so carelessly demeans and dismisses – from disabled journalists to popular female news reporters to former beauty queens. One of furthest reaching of the Yogic Yamas/Universal Disciplines is the simple reminder to practice “ahimsa” or “non-hurtfulness.” To be repeatedly and deliberately hurtful and then to repeatedly deny doing so, constitutes of form of cruelty of character that dismays and disgusts me.) Although we tend to be cynical about the degree to which our presidential candidates will follow through with their campaign “promises” and dismiss this dissonance (between campaign promise and administrative policy) as an acceptably assumed degree of hypocritical “risk” inherent to politics, the facts indicate that, on average, Presidents actually implement 70% of their campaign promises. (Obama is at 73%, incidentally.) Trump’s campaign claims constitute a type of “contract” with the American people who voted for them. To dismiss them now that he is elected and untether himself from the expectations of the citizens who chose him as their highest representative constitutes a “breach of contract” – which is something that one would think would mean something of significance to a business person.
Do I think that he is capable of imploding a broken system? YES. Do I think he is capable of reconstructing a viable, healthy alternative? NO! At this point, I am left consoling myself by hoping that he is merely sociopathic and ignorant when my deeper fear is that is psychopathic and manipulative. Obviously, unless I want to be guilty of disregarding the nine yogic principles I previously (parenthetically) mentioned, I need to focus on a 10th – the Yogic Niyama/Internal Practice of “santosha” or “contentment.” It has taken me two months to figure out how I might journey toward this preferable, more “content” state of mind. Here are my humble but heartfelt suggestions (to both myself and to those of you reading this):
~ Practice an asana routine that concentrates on forward bends (for recovery); twists (for healing); heart openers (for generosity); energy Vinyasa (for positive action); and balance poses (for focus and perspective).
~ Get better educated about historical facts. One of the most problematic of Trump’s practices is that he seems to believe in a “post factual” world. Facts ARE important. And even if they are always presented through the prism of “perspective,” they should still be the foundation of one’s personal and political policies.
~ Read (or re-read) George Orwell’s 1984. George was VERY sensitive about people misappropriating his ideas. So, when we are inclined to draw analogies between Trump’s rhetoric and Orwell’s concept of “doublespeak,” we need to make sure that we are drawing these parallels accurately and insightfully.
~ Rethink Rhetoric. I unconsciously incorporate a multitude of expressions into my daily communication. My goal is to add “zest” to my language. But, in so doing, I unwittingly perpetuate sexist and misogynistic attitudes of which I am actually critical. A seemingly benign example is the common expression, “screw you.” Why, exactly are we likening the act of intercourse to an angry, aggressive act of retaliation which presumes a male penetrator/perpetrator and a female vessel/victim?
~ Talk to Trump voters to figure out what is so important to them that they chose to dismiss so many obviously vile, hurtful, and hateful statements and actions. Obviously, Trump’s verbal and non-verbal “language” is a deal breaker for me. But what, exactly, are the important issues which almost 50% of the voting populous prioritized? This must become a guiding question. And it must be asked respectfully. And the answers must be considered with an open mind.
~ Volunteer to help get more people, from more perspectives and situations, registered to vote. My intentions are to become a Precinct Committee Officer and volunteer for the Kitsap Immigration Alliance.
~ Wear a Safety Pin!!! This practice began in Australia and continued in the U.K. You can “google” a fuller explanation. But, basically, wearing a Safety Pin is meant to signify that you are a “safe” person who will not speak hatefully or act hurtfully toward someone who differs from you in any way – whether that consists of superficial physical differences or more essential philosophical and cultural differences or even, and especially, differing voting practices!
~ Finally, consider the sentiments of Pema Chodron: “You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”
P.S. If any of you would like to “be with me in spirit” when I join hundreds of thousands of other women marching in Washington D.C. on Saturday, January 21st, please donate to my “Lisa Be Marching to Washington” GoFundMe Campaign. All who donate will be listed on the shirt which I will wear at the march. If your generosity allows me to cover the costs of the trip, I will donate all additional funds to our local Kitsap and Portland YWCAs to assist them with their support of victims of domestic abuse. Thank you to everyone who has already donated. Here is the link for my fundraising campaign (both contributions and/or “shares” are greatly appreciated):