I want my voice to catch the thread of kindness in everything I say, with everyone I talk to. Even when I’m angry, when I need to be angry and voice my rage, I want to tie that thread of kindness securely around my finger to remind myself that I’m talking to another human being whether I like their actions or opinions or not. I want kindness to cradle that anger, and to cradle me for being courageous and speaking my truth.
Looming in my mind now, post-election 2016, is my anger at the ignorance, arrogance, hatefulness (take your pick) of Trump and his Trumpeteers for playing to the fears and bigotry of way too many Americans, for playing their fascist drums of nationalism and provincialism and being rewarded for it. That’s the real kicker, I think. That the bullies are being rewarded. They have taken “ugly American” to a new level. It’s not only the elite Americans who have garnered the scorn of people around the globe as they ate too much, talked too loud, held themselves above, apart from the mores and civil expectations of other cultures. (They called us “Norte Americanos” when I was in Nicaragua in the 80s to distinguish us from “Sudamericanos.”) It’s not just the US military who has tromped with a cavalier sense of entitlement on the rights and lives of too many countries to even name. Now “it,” this ugly American persona, this ugly Norte Americano persona, fills the screens of TVs and computers, here and abroad: President Elect Trump and his chosen ones—the leaders of the most powerful nation on earth! I am embarrassed at how we must look to the rest of the world. I am sad that so many people (some that I know and love) voted for Trump, or didn’t vote against him, either choice a vote for tyranny in my mind.
I read the Dalai Lama quote that I wrote with permanent marker on my fridge years ago: “Be kind whenever possible; it is always possible.” Is it? I’m not so sure these days. I don’t feel kind toward the white supremacists, the rise of the KKK. I don’t feel kind toward Donald Trump. I try to see him as that little boy that his grandmother surely loved, but I can’t find that Trump. I try to see him as someone who loves his family, but his narcissism takes up too much of the frame. If he were in a secure facility, where he could do no harm, I think I would feel kindness toward him, or if he came to my door, hungry and cold, I know I would feed him soup and wrap a blanket around his shoulders, but how do I find that thread of kindness in my heart and mind for the reality of who he is and what he espouses, given the power that he now holds?
And I’m angry because I’m feeling discomfited. I have been expending energy quite comfortably in my own pursuit of happiness, self-realization, meaningfulness. Now, with the climate change naysayers and the nuclear weapons proponents dismissing scientific facts and rattling their sabers, the state of the nation, the state of the world, the state of this good earth may need my voice, my boots on the ground—my energy—to resist this madness, this blatant mockery of truth and justice. I want to be done with carrying signs and marching in the streets! I want to be done with civil disobedience and the risk of jail! I want my life of doing unto others as I would have them do unto me to be enough! I want my love and compassion, the threads of my kindness, interwoven with the billions of other threads of kindness around the world, to be enough. To stitch together a safety net of common decency and civility; a safety net of enough. And I’m afraid that’s a pipe dream that I’ve held onto way too long. Trump’s ascension has pulled that dream wrong side out and left the raw truth of fascism bleeding on my parade.
And while I’m writing this, I am bombarded with images in my mind of the Black Lives Matter movement that has grown out of recent police brutality toward blacks. People have been aware that racism still thrives in the US despite the Civil Rights Act—anyone who knows the cold hard facts of our criminal justice system, and our incarceration, employment, and education disparity, knows that racism continues to eat at the soul of our nation. But it took the killings of Brown, Rice, Garner, etc., etc., etc., to fuel the fight against racism with renewed vigor and momentum. That’s what I’m feeling with the election of Trump and his inner circle. I’ve known that the US as superpower, warmonger, corporate-powered usurper of “of the people, for the people, and by the people,” has been the reality of our country for decades, but it took Trump’s rise to the throne (and Pence’s, for God’s sake! What a scary duo!) to shake the foundations of my complacency, my pipe dream, my belief that kindness is enough. It has peeled back the layers of red, white, and blue and left us with the tattered threads of our dirty underwear on full display. Old Glory, indeed! The façade has been shattered.
Where do I fit in to all of this? How do I catch and hold firmly to the thread of kindness in a world that seems to be so out of kilter, and skewed toward meanness, wrong-headedness, fear? And will kindness make any difference in the big scheme of things? I truly believe that it always makes a difference in interactions with people on a day-to-day basis, and in my own empowerment as a human being trying to do the right thing: to be kindness, to be love. And I visualize waves of that kindness and love growing exponentially from my heart and soul to the very darkest core of madness that seems to be rampant right now. But how will it translate into sanity? How will it translate into peace on earth goodwill to all? Can I continue “walking peace” in these woods, and actually be a force for change in the world? Can I sing my songs of peace and love and touch the wounded spirit of this earth? Will my thread of kindness be strong enough, long enough, to make any damn difference at all? I have more questions than answers. I hold tightly to the Bible verse: “Perfect love casteth out fear.” I wind the thread of kindness around and around my finger to remind myself of who I am.
Glenda Breeden for The Poplar Grove Muse