Our two main Presidential candidates are the most disliked ones in our history. Although there are many fans of either Trump or Hillary, each has one of the highest unfavorable ratings ever of a candidate for the job.
Depending upon who you are talking to you hear from much of the populace something along the lines of either “Trump is an egotistical maniac that isn’t fit for the job” or “Hillary is a liar and a cheater who is in bed with Wall Street”. Many who read that last line will probably shake their head in agreement with one of the statements and immediately begin arguing with the other as some kind of false propaganda.
In this moment, I want you to suspend your beliefs about the candidates — that is, let go for the moment as to which of the statements are true or false — and consider what you really want for our country and our society.
Do you really want to live in a country that is so polarized politically that we all demonize those who think differently from ourselves?
Our country and our world face many challenges that are best addressed by letting go of our fear and hatred of certain “others” and coming together to create a world that allows everyone the opportunity for happiness and success. Moving beyond our economic challenges, global warming, war and terrorism….and any other massive modern issue….calls for us to work together, not tearing us apart.
Ironically, even though I am an ordained minister, I’m not really a big student of the Bible and don’t often quote it….but I am going to here in these words of Jesus in Luke 27:
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Ah, the “Golden Rule”…..this “do onto others” advice is found in all of our major faith traditions. I even wrote a whole book about it (Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities) where I expanded it into 5 basic rights and 2 essential responsibilities that I believe we all have as spiritual beings. If you are interested, those rights and responsibilities are briefly outlined here in this blog where I call us to Reclaim Our Moral High Ground in a world filled with “ethical slippages”.
Tom Krattenmaker in a recent opinion piece in USA Today says that Jesus tells us to love even Donald Trump. It’s a good read even if you are a Trump fan. In it, he calls us to see “love” a bit differently from romantic love, saying that love “can be thought of as a commitment to and regard for our fellow human beings — even those not like us and not on our side, politically or culturally speaking — and refusing to reduce them to their worst ideas and behavior.”
I would agree. I have written here on love and it being an evolutionary force working for our greater good on our collective path. Hence, loving our enemies is not feeling romantic love for them. Real Love is recognizing that all humans are really connected at some deep level. It is knowing we all share so much more in common than we differ. It is knowing that there is a goodness and decency in everyone even though it may be lost in layers of misguided learning and harmful behaviors. Real Love is sensing our true nature, knowing it and acting from that sense.
Love is moving beyond the outer world of conflict, competition and our sense of separation from one another and moving into a world of harmony, cooperation and a sense of our interdependency and connectedness.
This doesn’t mean we won’t notice the differences. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have healthy boundaries when others are acting poorly. This doesn’t mean we all have to think alike.
What this does mean is that we can look beyond our differences and focus our attention on our common nature. We all share common needs and wants….think Maslow’s hierarchy for a moment…..physical/biological needs, safety/security needs, love/belongingness needs, self-esteem needs and the desire to live a self-actualized live…..we are all driven in the same way….it’s just the details and our exact desires differ….but we all essentially are looking to have our basic needs met and to live a life of joy and happiness.
In an article earlier this year, I explored the evolutionary reasons for the rise of Trump. One of my conclusions was that even I didn’t agree with him politically, it is important for us to understand the reasons why so many people do. There is obviously an unmet need that is there that we all need to take a look at see how we can address. If people are in fear, it us up to all of us to address the causes of the fear and alleviate them. Demonizing people for supporting Trump does not solve humanity’s problems, it only exacerbates them. The same is true for demonizing Clinton’s supporters, if you are for Trump.
Recently I was conversing with one of my relatives who expressed that they were most likely going to vote for Trump. I felt a knee-jerk reaction come about in me that was essentially “how could you???” I could sense the same feeling coming up in her as to my support of Hillary. We went back and forth trying to prove our points. These high levels of emotions quickly rose up in a conversation with someone I love and have known most of my life. I thought, if the two of us can get so emotional on this in spite of the historical bond between us, what hope is there for the greater country where we may not have such familiar ties? No wonder the political discourse is so negative an polarized in the media and online.
My relative and I were able to quickly remember that we cared more for each other than we did clinging to our political beliefs and our sense of being “right”. Given our years of caring for one another and sense of connectedness, this was easy to do. But when we are with others where we do not share that common bond, letting go of our egoic need to be “right”, to “win the argument” in our competition of ideas and words, is very difficult.
Yet we must make the effort to do so and to begin to focus on loving our political enemies. As Krattenmaker writes, ” The funny thing about loving our political enemies is that the minute we change our regard for them, they morph before our eyes. They remain our political opponents, but they are no longer our “enemies” — and no longer deserving of the treatment the word implies. They become, instead, human, and deserving of all that implies.”
It’s easy to focus on the negativity of others and want to give it back to them. Yet as Gandhi stated, “an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” Someone needs to stop the cycle of fear and negativity in our political discourse. Stop waiting for other person to break the cycle. It’s time for you and I to love our enemies. The world needs you and I to step it up now.