As I went about my business today in a far nether-region of the world called Australia, CEO’s attended to urgent meetings before returning to view the live telecast of the US election, and primary school children on public transport announced emerging ballot results from their mobile phones while their friends played Candy Crush.
As the trending results revealed themselves, I, like many, rode a roller coaster of initial anger with a nation that dared to expose the world to such risk and feelings of shock and despair. With news of the Canadian immigration website crashing, my compassion for friends and colleagues who must now live within and with the country arose. My heart goes out to those whose lives must feel so much more vulnerable today.
This election result raises so many questions. Seasoned commentator Walter Shapiro hypothesizes that Americans are tired of entitlement, that Hilary’s belief that she was above the rules and protocols that ‘the little person’ must follow, brought her undone. The fact that our literacy around power is so underdeveloped exposes us to these wake up calls.
Yet, how does that fit with Trump’s boast about avoiding taxes? The thumbprints of sexism, racism and privilege are all over this election. The trends are complex. While the Latino turnout was higher than ever, it’s hard to comprehend that 30% of Hispanic men or 53% of white women voted for a man who has so disrespected them. What does this say about the priorities of the populus? What does this say about our fear of difference or the internalised hatred turned against the difference in ourselves?
The legacy of history and the widesweeping incarceration of young Black men during the Bill Clinton era no doubt worked against Hilary. What do these things teach us about stepping into a genuine acknowledgement of the lessons of the past and the mistakes we’ve made?
What does the election tell us about insider and outsider dynamics? And how quickly – in terms of who is in and who is out – might this shift?
And so the questions continue…
It may be true that it wasn’t just an ordinary election but an uprising on all sides. But what are we uprising toward? What are we standing for?
How are we to make sense of the desperation of White middle and working class folk who came out so strongly in search of change? Is it the reflex of a group of people accustomed to being central who feel their power slide? Or is it the legitimate voice of a group who are genuinely in excruciating pain?
From the outside, it’s hard to understand the choice these communities have made. But the thing is, when we are in pain and fear we can hardly think at all.
I didn’t watch Trump’s victory speech. There was a moment of choice – to open a bottle of wine far too early in the day – or to take my turmoil to my yoga class; to live my life. It was tempting to stay with the mesmerising drama and watch as it unfolded on the world stage. I guess the choice for me was how to meet the fear within myself, whether to fall into the angst or find a stillness from which to meet the sense of uncertainty and pending danger.
As I sat in silence, my hand over the deep pain in my heart, there was enough room in my life to feel; rather than choosing numbness it was possible to witness the wave of grief engulfing me. Feeling the pain under the rage and my wild mental struggle was strangely soothing.
Only now, can I truly contemplate those in the so called 'rust belt' and other states who threw their dart at a ballot paper in hope of change. Only now, can I see the necessity of responding to all voices and perspectives.
So how will I show up? Perhaps renewing my focus on teaching Worldwork as a method for working deeply with the diversity in ourselves and our communities is the most significant role I can play. As well as our work here in Australia, there will be an International Worldwork Congress in Greece in April. The ability to reach out to each other and support each other across our divides, whether geographic or social, will be critical in the months and years to come.
I don’t know folks, like you I’m still making sense of this. All I can do at this point is watch myself and ask myself how I best want to show up at this point in history. Perhaps its all we can ever do… or at least the starting point from which all our actions should flow.