How Not to Despair
There is much to despair about—the planet heating up, inundating cities and island nations; humans continuing to aggravate climate change; unprecedented income disparities; nuclear threat; military arms races; forced global migration; corrupt political leaders . . .
I struggle to avoid crippling worry and contempt for some American voters. After the impeachment of Trump, 49 percent approve of his job performance as president.
It floors me.
Did they not pay attention to evidence of his guilt? Or don’t they care that the president of the U.S. tells a foreign power to meddle in our election?
You see, I waste time trying to figure out the minds of voters. I wonder: Why don’t people care about his lies? His sexual assaults? His verbal assaults on desperate asylum seekers, on all people of color, all critics of himself?
Don’t voters care about corruption in his administration? Its withdrawing of protections for consumers, for clean water and air, for students, workers, farmers, even investors? Trump’s profiting from the presidency? (recent outrage: Taxpayers were charged room rates of $650 for Secret Service protection at Mar-a-Lago, contrary to Trump Organization claims.)
The Republicans’ refusal to remove Trump from office does not distress me. I don’t want Pence to become president; I want voters to become informed.
I explain to myself: The fine persons I know who stick with Trump don’t follow politics. They’re too busy to learn what’s happening.
But that’s not right! If ignorance reigns, how there be hope for our democracy?
We’ll have to see what happens in November.
Another four years of Trump would ruin our country forever!
You see how I can work myself into a dither. Observing my agitation, I look for relief, and find it. I can stop my fretting by focusing in two ways—turning my thoughts to history and spirituality.
Our country has survived worse. Not only the Civil War, but the Great Depression and crippling recessions, unimaginable cruelty toward Native Americans and African Americans, worse character assassinations, wars necessary and unnecessary, and despicable presidencies. Andrew Johnson—also a braying mouth, also impeached but not convicted—reversed gains for African Americans after the Civil War.
The long arc of history tells me things have been worse, and the country endured. While I believe no previous president ever reached such depth in blatant indecency, I also believe Trump triggers reverse action toward dignity, integrity, compassion, and love for fellow humans.
When before has the country ever witnessed such sympathy for immigrants? For Blacks and people of color? For prisoners, victims of sex crimes, workers on the bottom? When before have so many tried to walk inside the skin of people unlike themselves? When have women achieved so much status and recognition?
The ugliest trash falling from the current administration spurs counter actions. Even in the Republican Party. The party of Lincoln that led civil rights efforts after the Civil War and after World War II, and joined efforts to protect the environment in the 1960s and ‘70s, subsequently lost its soul. But reports that Jeff Flake and Mitt Romney are secretly admired by their fellow Republicans show how good ultimately triumphs.
And that is the spiritual focus that saves me when despair threatens. My faith saves me, and I don’t mean religious belief—God is not 3 guys in the sky. But an inner reign deep beneath and within the physical world moves outer events toward Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. We can detach from the chaos around us and turn inward for serenity.
In Beyond Parochial Faith I share the formula that saves me when despair threatens—Accept, Surrender, and Trust.