America’s Constitution and potential for “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” living in the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” has been a work in progress for more than 240 years. Throughout our history, we’ve fallen far short of these ideals. Not all have experienced a life of liberty and the “pursuit of Happiness.” Not everyone has experienced “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Today, we’re re-experiencing a distinction between the ideals we profess and the reality of their opposite. With Trump’s election, we’re experiencing an entirely new standard of behaviour from a President, a standard at odds with the values that the majority of Americans believe in today.
For many, Trump is a regression back to those times of ignoring the needs and rights of citizens. Taking into account the following issues, Trump is commonly considered the epitome of the “Ugly American”:
- his comments regarding women, minorities, religious groups and immigrants
- his lying, along with his refusal to acknowledge those lies
- his belief that in successful negotiations, there’s only one “winner”
- his use of people as a means to an end (with the “end” being his own success), and his use of bankruptcy as a vehicle to refrain from paying for goods and services
None of these Trump traits do anything to make the average American feel comfortable and safe within the political environment he now administers. What the presence of Trump reinforces is how our attitude towards and treatment of people speaks to who we are as individuals and as a society.
Falling short of the ideals promised by our Constitution and Bill of Rights
- We’ve used and abused Native Americans. We’ve treated African-Americans as only three-fifths of a human being and have used them as slaves, forcing them to endure all the disdain and pain that comes with abuse. In essence, slaves were a cog in the wheel of the economy of the times and were considered to be objects of property.
- American politicians have fought against child labour laws, along with a woman’s right to vote, to receive equal pay for equal work and to make reproductive choices in her life. Politicians have also fought against gay rights in the workplace and in relationship to marriage.
- The American government promised Philippine men who fought with the United States against the Japanese during the Second World War that they’d receive government benefits. We still haven’t granted them these. We interned Japanese-Americans simply for being Japanese-Americans.
- American politicians, again, have been slow and haphazard in meeting the needs of our own returning service personnel after they fought in the longest war in our country’s history. The same can be said of our continued poor treatment of the first responders who behaved heroically on 9/11. The American way of treating people has been described as, “we use ‘em, abuse ‘em and lose ‘em.”
We’re even now witnessing how, after the Roberts Court gutted certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act, states like Texas are attempting to make voting more difficult for African-Americans and other minority groups. Whether it’s unadulterated racism or the expediency of political gamesmanship, or a fear of changing times and an uncertain tomorrow, our minority citizens’ rights to the ballot box are being undermined due to a concern over voter fraud that’s non-existent.
With Trump’s treatment of immigrants, we have families being torn apart in the middle of the night. We have our own version of the Gestapo, as portrayed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
This, coupled with Trump’s denial of global warming, a hoax in his view that was created by the Chinese, is a manifestation of his ignorance, delusional thinking and mental illness that’ll take us years to fully acknowledge and appreciate as we attempt to survive as a society.
What this all suggests is that it has been our ignorance, our fear of the unknown, our unmet needs and our anger that created the prejudice that has given birth to such actions on our individual and collective parts.
It’s time to awaken to what has allowed us to behave in this way for so long, and to connect with our fears, our unmet needs and our pain. It’s our potential to move from ignorance, greed and anger to wisdom, generosity and human kindness. This is the hope that America, at its best, offers to “We the People” and to the rest of the world—essentially, “treating others as we’d like to be treated.”
Witnessing our words and behaviours
Our need is to connect with that part of ourselves that’s able to witness our words and behaviours. We have within us the capacity for awareness, so we need to pause, several times daily, in order to bring ourselves back to the present moment with each heartbeat, each breath and each step we take. During these daily breaks, we need to acknowledge what we’re thinking, what we’re saying to ourselves, how we’re feeling and what our impulse is to act in a particular way.
A way of distancing ourselves
We need to remember that underlying the fear of the unknown, our unmet needs and our anger, is pain. Expressing anger and resentment is our way of distancing ourselves and protecting ourselves from the pain we feel.
We need to look at what it is that’s causing us pain, in the moment, and to acknowledge that this is what has been and is still going on within us, both as individuals and as a collective society. As our anger allows us to distance ourselves from the discomfort of our pain, we put off coming to terms with what it is that needs to be addressed within us, that which will allow us to heal. This is true for us as people and as a society.
A shadow personality
On another level, often what we dislike most about someone else, or are most afraid of about someone else, is a quality or trait we dislike or are afraid of within ourselves that hides within us like a shadow personality.
In a conversation I had with a relative, he indicated that he hated [Barack] Obama because Obama is a hypocrite and a con artist. He indicated that Obama reminded him of himself and that he was, in fact, responding to his dislike of his own qualities that he was projecting onto Obama.
What was most disturbing is that he was totally unconscious of the process that was going on within himself, the one that was colouring his perceptions of someone else. As mentioned, this is a common dynamic that goes on within each of us. Our shadow is the part of us that we’re afraid of facing.
With awareness comes our ability to acknowledge our source of pain and what it is about ourselves that we have a hard time accepting. This serves as the bridge that allows us to move from being unconsciously reactive towards consciously responding to things that set off our reactions to others—with those close to us with whom we share, as well as with those at a distance from us, like politicians or members of other groups that we react against.
Our world is becoming more and more interdependent
The United States has lived in such unconscious darkness for much of its history. Following the 1960s human rights and civil rights movements, history seemed to have taken a turn towards “loving our neighbour as ourselves.” However, with Trump’s insertion into our social dynamics, it seems as if the fear of the unknown is gaining renewed traction, and the reaction of some, sadly, is to treat others as if their lives matter less, even going so far as physically attacking those who they find to be at odds with their need to view life as they do.
It takes a village
The “survival of the fittest” myth has long been out of place in today’s world. Today, “it takes a village” is more to the point than any view that involves people having to go it alone. Government, as our framers intended, is not the enemy of the people, unless it’s misused to be the enemy of the people. Our task, as citizens, is to turn the light of awareness onto the dark shadows of our ignorance and our reactions to the fear of change and the unknown.