As the election results started coming in on November 8 2016, people woke up. In many ways, if Hillary Clinton had won the US elections, we would have continued sleep walking, accepting crumbs from the table of the growing elites. Many would have continued to believe the rhetoric and remain blinded by some of the social policies we’ve seen changed or come into effect during Obama’s administration. We would have continued to ignore the growing income gap and the cronyism and division inherent in all political parties, the militarism expanding into domestic policing, and the war-mongering that defines American imperialism. But when Trump supporters went to the polls, tired of their decreasing wages and unable to understand why their white skin privilege was not paying off-economically-the rest of us woke up. Now the question is, can we stay awake? Waking up to not just the obvious changes that are forecasted under a Trump administration but waking up to our role in conditioning the rise and fall of a “Trump”.
Here some of you may be taking offense-none intended. What is intended is the awareness of how we all must change in order to assure that Trump or a Clinton-like do not continue in four years. How have we been pulled along with the wave of consumption, looking outside of ourselves to find joy and ease our pain, to shape a market that fuels climate change; even while we protest against it? We move too quick, have no time to cook, and eat out so much that we demand the production of plastic containers, cups, utensils to feed us. I looked in my closet a couple days ago and counted how many to-go containers were there: who needs to buy houseware? In capitalism we feed the machine of production by our demands. As students we demand the newest technology for learning, lots of space to do our research while we denounce our universities for expanding and displacing black and brown folks. I remember as a student wanting more laboratory space even while I was protesting Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions forcing people out their homes to build new buildings. We want to live, work, play and pray in new buildings instead of rehabbed old buildings. We all want the new bling, to keep up with the Brown’s, more shoes than we need, one more bedroom, etc. When we stop, breathe, and notice what we are doing each moment, how we participate in the supply and demand of the market, we begin to wake up to our role in this cycle of desire for more and more. We begin to see how our craving for more things and faster results have contributed to climate change and the gap between the rich and the poor and decide if this is really what we want to do and be. When we are awake we become the masters of our actions instead of being hoodwinked by our craving and attachments. Now this is radical change.
Of course the government policies which have fed the rich in their wealth accumulation is part of this cycle of greed and delusion. There are the tax cuts to the wealthy developers who segregate themselves from the poor and communities of color. There are the government-condoned tax evasions by the highest investor-earners. There is neoliberalism and its effects on privatization of government services, global markets, and diminished social networks. Have we participated in this also? In some ways we have. When the results of these policies didn’t directly impact the majority, they were ignored. When the middle class was impacted, the Occupy Movement said no more. But for the poor and many communities of color, they have been left behind for decades with these policies that grew the wealth of a particular race and class. Besides the poor and people of color, discriminatory policies have also diminished the lives of women, LGBTQ communities, and other non-powered and marginalized groups. Now it’s not just the marginalized of America, it’s the majority of America feeling the effects of policies that increase the wealth of the top 1% while exploiting the land, water and people. Today we are called to wake up to the interconnection of our struggles and recognize how focusing on our identity politic alone fragments us, leaves out others, and at times further marginalizes the “other”. How has the division in our ways of being and doing, the fragmentation of our identity politics, contributed to the deep individualism running through the arteries of Americans? This individualism has nurtured acceptance of poverty of the other, discrimination of the other, and a disconnect that has blinded us to a shared humanity? This is the ignorance that allowed us Americans to build separate and unequal communities that exist today. A “wall” of separation, built through government policies and social norms, already separates America. That separation, of “us” and “them” ripened into a Trump victory. How? Because the disenfranchised white communities believe that it’s the “other” that have caused their suffering and Trump stoked their thoughts, adding fuel to the fire, with hate-mongering and divisiveness.
Trump’s victory can awaken us to how our separation and individualism feed the gap between the rich and poor and the destruction of our planet. It is up to us to stay awake and look more deeply than the shallow media analysis trending. We are invited to look inside and find the ways we have separated ourselves from the “other”. Where have we built our walls? We need to recognize when it’s been easier to ignore those who feel different from us and lift up those who nod in agreement with our beliefs. It’s time to be transparent and open up communication, listen to others’ experiences, invite in difference and not run away from discomfort. With this greater understanding of ourselves and others, we need to show up for each others’ struggles and demand that our politicians represent all of us, not just some of us. We can let “Trump’s” victory continue to wake us up to a new way of being human: dismantling the walls of separation and rebuild a path of interconnectivity with each other. For example, the struggle unfolding over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) can be the phoenix rising, if we show up for it- if we show up with open hearts, clear minds, and love in action. We act from clarity and have no regrets as we dismantle another tool of colonization, another state-sanctioned exploitation of people, water, and land.
Get involved, write your congressperson, your mayor, your city council person, the president, and the president-to-be. Let them know that you recognize that opposing the DAPL could be the game-changer and set a new standard for the type of America we want to create together. The DAPL is business as usual, another wall that will continue the separation of “us” and “them” that started with the founding of “America”-the immigrant English and the indigenous peoples. It’s “Thanksgiving” week and many have joined the opportunity in North Dakota to finally and rightfully support and give thanks to the indigenous peoples who nurtured this land. Send prayers, send money, send letters, send your voice, send your steps, send your breath for peaceful protest, response, and justice. Walk in awareness of each step, breathe in awareness of each breath, chew in awareness of each mouthful of food, smile in awareness and curiosity of each person, and keep doing it over and over again. Let the power of this collective movement of being awake to the interconnectedness of it all be a force for change, healing inside and outside. In doing so we can continue to live into Dr. King’s message that: “the ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people”.