The Best Cure for the Numbing Effect of the News: Taking Informed, Compassionate Action

After two years of T, it’s so easy to give up and feel numb. How often can you feel outraged or frightened before you want to distance or distract yourself or take a holiday from the news for a day or a decade? The fight-flight response also includes the possibility of a freeze response. One response to a threat is to freeze.

 

Just in the last week or so, we have seen new evidence from indictments of Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort (by the Mueller investigation and the Southern District of New York) of T working with a foreign government in order to attack our own self-government and election system. Take that in: we have seen more conclusive evidence this week that the president of the U. S. has been working with a foreign power hostile to democracy in order to destroy our government. Wow. We can never normalize that.

 

We have seen evidence of T using his office to gain millions of dollars. We have seen his fellow Republicans commit election fraud and, in two states, Wisconsin and Michigan, work to nullify the midterm elections, and undermine the voice of we the people.

 

Many of us could go on and on about how this administration has become a direct threat not only to our liberty but our survival. Even this administration’s own report has shown the seriousness of climate change and the threat it poses to all of humanity.

 

T’s solution to global warming is to hide the evidence. Like with the fraudulent tax cut for the middle class, the actual tax cut to the rich, and the resulting increase in the debt, he tries to arrange it so the real pain won’t be experienced until after he is out of office.

 

Some people respond to the horror of T’s corruption and distortion of the truth by saying (mirroring T himself) there is no truth, or all politicians are corrupt. All politicians in this country do need money to run and keep themselves in political office. Yes, they probably take money from people many of us distrust. But equating that with putting one’s own personal business and profit over that of the nation’s, shaping foreign policy in order to gain financial reward, or acting as the agent of a foreign government in order to hide one’s own misdeeds ⎼ that is a very different species of corruption.

 

It seems very likely that T ‘s financial dealings with the Saudis shaped his response to the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And his attempt to build a Trump Tower in Russia, financed by a sanctioned Russian bank, put him in a compromised position that the Russians would later exploit to force him to call for the removal of sanctions against Russia (and motivate Russians to interfere in the 2016 election to put T in office).

 

And it’s clear that creating this numbness is part of T’s strategy. So many facts have been revealed this week that two years ago would have led to outrage and angry phone calls to Congress, yet I noticed I haven’t called a single Senator of any party to complain or urge action on an issue in at least four days. If we’re numb, if we’re on perpetual holiday, we won’t, we can’t, act. Likewise, if everything is simply an opinion, or if everyone is equally corrupt, then there is no way to know how to act or who to support.

 

But hoping he will be out of office soon is not enough. Even voting is not enough. Despite how tiresome it might be, we can not stop calling Congress. Even if we think members of Congress won’t listen, we need to speak. We need to protest even if we think it won’t lead to immediate change.

 

We need to build community and help others in whatever ways we can because it is the right thing to do. And we need to take appropriate political action even if we believe (or other people tell us) it won’t do any good, or won’t lead to the results we want. Because we can be wrong (about this and most anything). Taking action always does something, for us. And when combined with the actions of others it can work surprising results.

 

We research, consider and act on what we think is right not because we think we must get exactly what we want, but because we don’t ever want to give up on being just and compassionate people. We don’t ever want to give up on making a more just and compassionate world possible.

 

This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

Come Together, Right Now, Over All of Us

I felt the need to write a quick and short blog in response to all those people of conscience who say “be thankful for our new President, for he is waking us up to the reality of America’s ‘sickness’ of racism, inequity and such.” Or those who blame the DNC or Hillary or Bernie supporters or Jill Stein or the Russians for our new situation.

 

I agree that we need to wake up to what is happening in America and the whole world, and I agree that an analysis is needed of the forces and conditions that created this situation. But anything that interferes with united action has just got to go. Diversity in perspectives is helpful. Antipathy toward your possible supporters and colleagues is not.

 

This situation, like any situation, can help me grow. It is important to learn that I don’t have to turn away when life gets uncomfortable or difficult and that I can turn discomfort into engaged and meaningful, even joyful, action. But remember that to say “don’t be afraid” can make you more afraid. To say “don’t think of an elephant” leads me to think of an elephant. Sickness can be healing, but it can also kill you. Fear may wake me up, but it interferes with clarity of thought and compassion for others, and it is compassion that will most help all of us right now.

 

Compassion is not exactly the same as empathy; it is not just recognizing or feeling what another person feels. It is feeling care, kindness in recognizing, feeling that the people around you feel, think, ache like you do. You feel their life, not necessarily their pain, and so you are willing and ready to act to reduce that pain. You do it naturally, because it is the right thing, the natural thing, to do.

 

So I will never be thankful that another person is in pain, even those who oppose me. In our situation now, it is the most vulnerable that might suffer the most, so how can a compassionate person welcome that? It is the earth itself that might soon cry out in pain, that might no longer be able to sustain human or any complex life, so how can I welcome that?

 

(I don’t care, however, if you partly blame Comey, or Republican efforts to undermine voting rights and destroy democracy. But please, don’t blame anyone who might care for and support you in opposing the hate, greed, and destruction that just might soon get worse. We need to, and I hope will succeed in, turning the recognition of the consequences of hate and denial into the necessity for love and kindness.)