A Country of Compassion, If We Can Keep It

In what now feels like a year that never was, I drafted a new year’s blog post. But then it wasn’t a new year anymore but more of 2020, albeit a bridge too far. Soon, 2021 overshadowed almost every year of this republic’s history with the attempted overthrow of the government, deliberately deadly and publicly provoked by a president of the United States.

We knew Trump did not lose well but we gave him sense enough not to incite an insurrection. No one had taking hostage/killing members of Congress on their bingo card, all to overturn an election that had been won fairly and soundly, one of the most secure we have had in the U.S.

Shakespeare warned us of such a man: “O, it is excellent to have a giant strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.” But Trump was less a giant and more an orange balloon inflated with lies, flying the skies of the world of alternative facts, where, it turns out, Trump did not have leaving the presidency on his bingo card.

Sequim Bay, Olympic Peninsula (Paulie Jenkins)

Leaving was almost more than he could do that final Wednesday morning. More than once he looked back before boarding Air Force One for the last time, hoping that something, anything, would change but it didn’t. He had lost the presidency. In those last moments reality dawned, and the magnitude of his loss was laid bare. Within 24 hours, The Proud Boys and QAnon denounced him as “flaccid and weak.” Turns out he was not a messianic warrior but just an American citizen who was once a president.

And in this moment, I found an ounce of compassion for him, as he surveyed the waste land of his brand, all of it all his doing. Not one of his last words moved me for they were the same old lies. It was the pain on his face, the realization that he was losing the power of the presidency and the standing in the world it gave him—all that comes with being president—so much of which he never bothered to learn. Maybe that’s why he sounded somewhat presidential; he finally felt the depth of what he was losing. Even thugs have moments of revelation.

On Martin Luther King Day I found these words from a very young Thich Nhat Hanh, re-printed in an article from Parallax Press: “this country is able to produce King but cannot preserve King. You have him, and yet you do not have him.” We are a country that has produced Martin Luther King and Donald John Trump, a divide we have lived for centuries.

We are a cacophony of ideas and beliefs, opposing chasms whose common ground lies buried with truth, deep within a myriad of caverns. We fly hashtags as if they were our flag, hoping the romantic will take root and with the dawn, we will see in each other what we daily deny. These are not easy bridges we must now build. We do not lack the wherewithal but can we keep our compassion?

Living without just a drop of empathy for Trump left me empty, fertile ground for the bitter roots of snark and cynicism—my time in his wasteland—that I left with him on inauguration morning. It is ours to write “…the story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history. We met the moment. That democracy and hope, truth, and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived” (President Joe Biden).

It’s hard to bring the better self to the surface every day but just an ounce of compassion will keep us afloat.

12 thoughts on “A Country of Compassion, If We Can Keep It

    1. Hello back at you! Spot-on assessment of Trump and yes, I breathe a bit more easily these days. However, Trumpism roots run deep. Thanks for the kind words about my post, and I am glad you enjoyed it. Stay safe.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. My Friend,
    It has been a while since I have heard from you… I know, it is often difficult to post or even comment, but I just want you to know you are in my thoughts and I am sure the thoughts and hearts of many of us who faithfully read you even if we do not have the time to answer- or perhaps the strength at that time to let you know we are here.
    I do hope you are well- or as well as possible, given the circumstances. This is to let you know you are missed… and loved, jan manyfeathers

    Liked by 1 person

  2. To express empathy for such a monster is truly walking the path of the Buddha. Thanks for reminding us of something so entirely counterintuitive.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Craig, but I’m being rather selfish. That moment of compassion showed me I was not completely swallowed up by my cynicism, something I feared. Compassion is the most powerful weapon of the warrior, as you know, and perhaps the most difficult to sustain.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is so thrilling to see competence and sleeves-rolled-up work from the new Biden administration, and (I know this is small) a front-woman in Jen Psaki who speaks calmly, rationally, and dresses with dignity. I am so tired of being offended and alarmed by everything from insurrection to crazy, indignant press secretaries.

    I too feel some compassion for Trump because the man is so damaged. I don’t believe he really sees or appreciates anyone but himself. He is a man living alone in a cold and dangerous world. That said, how can he not be held accountable for turning the angry masses loose on America?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. How can the Senate fail to convict Trump? This time there is video and there are tapes! Oh, and there is the matter of one minute, a single minute, that was the difference between the Senate getting to safety or meeting the mob (thank you officer Eugene Goodman). Indeed, how can the Senate fail, again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I watched the unfolding news of 6 January with increasing horror. These were scenes that Jefferson’s bold experiment in society and government had been designed to avoid. I suspect much came about because Trump was keying into a deep vein of unease at economic inequity and a sense of dispossession; but he was not doing it to support those causes. The frightening part for me – observing from afar in the South Pacific – has been the extent to which a false narrative can gain traction – all of it flowing from the single fact that Trump clearly could not handle defeat. The lies were manifest. And yet there are many people, today, who still believe Trump’s words because they engaged with their own need – including, I might add, here in New Zealand. Such has been the power of social media. The whole, I think, presents as a demonstration of the way human society can behave – the way powerful individuals can sublimate the needs of the masses. It is nothing new. What worries me is that previous instances in history have never ended well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, Trump “keyed” into a segment of the American population, about 33%, who have felt abandoned for what they believe and hold dear. Neither fact nor science have a place in the world of white supremacist conspiracies. Until Trump, they were not political; in him, they found their demagogue. No matter what he said, what he asked, they followed and obeyed. And when they stormed the steps of the Capitol, Trump would not stop them but he did find them “low class.” In many ways, Joe Biden and his administration is the antithesis of Trumpism, inclusive, diverse, and compassionate. It is a tale of two countries that would be one.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As we entered 2021, I didn’t have my usual feeling of a brand spanking new year. We hadn’t transitioned power yet and we’re still pretty much locked up at home. But we’ll get there. I know we will. I’m just not sure the turning of our man-made clock to a new year was the trick it needed to be this year . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought I might feel it somewhat at the inauguration but then January 6 happened. And I agree that we will get there; already, there is a feeling of change, a belief that what is best in us is still there. Each year that I do write a new year post, I consider our neat and tidy grouping of 12 months but having no better replacement, I work with it. 😉 And every year I buy a paper calendar for my kitchen. Good to hear from you, Christine. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

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