I had this thought a few days ago and my friend Susie Beiler reminded me when she spoke of a dream she had in which she met and had a brief conversation with the president-elect. If I had the opportunity to meet with him alone for 45 minutes (this number came to me since it was the amount of time I had the joy of being with the Dalai Lama to interview him in 2008), what would I say? How would I attempt to influence him in a positive, pro-social, loving, world sustaining manner? Like many who made a different choice in the voting booth, I am feeling the individual and collective impact. Even those I know who did vote for him, are noticing a ripple effect. For many, it carries with it a sense of the surrealistic as we hear daily about proposed changes to the established policies and laws. Some were meant to protect the environment, others, human rights.
In my counseling practice, I continue to hear stories from clients about the ways in which they have been feeling. Depression, hopelessness, and anxiety have been on the upswing for them. Clearly, I am not alone in this observation.
Dr. Sarah Vinson is an Atlanta-based psychiatrist who sees clients across the mental health spectrum. She reports, “a noticeable increase in anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms. Vinson adds “While campaign rhetoric has been a stressor for many for months, more recent reports of incidents of violence, harassment, and vandalism since the election are triggering more fears.”
Reports of calls to crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotlines have increased as well.
What has helped my clients is knowing that they have a safe haven with me so that they can openly express their fears. Some are in minority groups ethnically, religiously and sexually. Others have people close to them who fall into those categories. We focus on a positive action they can take. Some have already stepped up to the plate. One is a young man who got involved with local political activism and the other a middle-aged woman who embraced (no pun intended) my suggestion that she do FREE HUGS. She is a journalist as well and penned an article on her experience.
I posted this query on Facebook: If you had the opportunity to speak with him, what would you say? Please keep it positive, not trash talking anyone. Although I am not in alignment with what he stands for, I don’t name call or malign him. This is a sampling of responses:
“You could be the change you wish to see, first of all. Address him with compassion that you would want if you were as troubled as he. As one strand in the unified prism, along with the infinite strands you walk this planet with, address him with the unbridled tsunami of compassion. Glinda the Good Witch did not cower in fear or resort to negativity to the “bad witch.” Then, bloom where you are planted, and keep being part of the unified prism of compassion.”
“Stop proving your enemies right about you…I still hold out hope, that you will do something important, that will help all mankind…. as it’s going right now you’ll never compete with Hitler, he came first…you will always just be a footnote.”
“You can take the high road all you want to. There isn’t likely to be a thing you can say that would influence him in any way. I think that our best bet is to stop wasting our precious time and resources on minds and hearts that are closed, and instead focus on looking after each other. We are going to have to ride out some very bumpy roads together. I hope to build the strength of our tribe while we can. So, instead of casting pearls before swine, let’s cultivate the capacity we have together. Let’s organize locally to put our tribe members in office come midterms.”
“I would tell him to use some of the very innovative ideas every day Americans have to solve our problems. Like making individual shelters for homeless people and animals. I would tell him we do not have a healthcare problem in the USA we have a COST fo Health Care problem–there are so many diagnostic tools we didn’t have even 25 years ago. Set up health care like the FDIC for banks–once an individual’s health care passes a cost barrier, say $1milliim, then the government steps in with catastrophic coverage, until then go free market (this takes a huge burden off insurance companies as well as the generally healthy) I would tell him to be compassionate. It is impossible to round up 12 million illegals–find a way to make them legal and if they commit a violent crime put them on the first plane outa here! Fix our education system. It is severely broken, put the states in charge, do away with the education dept. They’ve not done their job. Set national standards and get each local school district figure it out. And make college available to everyone.”
“I would build rapport, make him comfortable and ask him if he had ever suffered. Then I would connect that suffering to the suffering of others, and use linguistic techniques so he would remember it later.”
So, what would I say if I had his ear?
After taking a deep breath and asking for inner guidance, I would thank him for his time, since I know he has a busy schedule. I would proceed…
I ask that you keep your mind and heart open to what I have to share. You are in an unenviable position that you asked for, to be a true leader. Not a dictator, but a servant to the higher good of the country and, by extension, the planet. We don’t live in isolation in our own bubble. Everything we do here impacts the world. We are called on to be an example of fairness, justice, and triumphing over adversity. Rather than creating or enabling chaos, we need to work together on both sides of the aisle/political spectrum to come to a place of balance. I don’t know what has gone on behind closed doors in the White House, in the previous administration, but I do know what it felt like to be able to sleep at night without worrying what I would wake up to, over the past eight years. I wish I could say that now. My fear and that of so many people I know, based on your perspective and what you have expressed, is that we are in dire danger. Can you search your soul and truly recall a time when you felt loved and safe, valued for who you are and not what you do? A period of your life when you didn’t need to prove yourself, compete or defend? If you can tap into that well of love, you would never do anything that would endanger anyone. You are a father who I am certain, to the best of your ability, loves your children. What kind of world do you want to leave for them? There is a Native American concept that speaks of making choices that impact the next seven generations. Please let the decisions you make take that into consideration. The environment is to be cared for and not exploited.
I was raised to see commonalities and honor diversity. I was given examples of social conscience as my hardworking parents also volunteered in the community and spoke up when they saw injustice. I grew up with the idea that people are to be loved and cherished, not hated and feared. It seems that the world you see is quite different from that. I remember hearing a tagline for the movie Faces of the Enemy. Sam Keen, who created it, said ”Before we make war, even before we make weapons, we first create the idea of an enemy whom we can fight.” You seem to see enemies and opponents all around. That must be terribly frightening for you. As a therapist, I wonder what happened early on in your life that formed your beliefs and choices. I ask that you have people around you to whom you are accountable and with whom you do reality checks, lest that fear and anger hijack you.
I have heard you use language that demeans and hurts others, not uplifts them. In my mind, part of a leader’s job is to champion people’s strengths so that we can use them for the betterment of all concerned. Some of our citizens came (like your wife and my grandparents) from other countries and are part of the fabric of the country that you say you wanted to ‘make great’. I wonder what that means to you. I would love to Make America Kind Again since we have lost some of that feeling in the mire of hatred. I don’t hate you. I don’t want to fear you. That is not true power. Respect is. Please let your actions be worthy of respect.
I’m not sure what your spiritual beliefs are, but I do know that many of your constituents are Christian. I would ask them and you, “Who would Jesus hate?” I’m thinking, no one.
I know you are a father of daughters. Would you want a man speaking about them in ways you have about women? Referring to what you were recorded saying as “locker room talk,” demeans both women and men. I am sure you want your children to be safe in the world. Everyone is someone’s child. Please search your conscience and imagine the children in war torn countries. Visualize children of various religions, countries, gender identities, relationship/sexual preferences. Their parents pray for them to grow up in a welcoming world. Please contribute to that world. We are all family.
The presidency is not a one person job. Tap into the wise guidance, not just of people who view the world through the same lenses you do, but others who have diverse opinions.
There are those who look to you as permission-granter for their hateful acts. Please make it clear once and for all, that violence in your name is unacceptable.
I know that I could share more, but I want to allow this to sink in, really sink in. As a journalist, I have an obligation to use my gifts for good. As a world leader, you too have a duty to be the president for all the people of this country, not just the ones you perceive as being like you. You could be a greater force for good in the world. I imagine that you want the legacy you leave have history remember you well. I pray that you don’t dismiss this as frivolous. I do my best to see you, in part, as the innocent child you once were. You are no longer that. You are a man who has a momentous job to do. Please do it well.