It’s too late to stuff the global genie back in the bottle — at least in terms of human migration. Rather, it’s time to understand we are One.
After the election, I took to social media with a fervor that was new for me. It was on social media that I felt most connected to what was actually going on, in real time, across the nation.
Days before the news media started reporting hate crimes, I had already watched footage of a woman at my cousin’s polling place in Michigan shouting at her, calling her a “Nigger.” This was after, according to my cousin, she had verbally attacked a Latina woman waiting to vote.
Later, my cousin (who is mixed white and black) posted a photo of her babysitter’s car with the word “Nigger” scrawled on the windshield in soap.
It was on Facebook that I read that my mixed-race friend in very “progressive” Marin County was “live trolled” by a Trump supporter in a pickup truck the day after the election — the confederate flag draped across the outside of his truck bed — and that kids on a field trip at Stanford University started yelling at kids from the East Side of San Jose to “go home.”
Not good, I thought. Not good at all.
It had also seemed obvious to me by the third Presidential debate that something was going on with Russia that also was not-good-not-good-at-all.
And then this person with a foreign name, in foreign letters, started to send me private messages. They began with the idea (that many had already sent me by then) to “calm down.” He sent me video from a spiritual teacher (who I actually respect) encouraging people to question their thoughts, and “turn them around” around the election — kind of like, I suppose: “How I learned to stop worrying and love the Trump.”
Please do not be upset, he wrote. You can be OK with this guy. Well, I was not OK and actually, not willing to be OK for the time being. For me, being spiritual does not mean being complacent, nor turning away in the face of true threats to human beings and their basic freedoms — nor threats to our beloved planet.
I asked him to back off. I was not looking for advice. It was a time for social and political action, it seemed to me. But there was enough goodwill there, between us, to continue the dialogue. Something about his inclination toward resignation ignited my curiosity.
“Do you live in a dictatorship?” I asked.
“Yes … I think so,” he said, cautiously.
My heart fell. It was the way he put it. I think so. As if he were nervous, and reluctant to contemplate the full weight of what that meant.
Oddly enough, he contacted me later, asking me to do some professional coaching with him. During our first session, he told me about coming to the States, once. I learned he lived in Belarus (which I pronounced “bell-are-us” for some time, but is actually pronounced “bell-a-roos”).
When he came here, he said, he came to Arizona. “It was beautiful!” he gushed about his trip. When he returned, his wife said he “looked different.”
“Why was that?” I asked my new friend.
There was a meaningful silence. And then he said,
I suddenly began to cry. (Really, a first with a client!)
“Oh no!” he said, “Don’t cry. Please don’t cry.”
I couldn’t help it. I was afraid for my country in a larger way than I had ever experienced — and there was this odd and tender sense of being connected, heart-to-heart, to a person half the world away, who lived, I learned later, in Minsk, site of an infamous KGB jail and headquarters. Here in the States, the media, “liberals,” individual journalists, the judiciary, labor union leaders were all being attacked by the new administration … Who knew where it would end?
By our second session, my client’s complacent attitude had shifted. He sent an e-mail showing “Freedom Ratings” from the non-profit organization Freedom House: of Belarus, of Russia, and of the U.S. Russia was rated very low, as was Belarus (both rating 20 out of a possible 100 overall score on “freedom,” and failing dismally in civil and political rights scores). The United States was very high, but slipping, and being re-evaluated as somewhat unstable in these measures because of Donald Trump.
At the same time, massive, nation-wide protests were erupting here — from Election Day to Inauguration Day to the Women’s March, which went mega-global, to the first major strikes and protests on International Women’s Day held in the U.S. in decades. These Women’s Day marches were also held in Argentina, India, Ireland, Iceland, in over 50 countries, actually, around the world.
And now, we gaze at a nation, it seems, with endless marches on its horizon. As reported in the March 6 New Yorker, the level of democratic participation at this time, according to an interview with a constituent communications expert, is “amazing,” and “unprecedented … a level of citizen engagement going on out there outside the Beltway that Congress has never experienced before.’”
Then, on March 25, my friend from Belarus sent me video footage of some of the biggest protests in years there, in response to the President’s tax on the underemployed. The next day, even the Russians were out en masse.
What do we call this? A “global spring?”
This administration may want to take us back in time 60 years or more, but how can it? Native Americans here most certainly wished the white colonists would also turn around and go home. Failure to assimilate!
Yet, was it not going to happen eventually that we, as a species, would circle the globe and intermix? Just physically? … I actually agree with the President (at least, his statements) on some issues — increasing American jobs for the lower and middle class, re-looking, perhaps, at trade agreements. But the attitude of protectionism, of racism and gender discrimination, of fending off the “other” is simply too late.
The global genie is out of the bottle. We speak and communicate with each other now with lightening speed, across the world, from democracies to dictatorships.
It will only be incredibly painful — if not torturous — to try to stuff the global genie back in the bottle. And the effort will inevitably fail.
Rather than wall off from one another, what is called for now is listening, learning, understanding. Dictatorships may rise. In the end, they come and go, like everything else in this world.
What does not come and go is the human spirit, the impulse to be free. Because we are each human, and we share that spirit — no one is exempt. Far better to work with this spirit, encourage it, and reign in our impulses to control, restrain and dominate one another. That effort portends endless misery for all involved. Because, in the end, the human spirit cannot be constrained, nor bound, nor separated into “camps” of races, religions, ideology or ethnicity. The human spirit is a force that connects us, because we share it — it is Love, at its core.
After the protest videos, I was curious about my friend from Belarus. Was he worried? Hundreds had been arrested. I asked.
I found he was excited, with caution.
“I want a better life for my children.” He said.
Yes, I said, “I do too.”
“What we need to understand is our oneness,” he said.
And I felt that oneness with him.
If you reach out past yourself, even just a bit, you feel it.
The human spirit.
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