Gordian knots and fierce compassion

Dear President Trump,

I just looked it up to make sure this angst I’m feeling over writing to you about you isn’t an existential crisis of some sort and it’s really not – it’s not at all that I feel my life lacks purpose or meaning. Rather, I think that once again you have me and many, many others bound up in a Gordian knot sort of situation where you are being so hateful, nasty, and provocative that I don’t want to reinforce the behavior at all by paying attention to it but to not pay attention to it and call it out feels slimy and complicit. You are a sick, sick something or other. And clever as shit. Or someone is – this is quite a classic no-win bind you and your puppet masters have us all in.

To my mind, your latest moves have done (at least) the following:

  • Kept the spotlight on you
  • Given you fresh fodder for nihilistic, inhumane campaign chants
  • Set out a line in the sand sharply dividing us
  • Upped the bar for shows of loyalty from your GOP toadies (i.e., those who insist you aren’t being racist are even more firmly bound to you)
  • Distracted moderates and liberals from pretty much everything else
  • Provided you and yours cover (via distraction) for further safety net shredding
  • Put the world on edge that the US has completely lost it (which no doubt, pleases your BFF, Vladimir P)
  • Given implicit permission for violence against immigrants and people of color, especially women
  • With your smirky, winky expressions you’ve encouraged members of your base to think they know you and to think you know them and have sympathy for all their grievances
  • Distracted the media from pretty much everything else
  • So debased public discourse that we have all but forgotten how to have substantive, civil conversations
  • So debased public discourse that it seems semi-reasonable that we are debating whether our POTUS is a racist a**hole
  • Pulled the veneer off and exposed our sick, sick society

And on that note…. Danielle Allen (WP opinion writer) warns us not to fall into the trap of extending your superpower of shamelessness to your constituents because it’s likely to lead to overreach that could easily backfire (i.e., she gives Hillary Clinton’s unfortunate use of the “basket of deplorables” as an example). She strongly suggests that readers remember that most Americans are decent, compassionate people even if they plan to vote for you (she didn’t weigh in on those who chant “send her back,” which seems like a big-time duck to me).

I get it – if those of us who are offended by your every utterance paint those who support you with too broad a brush loaded with one color of paint, we risk engaging in the same sort of hateful over-generalizations you are encouraging with those offensive utterances. I am reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh’s idea of fierce compassion, which in this situation I take to mean that one can muster compassion for those who believe in you and plan to vote for you, and at the same time one can passionately oppose you and attempt to disabuse your followers of their folly. I aspire to this.

The current reality, however, is that I find it absolutely abhorrent, and unforgiveable, that the GOP and your base are willing to do the most extreme moral, intellectual, and emotional contortions to somehow make it ok to support someone who was an absolute prick to Nadia Murad for sport.

I don’t know how to untangle or cut through the Gordian knot you’ve ensnared us in, but we desperately need to figure it out, and fast.

May we be safe from one another.
May we be willing to stay true to our values.
For our own sakes, may we keep to the high road even as we deal with people who would just as soon ship us off the island.
May we embody peace and exercise fierce compassion.

Tracy Simpson

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