The Bodhisattva Path in Dark Times: Post-Election Thoughts

buddhaThe election is now over and a narcissist without moral compass will soon take the reins of the most powerful nation on earth. However much we wish it otherwise, this is now true.  We have no real knowledge of just how badly this might turn out—whether he will be an American Mussolini or merely an American Berlusconi.  All of our hopes and fears are just mental projections.  None are real. 

But we mustn’t delude ourselves.  There is a real potential for serious misfortune and harm: the collapse of efforts to protect our planet from global warming; the disruption of the international order; the detention and arrest of political dissidents; curbs on freedoms of the press; the misuse of modern techniques of surveillance; the end of access to healthcare for millions; an end to abortion rights; an uptick in racist, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT crimes by emboldened alt-right groups; and so it goes.  Some of this may come to pass; some might not.

How dark this all becomes depends largely on us.  Will we collaborate or resist?  Will we be proactive or merely reactive?  Will we persist in the face of fear?  Will we stand up for our neighbors and have each others backs? Dark times call for a courage unneeded in easier times. This is when we find out what we’re made of.

One can stand up courageously without viewing the world dualistically as an “us vs. them” situation—without hating Donald Trump or the people who voted for him—with an understanding of the reasons why people might have voted for him: disillusionment with politics as usual, anger at both parties for abandoning the working class, and anger at liberals for their condescension and cultural disdain. It’s possible to see how we’re part of the problem—how we contributed to this perilous moment. Donald Trump and the Republicans didn’t create this alone.  We all did our part.

Now that we’re here, we have our responsibilities.  We can be part of an historic non-violent resistance to fascism in whatever forms it takes.  We can strengthen the institutions of civil society that serve as a bulwark against the forces of greed, hatred, and delusion—forces that operate in each and every human heart regardless of party.

The bodhisattva path is not dependent on good times.  It’s the same in easy times and dark times alike: show up, pay attention, and do whatever is necessary to take care of the things that fall within our purview.

May we all have the courage to live up to our bodhisattva vows.