STATE OF MIND FOR THE STATE OF THE UNION

  

Boy, has this blog been put off for a while.  I have been saying to myself and others for weeks that I needed to have a game plan.  A road map. Some kind of mental framework to deal with the incoming administration.  People on either side of the aisle would have no trouble agreeing that we’re about to see a major pivot in U.S. politics. For some, this is a change they’ve been waiting 8 years for.  For folks like me, it’s a shift that’s casting all kinds of scary shadows.  Fear is never a good spot to be making decisions from.  Everything gets warped and out of proportion.  Then again, I’ve seen some very tangible evidence recently that we should keep the PANIC button at arm’s length.  

In my adulthood (and believe me, I use that term loosely), I’ve lived through 16 of 24 years with a democrat as president.  The remaining 8 had George W. Bush at the helm, and I think they were a disaster. Could it get any worse than an administration bullying a nation into war for reasons that were utterly false?  A war that ultimately cost thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars?  Plunging a nation into a needless war is the most damnable thing a leader can do, in my opinion.  And whether it’s fair or not to all republicans, George W. Bush is my generation’s reference point for a republican president.  

Huge, unmitigated FAIL.

Now with a new republican on the verge of taking power, liberals could be excused for jitters even if it was Mitt Romney.  But of course, Romney looks like Ward Cleaver these days.  We’re about to have some mashup of JR Ewing and Archie Bunker.  

What the F U C K I N G  F U C K E T Y  F U C K  are we in for???

Breathe, Jonathan, breathe.  Let’s make our plan.  These are My Commandments for The Trump Era.

1. KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

This has become cliche, but is no less true as when the Brits used it back in WWII.  Trump will be president.  I have accepted it.  I’m not happy, but I also refuse to let his election tear me away from my goals and my passions.  I’m not going to spend 4 years in freak out mode, trying to decide how to counteract his regime.  This is my life, too.  I still want to make art, tell stupid jokes on Facebook, raise my kids and love my wife.  I will not let politics be the dictator of how I feel or what I want to do.

2. KNOW WHEN AND HOW TO SPEAK UP

If you’re on Facebook enough, you’ve seen one of those posts about how “your political meme totally changed my mind!”  I have certainly been guilty of hammering political nails in your Facebook feed.  Mea culpa.  I’ve resolved to use my blog to air fears and strategies concerning Mr. Trump.  It might not be 100% of my content, but I’ll keep it out of my Facebook posts, by and large, because really: that’s not what most of us are on social media for.  If you wanna read the blog, you will.  If you want to debate me, I welcome it.  But we’ll do it “the old fashioned way”-- in person or through direct contact like email. We’re all Americans.  We can have civil discourse.  I think now more than ever, it’s imperative. Speaking of which…

3.  DON’T FEED THE TROLLS

Some people get off on being dicks.  The less time I give them, the better.  So they will not only get zero keystrokes from me, I resolve to give them zero energy as well.  

But we should also remember…

4.  GET OUT OF YOUR BUBBLE

I have thought a lot about this since early November.  I have several friends, many of them long time buddies, who voted for Trump.  I want to stay in touch with their views.  I want to hear their voice.  They matter too-- even if we will never agree on some issues.  I think that’s one of the core pillars of our country: diverging opinions and cultures figuring it out together, in the open.  Not sealed up in our ideological boxes.  This extends to politics as “entertainment” too.  I have begun to wonder whether a steady diet of John Oliver and SNL is entirely good for me.  I have no qualms with our leader being lampooned over and over (you’re the most powerful man in the world, dude, get over it) but the undercurrent of derision for people who support Mr. Trump is what has begun to bother me.  I want to keep talking to people on all sides of an issue.

5.  PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS

It’s much easier to ignore advocacy groups when “your” president is in power.  You’re running the show, right?  Why worry?  I have never been terribly interested in policy details or lobbying efforts, but I do want people fighting the good fight for the next 4 years.  So I have decided to give a little money every month to groups that advocate for our environment (my #1 issue) and a little to the ACLU, to make sure we are all protected under the law.  One person can’t financially support every advocacy group alone, so whatever issues you care deeply about, consider donating a few bucks regularly to the cause.  Also…

6.  PRACTICE RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS

Smiling at a stranger on the street costs nothing.  Waving at the car behind you when they let you change lanes?  Zero dollars.  I am now more determined than ever to do little positive things (and perhaps the occasional BIG positive thing) for no other reason than spreading love. Spend an hour watching cable news and you might come away with the impression that Hate is our national pastime.  I’ve had enough.  I’d rather do something fun and kind as a lark, than spend the same amount of time and effort focused on division.

I guess that’s it.  We’re gonna make it, my fellow Americans!  Just keep coming back to your Gloria Gaynor mantra: I WILL SURVIVE!

And if you voted for Mr. Trump, I hope the next four years make you feel a sense of positivity about our country.  I really do.  And if that happens, share your story with me.  Maybe our discussion will become its own blog.  Meantime, I’ll be smiling at my studio, making more art, and trying to come up with silly gags for your Facebook feed.

 

  

CLOSING STATEMENT

Where do I even begin?  The last week or so has been a bumpy emotional ride, and even as things begin to level out, I’m left with so much uncertainty and occasional anxiety.  Donald Trump will be our president.  The words are still difficult to write.

I have many friends who voted for Mr. Trump.  Their perspective on politics and the state of our country stands in such contrast from mine, I sometimes marvel at the fact that we’re friends at all.  But I count it on balance as a good thing.  

I’ve begun to think that I have sealed myself off too much from the outside world and from outside opinions. For one thing, I certainly am sealed off geographically.  Living only 10 miles from The People’s Republic of Boulder, I do not run in many circles that challenge my view of things.  And for the most part, I like that.  Confrontation is uncomfortable.  I think we’ve been conditioned by social media to fire off nasty and/or dismissive talking points without delving into any of the substance behind our disagreements.

I also think the 24 hour news cycle isn’t good for us.  I’m not sure where the line is between being informed and being controlled is, but I do feel sure that we are past it.  Is it possible for an entire nation to turn off the web/tv/radio pipeline and take a collective breath or two?

Maybe it’s time for Hands Across America 2016.

If I identify in a particular way spiritually, it is as a Buddhist.  One of the central tenets of Buddhism is not clinging.  To not be rigid.  These are concepts that are easier to practice when things are going our way.  It’s like the parenting strategies I come up with in my shrink’s office.  They sound so ideal in the bubble of therapy.  Quite a bit different to put into effect when shit is blowing up at home.

But: this is it.  This is happening.  How will I cope with it?  Will I gnash my teeth and scream into the wind for the next 4 years?  How do I fight and not let the fight become everything I’m about?  How do I advocate and stand up for what I believe in without surrendering too much of myself and my peace to the cause?

I am allowing myself a rebound period to let the poison of the election season recede.  Let things settle down.  Take a break from Facebook, the rantings, the fake news and the vitriol.  If I really want this country to change and for healing to begin:   where does it start?  

With me.  Period.  Simple, but not easy.

But I am also guarding against accepting some of the viewpoints Donald Trump has legitimized as normal.  This was something that John Oliver brought up on his post election show.  I believe that many of the things Mr. Trump has said and many of the fringe groups he has emboldened should be rejected.

So as I try to move forward and leave the rancor behind, I want to go on record:

I am not okay with the way he has treated women.

I am not okay with multiple infidelities.

I am not okay with demonizing Muslims or immigrants.

I am not okay with the KKK.  (which kind of sounds like the whitest Public Enemy song ever written)

I am not okay with declaring bankruptcy and stiffing contractors.

I am not okay with mocking people with disabilities.

I am not okay with making abortion illegal.

I am not okay with denying climate change.

And I am not okay with rolling back any rights of the LGBTQ community.

NOT OKAY.  OK?

That said… (breath) …  I am willing to be optimistic.  I am willing to take a leap of faith.  

I will treat Mr. Trump in a manner that I would like every president to be treated:  respectfully, if cautiously.  I will not tear him down before he’s even been sworn in.

If he begins to do things that I believe are wrong, I will fight.  And I hope that if he compromises basic principles that we claim to believe in as a nation, that the fight will not be a battle of the left or right, but one that all Americans will join.

I’m Jonathan Hanst, and I approve of more cat videos.

ORLANDO

I don’t really want to write this blog, but I feel I must.  I wish I could continue to hide my head in the sand and act like the massacre in Orlando didn’t happen this weekend, but I can’t.  We’ve got to start discussing and debating in this country and quit yelling and demonizing.  I need to speak up more.  There are things going on that I cannot stomach and I shouldn’t just be sitting on the sidelines shaking my head.

To paraphrase a post a saw on Facebook yesterday: Pardon my dust. I’m still sorting this all out, but I have to talk about it.  I usually write and tweak and edit these entries, but I feel I need the benefit of stream of consciousness today.  I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here we go.

Let’s talk about guns.  I am pro gun control.  What does this mean for me?

If you like hunting: no problem

If you want home protection: no problem.

If you enjoy target shooting: no problem.

If you want to own a military grade weapon: I have a problem with that.  They should be outlawed.

All the arguments and sound bytes and pro/anti gun rhetoric is just a bleak cycle of feedback. I don’t want to hear the same arguments anymore.  Assault rifles should not be legal.  That’s it.  

People should not be able to buy ANY gun without thorough background checks.  Gun shows? Private sales?  Off the radar transfers?  Illegal.  I mean: when will this madness stop?  Shootings at an Amish schoolhouse, colleges, movie theaters, Sandy Hook, Ft. Hood, Planned Parenthood. Could it possibly be worse?  Are we not even willing to try?

We have got to take a radically different path with guns.  It’s new ground.  It may scare some.  It may outrage some.  But this can not continue.  The inflexibility of the debate must end.

I need to do more to make my voice heard on this issue.  Signing petitions.  Calling Congress. Whatever I can do, I should do it.  I’ve been too silent, I guess.

Now, let’s talk about Islam.

It is certainly disturbing to read about these terrorist cells or individuals in our country.  People that are plotting violence should be ferreted out and incarcerated.  But the horror of Orlando isn’t about Islam any more than the Westboro Baptist Church is about Christianity. This is about minds warped beyond recognition with hate.

How do you respond to that?  I don’t have a pat answer, but I know the answer isn’t with more hate.  Hate is a convenient but dangerous vehicle to pour our anger, frustration and sadness into.  It’s too easy.

I don’t know the specific reason why our president won’t use the exact words that his critics want him to, but I would bet it has something to do with not wanting to demonize an entire religion that a large number of Americans practice.  The moment a leader says: “This was Islamic terrorism,” he or she is subtly or not so subtly pointing a finger at millions of people that are just as repulsed at these crimes as we are.

There is nothing wrong with Islam simply because it is different than what many of us know.  It is foreign to many of us, so it might seem intimidating.  But take several steps back and view the long strand of history: how many horrific things have been done in the name of the Christian God?  The scales are weighed down on both sides.  Millions of lives lost in campaigns of diseased righteousness.

The problem is extremism.

My good friend has the last name “Hussian.”  Easy enough to pronounce: it sounds like “Russian” with an H.  But in the wake of the first gulf war, he had nutjobs calling him out of the phone book because in their addled mental state, “Hussian” looked too much like “Hussein.”

These are the people that refuse to fly with someone in a turban on an airplane.  Or desecrate a mosque.  Or open fire in a crowded nightclub.

They are all on the spectrum of fear and hate.  And we must reject them.

This isn’t some namby pamby meme-message that “Love Conquers All” or that we all just need to hug each other more.  No.  If your neighbor is a creepy freak that you think is going to do something violent-- call the cops.  Whether he is a Muslim or a Jehovah’s Witness.  Don’t hesitate because of political correctness.  That is another kind of madness that needs to stop. Horrible crimes are committed by people of all colors and creeds.  If you see something, say something!

But following Donald Trump’s urge to ban all Muslims?  That is completely the opposite of what this country is supposed to be about.  I don’t think that my friends who support Trump (and I have several) are nasty hatemongers, but I do think they are misguided.  And I do think that the path that Trump would take us down is slippery and dangerous.

History is littered with tyrants, demagogues, and dictators.  America is somehow immune to this possibility?  No, it is not.  We sadly seem quite attracted to suspicion and division.

Lastly, let’s talk about avoidance and de-friending.  The answer to tragedies like Orlando is not to cut yourself off from people who you disagree with or who piss you off.  The answer is to talk, engage, and debate with them.  Removing them from your Facebook feed isn’t going to make them or their opinions disappear.  These are difficult conversations.  But if we don’t have the guts to face prickly conversations with people we know and love, we’ll never get anywhere.  

I’m not wild about the fact that I know many people who support Trump because I think he is a terrible choice.  But I refuse to vilify those who disagree with me because that decision is not that removed from the scapegoating of any group.  It is too easy and doesn’t get us anywhere.

Let’s keep talking.  Let’s get uncomfortable.  Let’s make progress.  And I guess even if it doesn’t solve all our problems, it couldn’t hurt to hug a little more, too.