Along with millions of people around the world, I marched with and for my girls this weekend. I marched because women are still not always treated equally in our country, and I believe they should be. I marched because this is a country who just elected a President who we all heard bragging (whether it was a joke or not) about sexual assault, and collectively, we thought that wasn’t a serious enough offense to not vote for him to be our leader. I marched because I wanted to be a part of the “NO” to the sexism, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, destructive nationalism, and deception that I see at the core of the current populism expressed through politics and the religious right.
But, honestly, there were times in the march that I felt quite sad. Because while I saw countless protest signs about love and saying no to oppression and hate, I also recognized a negative energy at play in some of it. I felt like there were a lot of us that hated the people that we perceived were doing the hating. A lot of us who were afraid of the people doing the fear mongering. A lot of us willing to soften our grip on ‘facts’ or ‘truth’ because we can’t let THEM get away with softening our grip on ‘facts’ or ‘truth.’
The ego game that allows you to hate people in the name of love is a very subtle and tricky one. It feels righteous to hate the hateful. But if love is love is love is love (something I saw repeated at the march), we should also recognize that hate is hate is hate is hate.
I’m not saying the whole thing was hateful; there was also something quite beautiful happening. Cooperation, courage, expressions of hope and love, truth-telling…etc But the temptation that many of us seemed to be falling prey to was the same ‘us and them’ tribalism that we were supposedly rallying against. It’s easier and simpler to demonize and scapegoat than to listen and learn. It’s easier to yell than to serve, and easier to despair than to take courage.
The truth is that there is no simple bad team and good team. There’s just people. Complicated, conflicted people. All of us want the same things—to be safe, to be loved, to enjoy our lives. And as beautiful as marches can be, we must also recognize that all of politics is largely played on the plane of tribalism and polar differences. There would be no liberal without conservative. There would be no rural without urban. All of it goes together as yin and yang. The poles of a single plane. The difficulty is that while you play on that plane, you are giving energy to it. I recognize that my marching was a response to something. Some other piece of energy that has occurred on that plane—namely an election. But of course, that election was a reaction to some other pattern of energy in the universe. ‘Every action has an equal opposite reaction.’ I was and am playing a part in the swinging of pendulums; in the the crests and troughs of waves. The march was a reaction. But it was also an action which will in turn create an opposite reaction. And on and on the game is played.
I don’t think this means that we should just throw up our hands and give up. While pendulums do swing, it does seem possible to make progress over time. Slavery can be abolished. Women can be allowed to vote…etc What I think we can learn though is that we do share a common ground with the people we are protesting. All of the marches, elections, revolutions, wars and everything else that humankind organizes itself into are the results of these ebbs and flows of energy. We live on a planet where life competes to survive. 7 billion human beings can’t all have everything they want. So we must figure out a way to navigate all of that tension. That’s what all of this is.
When you allow yourself to see how the other side is playing the exact same game that you are, and for the same reasons, it allows you to play the game with more understanding and with less fear. More compassion and less hate.
While there were aspects of the march that saddened me, I don’t regret the march. I personally believe the left in America have policies and values that are very important for our nation and our planet. So I’ll play my part as the liberal artist who rails against the religious establishment and the powers that be that it helped elect. But I’ll also recognize that this is just part of my dharma as the Buddhists put it (or the will of God as the Christians put it). It’s just the unfolding of the story of the universe that is happening, and I can’t take my own feelings about right and wrong push me into scapegoating and demonizing the people on the other side of the aisle. This light handedness allows me to both protest Trump and love him for being the image of the Divine that he is. The yoke doesn’t have to be so heavy. The burden may exist, but it can be light. So let’s march on, but march with our hearts and our eyes wide open to that which transcends marches.