US Politics Topic (Safe Space for All)

Home Forums Buddhist Ethics US Politics Topic (Safe Space for All)

This topic contains 7 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by Jennifer Hawkins Jennifer Hawkins 1 year, 2 months ago.

  • Author
  • #40391
    Jennifer Hawkins
    Jennifer Hawkins

    So first and foremost, this is a spot for me to vent and write out confusion and try to come to good ideas and reactions. I may sometimes say something that is hurtful (not on purpose) as I’m struggling to understand and how to act in accordance with Secular/Buddhist principles. However, the effort will always be to abide by Right Speech (with occasional concessions to expressing strong emotions). Others of other views and persuasions can always engage here, obviously. However, I want it to be clear that Right Speech is paramount here as on the rest of the forum. Basically if anyone wants to seriously post about “killing all the X, Y, and Z” or anything, that’s not ok, not allowed, will be moderated – just so we’re clear. Also, while venting can happen, this is a zone where everyone has to adjust their beliefs based on real and reputable facts (1) and where we have to put serious effort into having empathy for other human beings (2). This is what makes it a “safe space.”

    I had to open with this little paragraph because increasingly, the idea of “safe spaces” to try to vent and then work out issues has been maligned and worse yet, misused. A “safe space” / “freedom of speech” doesn’t mean that you get to encourage violence against some group (e.g. hate speech). It means a space where facts and empathy both matter. Additionally, “freedom of speech” (in the US) means that the government can’t stop you from saying / writing something that is NOT liable or slander (so again, facts are important, empathy are important). It doesn’t mean that everyone has to tolerate falsehoods or a lack of empathy. If you say something that encourages violence (e.g. hate speech), you can still suffer the consequences from alienating those who hear or find out – and that includes moderation.

    Now, to be perfectly honest, I grew up Florida. We are the epitome of a Swing state. I have voted for both Republicans (Right / Conservative) and Democrats (Left / Liberal) before. Jeb Bush was a great governor and absolutely nothing like his older brother. However, I have increasingly had to leave the “center” or “swing” or “independent” position and spots further and further Left and Liberal. Why? Because Republicans/Right/Conservatives have increasingly come to represent hate and injustice – as well as an unwillingness to deal with actual facts. I’m not saying that every single one is bad as a human being or anything, but if you’re committed to facts and empathy (read above), it’s hard to deny that that’s the shift that has been happening the last few decades. The differences between to the two parties or groups used to be about how to run the economy and the details of how to address specific problems facing the nation. There’s nothing wrong with that. I may think one way is better than the other, but I could respect someone who wanted a different approach. That’s no longer the case. Now Republican/Right/Conservative is very much about denying facts (or going along with falsehoods) in order to not have to change your ideas and about denying the basic humanity and right to life, liberty, and happiness of people who “aren’t on your side, your enemies” – which more often than not means non-Whites, non-males, non-native born citizens, non-heteros (etc). I don’t say any of this with particular hate in my heart; it just is what it is. And this trend / these facts have driven me Left because while I get struggling to change in the face of facts (pride), I don’t get the insane levels that this can reach on the Right and I sure as heck don’t get the dehumanization that goes on over there.

    When Trump was elected, I was both surprised and not surprised. I was surprised that it was almost half of the nation. There was a lot of reason to think that many Republicans/Conservatives were aware of Trump’s ethical and other issues and would not agree to him. There was a lot of reason to think Johnson would put more of dent into Trump than he did. At the same time, I have always been painfully aware of how common it was for (Euro American) people to be “cool with bigotry.” So I wasn’t surprised that he had support or a sizable amount – but almost half of the nation?! And very few on the Right going to third party candidates or abstaining from voting? And then there was the immediate outcry that, “WE’RE NOT ALL RACIST!” that followed because a spectrum of negative reactions from those who had been threatened with violence by Trump and his supporters. This is a little more complex than I’m going to go into here, but Trump supporters are not justified in being defensive and screaming that words like “racist” hurt their feelings. They spend a great amount of time belittling anyone who is hurt by the things they say or endorse (which are a lot worse than simply saying something is “racist”). Then I had a ton of people (those I know, who I consider friends, who did not support Trump, but lean Right) saying, “You don’t know why they voted that way; they felt they had no choice,” and a bunch of other defense. Let’s just take all of this at their word, at face value. The guy still encouraged sexual assault and violence and that wasn’t a deal breaker for you. There’s reason to think (and I don’t have full confidence in the FBI or CIA in all fairness) that Trump may literally have help from Putin and that he will use the presidency for personal monetary gain (seriously) – and Trump supporters are willfully ignoring all that. I hear a lot of, “Why are you worried? Give him a chance.” HE TALKED ABOUT SEXUALLY ASSAULTING SOMEONE. I’m not sure that I can wrap my brain around how anyone could seriously not understand why that is worrying, and if they are just lying about not understanding, then I have even more to worry about. But I’m willing to just take them at their word on all of it. They just looked past all of the violence / hate speech and thought that he would somehow help low income Euro Americans (at the expense of none-Euro Americans, let’s be real here). That doesn’t change the fact that they voted in favor of someone who devalued our lives or rights and has encouraged violence against us (and it has increased these last few months). That’s a consequence not matter intent and you don’t get to be defensive and pretend that isn’t the case (facts, if not empathy). And this is before we get to the part where I honestly don’t believe that he will fulfill any of his promises (or that they would help low income Euro Americans if he did). I can maybe see someone just wanting to take him at his word and following along with the cult of personality out of desperation, fine, but I still don’t see how anyone could logically believe that. (Said without hate) And it annoys me to no end that anyone (but especially almost half of the nation) thinks that the key to their success is to take life, liberty, happiness, property (etc) from the other half of the nation that doesn’t look the same as them. We have the exact same economic problems as the Trump demographic (no offence meant by this term), but usually worse because of bigotry on top of economic downturn. All of the things that people like me have supported and pushed for would have helped all of us low income people. At no point did I go, “This won’t be for low income Euro Americans.” I very much want to make sure that no one, regardless of melanin, is dying of hunger somewhere in this country. My side (minorities, Liberals) may talk about some of the issues that specific groups are having because some specific groups are having some specific and messed up issues. There’s nothing wrong with being honest and wanting justice for EVERYONE. Just because I point out a specific problem doesn’t mean I don’t care about other problems too. (This who recent thing about how “problematic identity politics” is, is in my opinion an excuse to ignore some very serious problems that specific groups have. Just because we note and want to do something about a specific problem that a specific group has doesn’t mean that we don’t care about anyone else. It’s important not to ignore any problems. That’s a step back to pretending those problems don’t exist too – along with the other problems.)

    Anyways, as has been shown again and again in history, when low income people in this country come together, we are strong. But that requires Euro Americans (low income) to not think that their success means tearing down non-Euro Americans (low income or not). It means working together, which means recognizing both facts and basic human empathy. More info:

    Anyways, I am and I feel betrayed. I’m far from the only person who feels that way. This group of people voted against my life. My life mattered less. All of their defenders saying, “They thought this was the way to help their family…” yes, they decided to help their family by taking from mine and endangering my life instead of working with me and supporting things (accessible health care [a la Sanders and not Obama, in my personal opinion], affordable education, a serious focus on creating jobs [and not Hillary’s b.s. “jobs will trickle down from health care” and yes that’s something she argued at a private fundraiser, affordable housing, loan forgiveness, etc) that would have helped us all. All they had to do was also recognize that I was a person equal to them who also deserved such things. But regardless of intent, that’s not what happened.

    I spent a lot of time struggling with how they could be against things when a Liberal or minority endorses them, yet for when when a Conservative claims to endorse them. (And just some facts: most people on government assistance are Euro American, most drug addicts are rural Euro Americans, etc etc) And they depend on those same programs (like food stamps) themselves that they decry in others.

    I fought with this lack of logic and to really understand it for a long time. I finally realized that there isn’t something that I’m missing here. It’s that these things literally aren’t logical. What we’re seeing from the Right right now is actual hysteria. Liberals (like me) have this tendency to think, “Oh, they just don’t have the facts or they don’t realize that they aren’t being compassionate. If I just explain, I can change their minds.” And that’s not true. The Right is in a place emotionally and psychologically where they aren’t receptive to facts that contradict what they feel and believe and they can’t see the humanity of others. Basically, they are actually hysterical (for lack of a better term).

    I know someone out there is going to be tempted to scream that I’m being hateful or somehow mean here, but I’m really not. I say these things with no hate in my heart. I have been in such places. Places where I’m suffering so much that I could have facts in front of my face and still deny them “because everything is bad.” Places where no matter what, “Everyone hates me and is my enemy” and I just wanted to hurt them back. That’s the dark place that the Right is in right now. Seriously. And that’s not an insult coming from me. I’ve been there and have no right to judge it.

    Realizing that has really helped me, to be honest. I don’t sit here and just say, “How and why?” anymore. I understand that they are in a place of such suffering that those parts of themselves that are reasonable and empathetic aren’t in control. They are hurting me. They are hurting me a lot. But I have done the same thing. And in the past (and even now), my instinct has been to be more …judgmental?… than I should be. To not allow such people near me. And that’s kind of where I am right now.

    These people are seriously doing me a lot of harm and having them near is doing even more. I don’t want any forgiveness to be taken the wrong way (i.e. as some kind of acceptance of this state and behavior). I look back on times that I’ve “hell-banned” someone from my home for insulting my husband while in a fit like this. And then, this last week, I had a similar fit. I saw dislike where there was none and said some hurtful things. I felt that I could never fix those relationships. I’m still not completely sure that things can 100% be fixed. But for the most part, I have been granted forgiveness. I’m sure my immediate and deeply tearful contrition and an understanding of my mental state helped A LOT. (In other words, if I hadn’t have been sorry, I wouldn’t have been re-accepted again, I don’t think.) But that forgiveness made a world of difference for me. It snapped me right back out of the worst of the darkness. It allowed me a path back to a better state. So I look back at how I have cut off some people before (and I had good reasons and there’s a lot of cases where cutting someone off is the right choice – don’t get me wrong), but I wonder if I don’t need a lot more strength and tolerance here. I wonder if my entire (over) half of the nation does too.

    It’s true that we can’t engage in a conversation that will go anywhere with a hysterical person. Even Nagler (in his work on nonviolence) admits that he doesn’t really know how to apply nonviolence to a situation where the other side is not in a rational mental state. But I think that rather than slowly closing my heart on them and wanting them to just leave the nation (which is how I slowly started to feel), maybe let’s start with, “You are not being rational or empathetic. I understand that you’re suffering, but we can’t have a real conversation until you are in a place where you can change in the face of facts and engage in empathy. Come and talk to me when you are in that place. Until then, I’m not allowing you to broadcast falsehoods as if they were facts or encouragement for violence as if that’s ok. I’m closing that down until you are ready. Then feel free to come back and know that there will be love and willingness here at that time. In the meantime, if there’s something I can do to help you get to that point, let me know.”

    I think our answer is to stop listening to the Right (in this sense) and to stop allowing them to broadcast things that aren’t true to or to encourage violence while they are in this state. In the meantime, our door is always open once they can have a conversation and we will work on Constructive Program (the Gandhian idea of setting up your own structures when the opponents aren’t willing to work with you or change). Cell 411 as an alternative to police. DIY bullet resistant clothing. Etc.

    I know that I, for one, have had my anxieties more severely triggered by this election than I even realized. Whenever I encounter someone, I now wonder if they voted against my life (especially if they are kind of being a jerk at the time). I’ve actually been worried that a stranger knocking on my door, coming late into a movie theater, or coming to a public event that I’m running will end up being a domestic terrorist (mass shooter). I’ve actively had moments where I started to panic thinking that they were going to pull out a gun. It hasn’t happened and I know that my anxiety disorders play a part in this, but it’s not some completely crazy thing to think or feel anymore – and THAT is crazy. All of the similar African Americans in my life are having the same issues. There have actually been articles on the spike in mental health problems and relapses post election. There’s a cloud of anxiety that has settled on the nation, and while the most vulnerable are feeling it first and worst, it’s very real.

    I saw the interview with Glenn Beck and Samantha Bee. At one point, he says something like, “You’re catastrophizing. You really think Trump is the first step to dictatorship?” I really do. Or at least, I believe we are already more of an oligarchy than a democracy and this is another step in the wrong direction. I believe that the damage done by this election probably won’t be undone or even can’t be undone. I think the country is moving towards actually splitting up or even actual civil war. I think I will actually be targeted in the coming months. And dealing those kinds of anxieties on top of existing anxiety … it’s making me worse.

    Worse yet, I often feel like I can’t get others to listen or to believe; that I get criticized for trying (often badly, but simply trying) to talk about it. What is it going to take for people to realize that we are scared for our lives – legitimately – and that that is something that we need to address – all of us. And our “allies” (all the way up to Conservatives in the old sense and not the current sense) not being willing to really help us or to call bullshit and to spend so much energy defending Trump supporters and their guns and not any or enough on all of the people who are afraid of being targeted is a problem. It’s a large part of generating this atmosphere. No one will even really help us or listen to us right now. I’m on edge. And it’s starting to come out whether I want it to or not.

    So what do we do? Do we keep quiet? (Because no one is listening anyways and their minds can’t be changed at this exact moment in time – not yet?) And how do we with anxiety stay healthy. We can’t deal with any more than we already are. More medication isn’t going to help. We need some external safety.

  • #40392
    Jennifer Hawkins
    Jennifer Hawkins

    Continued (sorry, posting issues)

    If we believe in Buddhist principles and in nonviolence (ahimsa), then how do we reconcile that with now being in a situation where a gun (for example) might be a literal day to day necessity in order to deal with domestic terrorism? How do we address a harmful hate that is so deep and denied and defensive and illogical that it might literally target us for violence without resorting to such feelings and words and actions ourselves? It feels so much bigger than me and that the low road is the only road. I need ideas. My (over) half of America needs ideas. How do we adhere to our beliefs in the fact of hysterical and violent hate?

  • #40399
    Michael Finley
    Michael Finley

    You cover a lot of ground in your post — for now at least, I’ll just comment on a couple things that intersted me.

    One is the frequent refain you refer to from Trumper apologists — “they’re not all racists/sexists/bigots.” Like you, my immediate reaction is to reply “of course they are.” And after reflection, I still have to say “of course they are.” But I strugggle a bit tounderstand what this means. One thing I suspect is going on here is that people don’t easily change their minds, not even when confronted with facts or reminded of just what they are asserting. Buddhists as well as other students of human beaviour should understand this — there is too much emotional attachment. Many people who buy into Trumpism are probably primarily motived by their sense of having been abandoned by system — “the system is broken/isn’t working for me.” The way Trump presents this links it to racism & bigotry. They are part of the package, even if not the primary attracter. Having committed, believers won’t easily let go, even when confronted with the worst examples of Trump’s hype, things many of them wouldn’t swallow on a better day — and buy the often convoluted explanations of what Donald “really meant,” or supply their own rationalizations. What to make of this? On one hand, except for a minority of supporters, I don’t think bigotry was the major motivator, which I suppose is good news. But on the other hand, the apparent ease with which a majority of supporters seem to have embraced extreme Trump proposals (even if not always taking them literally), suggests that they, at the very least, harbour enough latent racism to make that possible, or regard racism as something less than a major problem (which is of course also a degree of racism.) That is depressing, I’m afraid.

    The other thing I wanted to comment on is the extent to which the latent or endemic racism in American society can be — has been — manipulated to distract and mislead a lot of Americans. Getting people to consistently vote against their interests, always requires an element of disception. And about how liberals and the left have inadvertently helped make this possible. But I’ll leave that for later —

    • #40400
      Jennifer Hawkins
      Jennifer Hawkins

      Thanks for responding. It’s helpful. And I agree about the Left. In many ways, the lack of Right Speech and even racism that I can see on the Left bothers me more than what I see on the Right. It may not be “right,” but I do expect better of those on the Left.

      I’m not sure exactly what video he critiqued or how, but I identify a lot with much of what he says. It’s not uncommon to encounter those on the Left who expect all African Americans to respond as a monolithic whole according to a script and see any legitimate critique as “being an Uncle Tom” (if you will). It really does bother me more than hate from the Right (historically).

      (Also for reference, Sky Williams is an openly homosexual gamer that releases videos about games and about more serious things like this. He does “want to be famous some day,” but he’s worth watching.)

  • #40440


    Thanks for this topic Jennifer. I felt the outcome of this election like a kick in the gut, but in all fairness I felt the same way about every other Republican president the US has elected. What that tells me is that a significant number of people are going to vote for their preferred party no matter who is running. All that aside though I wondered at why it hurt so much and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is because I so closely identify with my country. I like to criticize “my” country, but I feel just a little defensive when my Canadian cousins do so, even if I agree with the criticism. Now that we have a “leader” whose words at least are antithetical to my values, I realize this is going to be my life for some years. But at the same time I have to admit in my heart that a significant part of our citizenry has been through the same experience for the last eight years even though I cannot for the life of me understand why they’d feel that way about a reasonable, articulate, thoughtful, and intelligent person such as our President.

    But there are reasons nonetheless and there is a really good book on the subject by Jonathan Haidt called “The Righteous Mind”. When I read this book back in 2012 it seemed to set in motion a process which ended up with me here. I know it’s impossible to say that one thing caused another, but I found it so illuminating and disruptive to my old ways of thinking that I felt compelled to look deeper into the assumptions in my life. From there it was Alan Watts, a biography of “The Buddha” trips to the temple over in Carmel, NY where I picked up armfuls of books and so forth.

    Now I confess I did not read every word of your post, but one of the things that caught my eye was the issue of owning a gun. If you want an example of where this might be a necessity think of the Eastern Cape in South Africa, or the Bayou Country in Louisiana where the law is, for some, really a matter of what you can get away with. There is an implicit deterrence in the expectation that someone will shoot you if you transgress, and believe me, an openly non-violent Buddhist would not last long in either place without some sort of sponsorship by a local chief or community leader. That really begs the question of how far we take this commitment to Ahimsa. After all, expecting someone else to do the dirty deeds for us is no better than doing them ourselves. But there you have the very root of the problem. It does not take a lot of deliberation to get to the understanding that the basis of all evildoing is the idea and acceptance that harm can fall on another instead of oneself. If we look at any instance of genocide, there is a certain degree of complicity by people we consider “innocent” in that they do not resist cooperation with every fiber of their being. If someone points a gun at me and says “Get in that train car.” and I do, then he is able to complete his task with one less bullet. I know this is an extreme case, but in thinking this through one has to consider how we are compromised little by little into a state where we are simply regarded as harmless oddities. But I’m not going to claim any virtue for myself here, after all I pay taxes to a government which subsidizes the production and export of weapons of mass destruction. I burn oil bought with untold gallons of blood to heat my home. I have when others do not. So I guess in the grand scheme of things the “sin” of voting for Trump is really sort of an arbitrary judgement. I like people and am generally more interested in their ways than I am afraid of them, but I also recognize that civil order is based on shared norms of behavior. This country has experienced cycles of immigration and backlash against immigration. In their time the Irish, the Polish, the Italians, the Catholics, and on and on have experienced prejudice. There was real fear in the South during reconstruction that there would be a general insurrection in which the freed slaves would enact widespread vengeance on their former oppressors. This was in fact a hoped-for outcome in parts of the Abolitionist community. Horrible to consider and I guess I can say I’m thankful it didn’t happen, though the KKK took root in this environment of fear. Considering the alternatives, it could have been a lot worse.

    I guess in summation I’d like to say that I regard humans as an interesting and rather comical species, especially how we imagine that we are not animals subject to all the silliness that we so astutely observe in all the non-human species. 😉

  • #40449
    Jennifer Hawkins
    Jennifer Hawkins

    Thanks for responding jscottanderson

    Personally, I have disliked election results, but never felt endangered by them until election. And you are maybe the second or third person to say that people just voted for the party. But I’m not sure I believe that this is generally the case. I mean, sure, some probably did. Just like some went, “Yeah! Bigotry!” But my personal experience (I live in a red state) indicates that it was more about supporting Trump’s promises and ignoring that they would come at the cost of my life and safety. I could be wrong, but I’m just not convinced that I am.

    I would disagree that Conservatives felt under Obama as I feel under Trump. I genuinely fear for my safety. Conservatives may have hated Obama, hated taxes (due to ACA), or might have actually felt they could lose their guns at the beginning of his presidency (which I’ll be honest – I don’t think that has ever been a real threat to LAW ABIDING citizens, ever). But they never had to worry about their families LIKELY being targets of terrorism (members of my family have been targeted twice already), they never had to worry that an Obama supporter would just shoot them in the back with no warning, they never had to worry about us changing the Constitution (yes, there is currently a call for another Constitutional Convention).

    As for guns, I’m originally from Miami. I’ve walked around carrying a weapon before. I’m not necessarily against standard gun ownership (self protection, hunting, sports). I was more trying to express things shifting from, “Generally people are safe enough,” to, “Full-on war zone.” I don’t want to be in a war zone. Also, as someone with dark skin, owning a gun doesn’t work for me the same way that it does for a lighter-skinned person. African Americans get shot when they are unarmed or when they have a permit and tell the officer as much while slowly reaching for the gun (Philando Castille). Carrying a gun is more likely to put an extra target on my back – it’s an excuse for someone to kill me and claim that I was in a “power stance” or something. And that complicates matters. I don’t have the same ability to protect myself with a gun that a White person would have, basically. So all of these roving bands of guys in camo with semi autos and suspicious views on brown people gives me extra cause for concern. It’s a rock and a hard place. Do I carry a gun to protect myself from Trump supporters? But that will only make it more likely for them to target me. And that’s before we get to ahimsa at all.

    I’m not quite ready to respond to the rest. I need a bit more time. But you do have good points. Thank you

  • #40567
    Jennifer Hawkins
    Jennifer Hawkins

    It’s been a little bit, but I’m back. I just wanted to share some more positive thoughts. First, I attended a “Resiliency and Mindful Advocacy Workshop” and made a few notes:

    Update: link to recording of the webinar:

    *You are safe right now.
    *There’s no one to blame – it’s just the situation.
    *Like search and rescue, don’t think about how optimistic / pessimistic
    or how likely success is – they just get to work
    *Don’t stay silent

    *A commitment to nonviolence means you have to be willing to risk death
    or injury for ourselves and maybe others
    *You don’t have to be complicit in your own oppression. Where is the line? (Nonviolence Handbook by Nagler)

    *Psych article on how to deal with “difficult people”:

    *The Right needs to know that one action doesn’t define them as people.
    However, they need to acknowledge that this one action is not acceptable.
    They have to own it and acknowledge the harm. (?) And then they have to
    commit to accepting facts and engaging in empathy in order for the nation
    to move forward as one. We cannot interact until then.

    I found that topics brought up lead me to some inspiration that was helpful. Mainly that we’re ok at this moment and that we can just work even if it’s “hopeless.”

    Here’s some other links that might be helpful:

    Safety, Sanctuary, Refuge: Session 1 of Refuge & Resistance

    2017: the year we become ungovernable

    Buddhists Take a Stand: The March on Washington and Beyond

    Then these two (the Lokavipatti Sutta and a sort of discussion of it by Gil Fronsdal) lead to a kind of revelation:

    I had been thinking… I’ve already been through so much and struggle with so much to this day. I can’t handle this (more – just more). I have a hard enough time with regular relationships – how much more so in the era of Trump when one has to wonder who voted for him (ultimately doesn’t value you or your safety), plus all of the things that stress and fear can lead us to. But then I remembered that this, too, is just a worldly wind. The past is just that. It no longer exists. There is only this moment. So let go of the thoughts of everything suffered before now. (In some ways, it becomes less important over time.) The sufferings of the current moment, as great as they are, are also temporary in the great scheme of things. Sure, I was a child of the brief time when African Americans have been free and could have genuine thoughts and hopes of equality and opportunity. Sure, I cannot go back to things as they were for my ancestors. Sure, I may now have to be just as worried about bigotry as they were and may even have to emigrate. However, in the GRAND SCHEME, this too will end. This era will end. Things in the world, in general, will eventually change. If the world could get better after WWII, it can after this. Even if the US collapses under the weight of Kamma and bigotry, what does that really mean in the Grand Scheme? Let go of the attachment to the idea that you live in this relatively free, safe, and stable country. Let go of attachment to it. It’s ok to accept the state and ending of what we all thought America was and would be for our lifetimes. It’s ok to leave. The world (in general) will not end and things can get better. Just do what you can in this moment. Don’t add the current suffering to some stack of all of the sufferings in your life. It’s wind. The past winds have already gone and the current wind is alone – it will pass too. The challenge for me (and others), then, is to find our center – a way to feel confident and to stand in the middle of this storm. Right now, we don’t feel that strength.

  • #40568
    Jennifer Hawkins
    Jennifer Hawkins

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.