And so this morning, the world has woken up to what the vast majority of the British (and I dare say world) public feel is a tragic, shocking, deeply disturbing result: Donald Trump becoming President of the United States of America.
It’s like Brexit all over again, but on a global scale. Even the weather has chimed in – it poured with rain last night just as it did the night of the Brexit vote in a season of unusually dry weather.
A huge majority of the American population have voted for isolationism, jingoism, fear-mongering, and a general battening down the hatches, like 51% of Brits in the EU referendum. They’ve voted for believing the rhetoric of untrustworthy men (and women) in a bitter campaign, like the referendum. And they’ve voted against the political establishment, sort of like Brexit, though Boris Johnson could hardly be called anything but establishment. Farage railed against it for him. I’m all for a bit of anti-establishmentarianism; if Trump been a man of integrity, strong character and stability, I might have had optimism. But we all know that these are not words applied to this mega-rich, self serving businessman.
So, if we’ve been here before, if in a smaller, less consequential way, what can we learn about how to respond?
1. Don’t panic
The words from Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem ‘If’ kept echoing round my mind this morning:
“If you can keep your head when all around are losing theirs and blaming it on you….”
It’s one thing to feel deep sadness, frustration and anger even, but panic is another. Listening to the media can easily feed that fear and panic – that’s their job, it’s what keeps sales up. But if one thing is certain, nothing is. I heard from an adviser to Trump that he’s all for coming out with crazy headline policies on the hoof when he’s on stage. It doesn’t mean he’ll go through with those in the cold light of day. For once, I’m glad that election promises are often unfulfilled. Time will tell. In the meantime, we need to be watching and praying for who he appoints as his advisers.
2. Remain respectful
If respecting others and their opinions is something that we expect in our politicians, then we have to practice it ourselves amongst our friends and colleagues, on and off social media. It’s the only way forward for civilised society even when we’re deeply disappointed or worried. I thought it rather fitting that the ‘mindfulness moment’ for today that popped onto my smart phone was this:
“Only when we allow others to be who they are, rather than what we want them to be, will we have peaceful relationships“
This doesn’t mean we don’t disagree, feel deeply disappointed, angry, or take action to campaign or speak our mind, but it should inform how we express our concern, how we debate and deliberate. Lord knows, this ain’t easy when things are seemingly going belly up, when everything in you wants to run around screaming. But this particularly important in a world where we now express so much on social media – a platform that easily lends itself to soundbites, anger and offence if used thoughtlessly. The Civil Rights campaigners in 1960s America taught us much about respectful resistance and campaigning, to name one of many movements. If they can do it, we can too.
3. Don’t put fear into your children
Again, I’m finding myself in a position where I have to be mindful of the words I’m speaking around the children. Children today are all hearing words of despair, woe and deep negativity from their parents. If you’ve done that, and I’m sure we all have, it might be a good idea to sit down and talk to them about how they feel and explain that nothing is going to change or happen just yet, or even at all. We don’t actually know what Trump will do (yes, I know that’s exactly the reason we as adults are so uneasy, but we need to stick with current realities for our kids). The kids First News newspaper is excellent at explaining tough issues – I’d recommend subscribing to it if you have children aged 9 or above. And of course there’s the BBC’s newsround.
4. Hold onto perspective:
As someone who has a faith, I believe in something greater and bigger than all this, the Alpha and the Omega, who is able to work with any and all eventualities, no matter how hideous. Countless people of faith, and none, down the centuries have lived under despicable regimes but who God has worked, through and in, to bring about good. Those stories don’t get told in the papers, they’re not newsworthy, but they’re there. As I told my daughter this morning, having faith means holding onto the bigger picture, trusting in the ultimate good whilst fighting for contemporary justice. Let’s do that. If you’re a person of prayer, now’s a good time to pray. If you’re a person who practises meditation, nows a good time to meditate.