There is no need for me to repeat President Trump’s boasting, posturing, alarming, lying, and dividing campaign, his erratic and sometimes frightening disruptions now a daily occurrence 87 days before the election.
Mr. Trump has become a fast-moving storm, a kind of cultural tornado that just keeps going in circles. This has worked for him before, in fact his whole life, it is not working for him now, and he is too damaged to understand it.
He will blow out a lot of windows, and do a lot of damage before he moves away or be blown away by strong winds he has called into being.
His inner gyroscope has broken, exploded really, into many pieces. He can’t win, and he can’t lose. Chaos is the goal, while his country bleeds.
Remember, it is so much better to fear and suffer Trump than to be Trump or even to support him. Think of the toll of that.
I don’t think the question any longer is whether or not he will prevail; the more urgent problem is how can his deep and growing list of challengers and opponents and victims can survive the election in a healthy and grounded way.
I can only share my own experience. I am no pollyanna or wishful thinker; I know where I am, and I see what is happening.
I have written before that pain is inevitable in our world, but suffering is a choice. Being afraid doesn’t accomplish much, being angry and arguing with strangers accomplishes even less. That is not a calling, it is the worst kind of work.
If you believe in change, you have to do something, not just say something.
How has fear and argument worked for you?
After Donald Trump was elected President, I was shocked as many people were. His election told me that if so many millions of people could vote for someone like him, our country was sick.
For the first time, I felt out of touch, disconnected from my own country. I feel that way still. I want to be part of the process that brings my country back.
Donald Trump is not the source of all of our pain; he is the symptom. I needed to respond in a way that was healthy for me, and perhaps beneficial to people who are needy and vulnerable.
Oddly for a Jew turned Quaker, I chose to follow Jesus Christ’s example – practice love and empathy. In so doing, I came to admire him much, even as our current Christian leaders and political patrons post photos of themselves on yachts with their pants pulled down and liquor in their hands.
Jesus never looked better, poor man. I hope he isn’t watching.
For years, our government has served the rich and the few, it has abandoned its mission to make lives better for all of us. We have confused a booming stock market for prosperity, vast riches for the few justice.
We are reaping what we have sown.
Most of us have not had to work for their freedom in our country for a long time; we just took it for granted.
I woke up in a hurry in 2016, but years of therapy helped me to see the dangers for me and the misery. I suffered from extreme anxiety for most of my life.
I resolved to respond positively. I decided to make things better by being better. I was joined by hundreds, even thousands of good people who feel the same way.
And we have done more good than I could recount in any single blog post.
I saw and still see Mr. Trump as an inspiration for awakening, for doing good, for working towards a kinder and gentler America.
I realized that the country my grandparents fled to so gratefully had become cruel, selfish, lazy, and greedy. We are no longer the best country in the world to live in. We have taught our own needy to hate their government and turn their rage against themselves and their own families.
It didn’t escape my notice that Donald Trump mirrored each one of those traits – cruelty, selfishness, self-pity, greed, and laziness. He lobbied openly for these and made them an ideology called Trumpism, and he fights still and in every way for us to stay that way.
It occurred to me that the proper response to this was not to argue but do good, making my politics my life.
I helped launch the Army of Good, and since that time, we have done good every single day since the Presidential Election of 2016, and me and hundreds of good people are doing good every day now.
Speaking for me, I chose this path instead of succumbing to obsession, hatred, fear, and self-interest. As we come down to this pivotal moment in the life of our country, I decided to change course a bit and write in what I hope is a helpful way about what is happening.
I also don’t care to be a wuss. Whining turns my stomach. In the past years, I’ve come to meet, know and love hundreds of refugee children who have suffered every horror the world has to offer – genocide, rape, murder, civil war, indifference, starvation, and cruelty.
I have never heard one of these children complain as loudly or as often as Americans do on the left and the right every single day, on social media, in public gathers, in their exchanges with friends and family.
I don’t want to be that way. It takes almost everyone to make a big mess like this one, but it’s hard to find anyone who takes responsibility for it amid all the finger-pointing and brainwashing. The right has the left, and the left has the right. There are lots of Trumps out there happy to hate and pass out blame.
I am surprised to see what we have, in many ways, become a weak-minded people following whichever herd they follow.
First, I decided in 2016 not to argue my politics with anyone, especially strangers in my town or people online. I do not have to agree to be labeled by others, or stereotyped by others or insulted by anyone. People are free to disagree with me as often and enthusiastically as they wish, and many people do every day.
They are not free to come into my blog – an extension of my home – and be rude to me or cruel to others. They can start their blogs if they don’t like mine, and say what they wish like I do.
Until they come and haul me out of here, that is my stand and the point of my life.
I consider this part of the new emerging Compassionate Nation, a soft revolution, a social movement of compassion and empathy. That is my politics; I don’t care who is President as long as they are truthful, caring, and empathetic.
We are a gentle and kind nation underneath it all. I’ve seen it every day for years now. I ‘ve never once asked for the resources to help people in need – the refugees and the elderly in assisted care – when it didn’t come.
The pandemic has shown me and many others the cost of my laziness, indifference, and narcissism. It’s so easy to blame everyone but ourselves.
I forgot about my country, which gave my family and me nothing less than life and freedom. In this sense, I have awakened.
This struggle can be won if it becomes a struggle of good and love versus callousness and greed.
It will not be won by argument and posts on Twitter and Facebook.
I will not try to or succeed in talking his wounded and fervent followers into seeing to the reality of him – they will come to see it themselves as one broken promise and lie after another will rain down on them like hail.
There is no joy in that for anyone. We all live in our truth and believe in it.
They should see it for themselves.
I will not give into hating anyone; it is not who I want to be or how I wish to live. There are many glorious victories over cruelty and tyranny that have been won in that way.
Donald Trump is just as damaged and shattered as the people I’ve been trying to help, and working to see him in that way is an extraordinary spiritual experience for me, sometimes possible, sometimes not.
When I wake up in the morning, I ask myself what good I can do today, and there is so much need and suffering in our country – I have no right to feel superior to any other country right now – and I set out to do it.
I wanted to share last week’s great acts of small kindness, as I call them.
This morning, I arranged for a Vermont artist to teach the refugees at Bishop Maginn High School collage when they return to school in September. This will cost pennies, and the Army Of Goodwill pays for the virtual lessons and the supplies.
Yesterday, while on my birthday vacation, I ordered a pair of sneakers for a refugee teenager whose shoes came apart and had been wearing sandals in Albany. It took seconds.
Thursday, I brought two supermarket gift cards to Sue Silverstein, a teacher in Albany who the refugee families come to when they need help. Two families are suffering from food insecurity as a result of the pandemic. We have been helping them eat well for several months now.
Wednesday, I brought skateboarding safety equipment for the son of a Mansion health care aide; they are woefully underpaid for the work they do. She is a single mother of two young children and was worried sick about her son’s safety.
We are also helping her with food gift cards.
Monday, we purchased two laptops so that two refugee children can share in the virtual elements of their school work, not a part of every day teaching in a world with no direct contact.
Tuesday, I arranged to cater a nutritious and delicious lunch for the residents of the Mansion, a Medicaid assisted care facility. That evening, I had pizza sent to the aides on the night shift.
The Mansion has been in lockdown since March. We bought a $3,000 disinfectant fogger to help keep the Mansion safe, and no one in the Mansion has gotten sick a small miracle.
Monday, I went to a consignment shop to buy clothes for a newly admitted Mansion resident who came with only the clothes on her back. We bought socks, pants, underwear, shoes, and a sweater. It cost $65.
A week ago Sunday we launched a successful Amazon Wist for Bishop Maginn High School, the school – which has never turned a poor or refugee child away for lack of tuition- needed $900 in safety equipment so that they could open legally in September and keep the students and teachers safe.
I got the money in a few hours.
The school has everything they need to open up. Also Sunday, I gave $400 gift cards to a farmworker who is struggling to feed herself and her brother, who work hard and in the hot sun six days a week. I don’t discuss her immigration status, for her protection, and I suppose, for mine.
She came by one day because she heard I sometimes help people. We agreed on a secret location where I can leave some food cards every week or so.
We have never met or spoken beyond our first brief and halting conversation, but the cards are always gone, and one day last week, there was an unsigned “thank you” card.
This work is the most selfish work I have ever undertaken; I feel good every time I do good. This work has kept me grounded and positive for four years now; it truly works.
I don’t tell other people what to do, smart people don’t need advice, and fools won’t take it. Doing something is critical to me.
The need in our country is deep and getting deeper, and our government does not believe in helping the poor and the needy, they blame them for being weak and are hoping to drive them away.
My dog Zinnia and I do therapy work in both places – the Mansion and Bishop Maginn – Zinnia makes people smile everywhere she goes. If she lived in the White House, our world would be different.
I always surprise myself when I say this, but I like the Jesus route. I wish I could accept him as the son of God, but admiring him will have to do.
And oh yes, I am rarely anxious anymore.
I will never soil myself or my work by posing on a yacht with a beautiful young woman with my pants and hers down.
Through all this, my life is full of meaning, love, and hope. My new motto is, “Do Something.” There is always something to do.
I would never consider being photographed in that way with my pants down – or being in that way publicly. I would see it as immoral, a betrayal, not only of my wife but of the good and trusting people who have supported my work and permitted me to feel so needed and valuable.
I’ll leave that to the Christian leaders and supporters of Donald Trump.
Our humanity is defined by our empathy and compassion for those in need, not by our arguing on Facebook or denigrating other people. Or taking our pants off on a yacht and posing.
It is possible to rise about all that poison, I know, I have done it almost every day for four years.
“Little Girl” Collage by Emily Gold