It’s so easy to want reality to be different than it is. We know that’s the case when we find ourselves silently saying “If only...” For me, when this struggle is personal — heartbreak, death of a loved one, withering of a friendship — acceptance eventually becomes the only way through. But what if it is our national and political reality we’d want to be different? David Brooks, an opinion writer for the New York Times, started his Aug. 1 column with, “If only … If only Donald Trump were not president…” And I paused. Sure, many of us continue to be charged up by that sentiment because, regardless of ideological differences, we are disgusted by Trump’s immaturity. But wanting our political reality to be different is actually only keeping us stuck. To free ourselves and to transform our nation, we must actually feel grateful Trump is president. Huh? Grateful Trump is president? How can I say that when that is the last thing I’d want?
Well, a few weeks ago my neighbor casually suggested I write about gratitude. So I revisited what it takes to “practice” gratitude. I lingered in summer’s pleasures — the warmth, long days and nature’s abundance. When I met friends and neighbors, I lingered in all our goodness and mutual appreciation. And, sure enough, I felt much more content with reality. That is, until once again, I glimpsed Trump’s childish behavior and failure to lead. It was Brook’s Aug. 1 opinion piece, “Marianne Williamson Knows How to Beat Trump,” however, when I realized how gratitude was our way out of our nation’s nightmare. In his column, Brooks had both hit the mark on what it takes to ignite social change, but because he’d fallen into the same old political-victim mindset, he’d also fallen short.
In his piece, Brooks looks at what will take to stop a Trump re-election. He turns to Democratic candidate Williamson who says it will not be “an insider political game.” The only thing that will defeat him is “a phenomenon of equal force, and that phenomenon is if we have a moral uprising of the American people.” Brooks then accurately lists those morals: Unity — we are one people. Honesty — we can’t have a deliberative democracy without respect for the truth. Pluralism — human differences make life richer and more interesting. Sympathy — we want to be around people with good hearts, who feel for those who are suffering, who are faithful friends, whose daily lives are marked by kindness. Opportunity — we want all people to have an open field and a fair chance.
This is so true and empowering. But when Brooks says it falls upon the Democrats to spark this uprising, I disagree. He says that Democrats have not risen to the “largeness of this moment.” He states that “it falls on the Democrats to rebuild the moral infrastructure of our country… It means reminding Americans of the values we still share, and the damage done when people are not held accountable for trampling on them.”
The problem is this sentiment takes us back into “victim” politics where Democrats are victims to Republicans, and vice versa. Rising to the “largeness of the moment” has nothing to do with whether you are a Democrat or Republican, it has to do with the moral fabric of our entire nation. A moral uprising must fall on everyone’s shoulders. And this is where gratitude steps in. For when we are grateful, we cannot also be victims. And when we are not victims, we accept responsibility for the situation and change it.
It’s interesting to actually practice being grateful for what you don’t like, whether it be a distant spouse, insensitive friend, or a president that disgusts you. You’ll find it is impossible to feel both victimized and grateful. To be fully grateful is to welcome it all — the goodness along with the betrayal, violation and horror. Thus, it is gratitude which allows us to accept the full spectrum of reality. And with regards to our political reality, it is gratitude which allows us to feel for and stand upon the moral fabric that unites us all.
So, can I really be grateful Trump is president? Sure, because now I wholeheartedly belong to the uprising.
Kathy Walters is the mother of a teenage boy. She works for Kirkwood Mountain Realty and lives in Gardnerville.