Way back in 2015, when there was still a slew of Republican candidates slinging mud at each other for the GOP nomination, my good friend looked me in the eye and guaranteed that Donald Trump would win it. He even bet me a fancy dinner over it. You’re on, I told him. With those odds who wouldn’t take that bet? Besides, it’s Donald Trump. Every bully has his day of reckoning. It’s only a matter of time before the world wakes up.
Fast forward a year and a half later and I’m wide awake. It’s 6:30 AM and the shockwaves are rippling. The headlines are flashing. The speeches are being made, people are talking and now everyone is listening. This is happening. I’m pinching myself to make sure it’s real. But it’s more than real, it’s surreal. Hate was given hope. Fear was given fuel. There are suddenly a lot more people willing to start saying ‘Eh’ and playing hockey. (Please don’t move to Canada, Fox family. It’s too cold!)
The days in your life that feel “surreal” like this one are worth your attention. They’re worth reflecting upon and thinking through. If you think about it, they’re an existential pause button, an opportunity to look both upward and inward.
For me these days a true test of faith. As much as I try logically, I still can’t make sense of the situation. I’m uncertain how things will turn out. I have no idea what the future holds. What comforts me personally is trusting that there’s a greater plan in motion, that Someone is pulling the strings. As a teacher of mine once brilliantly put it: wisdom is believing that there are causes greater than ourselves and our own comprehension.
But that belief doesn’t absolve us from getting out of bed and pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps. It still doesn’t exempt us from taking action, being proactive rather than reactive. The challenge of affecting positive change in uncertain times is not just in initiating, but in sustaining the changes we seek to bring about.
Think of the time before Yom Kippur when we ask our friends and loved ones for forgiveness. Shouldn’t we always be cognizant of how our actions affect those around us? Now especially we’re hearing about the need to respect others, to be sensitive to others regardless of race, creed, gender, or background. “We need to bond together. We need to battle injustice. We need to get involved.” Aren’t these things we should be doing anyway?
At the end of the day we’re still human. We can’t always be on. We need reminders. We need wake up calls. We need a pause button. Sometimes we can only reframe our thinking when our thinking is reframed for us. In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to wait for upheavals to start revolutions. But failing is essential to getting it right. Pain and discomfort are necessary components of growth. Unity requires fracture.
At this moment it’s easy to get inspired by positive rhetoric urging us to unify as a fractured nation. If you listened to his acceptance speech, you may have noticed that the very sweeping words Donald Trump said are being echoed by the very people (like me) distraught by this situation: “We have to get together…it is time for us to come together as one united people.”
But what does unity mean? Unity does not mean being the same. It does not mean revamping yourself to fit the perceptions or expectations of others. True unity is recognizing and embracing disparity. Simon Jacobson calls unity ‘the harmony within diversity.’ It’s being part of the greater whole while making the contributions only we can make as individuals.’ Unity is when all the different notes in the orchestra work together to create something beautiful. Before we can unify we need to comprehend what unity really means. Sometimes we need a wakeup call like this one to do that. Sometimes we need a pause button.
My heart isn’t at ease (thank G-d for memes) but I can rest assured knowing that I’m not alone. This may seem like a sickness we’re going to have to treat for four years. But maybe this is just what the Doctor ordered.