Saturday, November 12, 2016

Swastikas, Blame, Community Building

Last night I attended a gathering of shamans, and even though shamans are not so numerous in the United States their reaction may represent that of much of the country. The election was regarded as so horrible that people could not refer to it directly. We all agreed that we had to do something to build connection and strengthen community even though there was no obvious course of action that anyone could mention. The biggest topic mentioned was the swastikas. They have been popping up since election night — spray-painted on buildings and streets, stuffed into mailboxes, taped to cars and other things, sometimes accompanied by an approximation of evangelical Christian talking points. There is no question what the swastikas are supposed to mean: that someone intends that whole classes of people will be removed from the community. From where we stand, it seems that that is what 45 percent of our fellow citizens voted for. That thought, of course, hurts. Trump as a candidate had no platform in the normal sense but had a long list of people to blame and spoke of little else. People who voted for Trump, then, must have voted for blame. There is other evidence of this, such as the people who, since the election, are mysteriously distant and angry at everyone and everything. They seem to have bought into Trump’s exhortation to find someone to blame. Blame, of course, is not a solution, but it is a problem. How do you reach people who are wrapped up in blame, and who see you (along with almost everyone in town) as someone to blame? The short-term answer, I am afraid, is that you cannot. Besides the practical difficulties, there is an ethical issue of free will involved. When people have chosen blame, who are we to unchoose it for them? In our community-building efforts, we have to start with the people we can reach. How to build a stable cohesive community again is a puzzle, but I think it is perhaps like a sudoku puzzle, in which each connection you can find is a success to be celebrated — it simplifies the problem that remains by an order of magnitude.