“Today, after the 2016 elections in the U.S., we are living out the example of what happens when what goes unacknowledged surfaces and it feels like a new reality but you know in your heart it is not. To suffer based on expectations is to live haunted and hunted. But we are fortunate. There could be no other answer to our meditation and prayers in dissolving hatred than to be placed front and center with it and be exposed. When a shift in a system has occurred, especially one that causes fear and discomfort, it allows for something strikingly different to appear, furthering our evolution as people. We can only know where we are going when we get there…
Our rage, pain, and anger are to be exposed if only for us to transform and mature with it. In Buddhist practice we say congratulations because now is the time we have been practicing for. No more just practicing the dance. We must now dance. And this is not a dress rehearsal.”
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
My sister Nadia is 18 years old and in her last year of high school. She lives in Florida with my parents, where we grew up in our family home on a tree-lined street in our sunny Tampa suburb. On November 8th, my sister sent me several photos of herself beaming in front of their local polling station. She had exercised her right to vote for the first time in her young life.
Nadia is the first one in our family to have been born in the U.S. The rest of us are naturalized citizens. My parents are first generation Indian immigrants, and I consider myself something in between first and second generation— generation 1.5, if you will.
There are a few things I know about my sister— like the fact that she took an entire extra year and half before applying for a learner’s driving permit, and that she isn’t all that concerned about grades or college. She’s respectful and kind. She’s a musician. She keeps a photo of a child from Syria in her bedroom. She sends me handmade postcards. What I admire in her the most is that she knows her priorities— she’s got laser beam targets on the things that matter to her, sees through bullshit like a boss, and she holds herself with the sort of confidence that make the rest of us wonder its source.
On November 8th just a few short weeks after turning 18, she had the opportunity to exercise her rights as a citizen in a presidential election– one for the history books no less! This ballot even carried the name of the first woman running for president as a major party candidate (hat tip to Shirley Chisholm).
It was a clear choice for Nadia when she showed up at the polling station. She had spent the past eight years of her life in a liberal echo chamber. Since age 10, President Obama had been in office— and despite growing up observing the consequences of bigotry and fear across the world, Nadia had mostly known the effects of what appeared to her to be a system that was mending itself. Reforms in the right direction, inclusiveness, a political discourse that was starting to make sense— a kerfuffle here and there, but positive movements overall, right?
So when I received a message from my mom the day following the election on November 9th, that Nadia was in tears and had come home early from school— I can’t say I was entirely surprised.
Let the present state of the nation not be a surprise to any of us.
I am grateful to be a citizen of a country where I do trust the political process. The election was free and fair. Despite 43% of the American population not voting— those who did cast their ballots have made a clear choice. That is what I told Nadia. That what we are seeing today is the honest-to-God truth. I would not have it any other way.
Nadia, as real as your experience in life has been, half of this country has had the opposite experience— and their’s is every bit as legitimate as yours. I urge you to ask questions, and not make assumptions. They too have perspectives and stories that deserve to be heard. May you exercise your capacity to listen without judgement, just as you exercised your right to vote earlier this week.
Nadia, I know those tears are a result of the hateful and ignorant words and actions of our nation’s President-elect. Again, I would not have it any other way. You will see as you get older, fear is the second most powerful force in the world. And out of fear, people will act with hate, with ignorance. There is a great deal of hate. Better it comes out in the open than be covered up where it can fester and spread deeper. There is no ignoring the wound when it is in plain sight.
Nadia, you will find as you grow in self-awareness that there is also a great deal of fear within yourself. That the divide outside is nothing but a reflection of the inside. May that realization, whenever it comes, inspire even more understanding and patience.
Nadia, know this— there is at least one person in the world whom you have moved with your love.