This is probably the only time I’ll write about the 2016 election.
I’ve been watching with exasperation as I read article after article and watch video after video of the (expletive) show that is the political campaign. It’s frustrating to see a Presidential candidate so freely employ emotional abuse tactics and know that so many others in this country cheer him on when he does so. Trump lies, scapegoats, lacks compassion, makes light of the sacrifices made by military veterans and their families, and flings insults with abandon.
If I didn’t know exactly what he was doing, I might be so afraid, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. As it is, though, I recognize the strategy Donald Trump employs because Donald Trump is a lot like my dad.
I write that with great sadness. I write it with the painfully sharp memories of my own abusive relationship with my dad that ended years ago.
My dad was selfish and inconsiderate, at his best; an immature and scared little boy who felt powerless in the world, he regularly made threats, broke promises, and neglected the needs of his family. I don’t know if he ever had empathy for us or ever considered how his behavior would affect us. He spoke over us and told us, “You have no opinion” when we had the rare family discussion. He was constantly trying to prove he had power with rage-filled posturing and intimidation. Once, we even had a someone over to our house and he told her, “I think it’s important to listen to kids.” I remember thinking–even at less than ten years old–”what a liar, no he doesn’t.”
As a child, I couldn’t wait to have a house of my own, to have the freedom to not worry about having insults or screams thrown at me over the slightest little misstep. I dreamed of the day when I wouldn’t have to walk on eggshells in my own household, the day when I would feel safe and at peace in my home. Even as a child, I knew something was not right. I knew this was not what life should be like. I knew I wanted better than this.
As I watch Donald Trump in video and read his words in articles, I can clearly see he is another scared little boy, trying to prove his worth with abusive tactics. As I watch him do to this country what my father did to me, I can’t help but feel frustrated, enraged, and depressed. Millions of people place their trust in our society’s leaders. Millions of people look to their leaders to provide an example of acceptable behavior, to provide guidance, and to set the standard for the structure of our society.
Were it not for the fact that I’ve been absorbing information about systemic oppression and recognizing it in the legal system, in social circles, and essentially everywhere I look, I might feel hopeless about where this country is headed. Rather, I feel hopeful we can turn this boat around and head to a more peaceful place than where we are now.
In 2011, I took a 40-Hour Domestic Violence Advocacy Training through the YWCA of Greater Portland, thinking that I’d be learning how to help others who’d been raped and dismissed by the legal system, as I was, and who needed to pick up the pieces of their lives. I didn’t know then that I’d also confront the ways my own experience in my household growing up wasn’t just “unlucky” and “stressful,” but “abusive.” It wasn’t until I took that training that I started to see how I had been indoctrinated to believe I was helpless, powerless, and had no hope of living a joyful life of my own design. Rather than being able to stand in my own power, I had given it all up, because I believed I had none.
I was asleep to how fiercely I bought in to the ideas I’d been spoon-fed since childhood about money, class, power, race, and gender. In that training, I began some of the most healing work I’ve ever done in my life. I began to unravel the binds around me that I wasn’t even aware were there until I heard the words “systemic oppression.”
In the same way that I was blind to my oppression, I believe a lot of us are asleep to the insidious, pervasive lie that we are powerless in our society. We’ve been conditioned to believe we are powerless, and make no mistake, it’s been on purpose. It has been in service to corporations being able to continue amassing power and money at a tremendous pace, doing so on the backs of the common people who’ve been divided by the distractions the media feeds us.
If Donald Trump teaches us one thing during this presidential election, it has to be that we must leave our oppressive systems behind and start anew. We have to know that we are powerful beyond measure; we need to wake up from the spell of the perpetual slumber we’ve been in, as a collective. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we uncover what has been buried away from us—the power we have to make a difference in the world.
We have to push ourselves to evolve beyond the limitations of what we’ve been taught to believe.
Now, more than ever, it is time to wake up. It is time we open our eyes, and start taking back the power that has been hidden from us for so long.
People created the toxic environment that permeates our society, and people can stop it. I truly believe we have what it takes to create something different in its place, once more and more of us are able to remove the blinders that have been placed on us from the time we were small.
We can find our way to a healthier model. I know it.
Are you with me?