Donald Trump Is My Greatest Spiritual Teacher. And Yup: He’s Killing It.
Pretty much, I’m not a joiner, a fangirl (or woman), or cult prone. After having a childhood strangled by a traumatized tyrant, I became allergic to any institutional or religious power bases that taught “the way,” “the answers,” (as if the list is limited to 10 or fewer), or the submissive posture of “Fall in line.” Of the 11-year stretch of tyrannical influence, including telling me what length my hair should be, how light my blush needed to be, as well as what ideas or feelings were acceptable (spoiler alert: none but his), plus abuse and death threats, I learned to cut a wide swath around anything that required submitting to a person, group, or ideology.
That said, coping in survival mode did amass a boatload of angst, depression, and other symptoms of complex PTSD that begged for relief. As such, for the last 30+ years I have read, listened to, and explored practices from the Buddhist and Yogic traditions that teach loving-kindness and compassion, calming and soothing meditative and mindfulness skills, deep presence, and self-awareness, while eschewing labels or membership. Spiritual teachers have included: Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodrun, Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabat Zinn, Sally Kempton, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, Oren Jay Sofer, Sebene Selassie, Jill Satterfield, Leslie Booker, Sean Corne and Emily Garrett.
However, after decades of asanas, seated meditation, mindfulness instructions, and recitations of loving-kindness and compassion practices, my greatest spiritual teacher, Donald J. Trump, has emerged to take center stage. Known for his performative rallies, public speeches as spoken word scrabble (or salad), accusations of others that reflect his own behavior, political popularity despite or through inciting and promoting violence, breaking laws and social norms, and “othering” anyone who is not a sycophant and white, male, and wealthy, Trump has emerged as an embodied koan, a paradox to trigger personal growth. And yup: he’s killing it.
While Robin Williams once called George W. Bush a “comedy pinata” on stage, Donald J. Trump is the full monty of political theater or the Roy Kent of the political pitch: ‘He’s here, he’s there, he’s every f**king where…” Even when it seems that after a stream of misdeeds and corruption, the next scandal might finally get him yanked off-stage or into a court room, Trump pops back up like a Weeble, with the ballast of indomitable shamelessness only available to a narcissistic psychopath. But wait a minute! Am I “othering” him?
“Othering” is at the root of all social injustice and demonstrates a commensurate lack of empathy. If we don’t see others’ humanity, we don’t see others as having needs, thoughts, and feelings that matter; we don’t empathize with them. From the disconnect of “othering”, it makes it possible, even easy for some people, to discriminate against or harm others directly in unimaginable ways. Individuals do it. Institutions and their policies do it. “Othering” in the form of racism allowed Derek Chauvin to press his knee into George Floyd’s neck until he suffocated, despite Floyd’s calls for him to stop, despite Floyd calling out to his mother. “Othering” allowed Trump to talk about women as objects as he described his perceived right to: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” “Othering” allows mass shooters to walk into schools with assault rifles made for war and gun down children until they are physically unrecognizable and DNA swabs are needed to identify their bodies.
Over the past six years, with all the harm caused directly and indirectly by Donald Trump, it’s very easy to imagine him as a person not worthy of consideration; to write him off as a caricature of a human being, or possibly as the embodiment of pure evil. While tempting, this would be a mistake. It would be doing unto him what he does unto others.
This is where bad ass spiritual practice comes in and Trump becomes a great spiritual teacher. As Joseph Goldstein teaches in a core meditation practice on humanity, “Love no matter what.” (He credits Father Greg Boyle for this practice based on Boyle’s work with gang members.) So I am humbly practicing. Not because Donald Trump or any of his supporters would care. I am practicing so that I am not adding to the field of harm and hate, so I am not further perpetuating the suffering of dis-ease and divisiveness.
And should Trump win re-election in 2024? Maybe I’ll get a text from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who states: “My religion is kindness.” After all, I could be so spiritually enlightened by then, maybe I’ll be in his Favorites.
Seriously though? Donald J. Trump, my greatest spiritual teacher, will afford me A LOT more opportunities to practice: “Love no matter what.”
And I will. I’ll be killing it.