What got shattered that night was my belief that “love (or empathy) heals all.”
The story of “love conquers all” (as it’s usually phrased) or “empathy heals all” (as I prefer to put it) got shattered for me on election night, maybe more so than any other story because it had already cracked through my experiences with abusive men who were all too happy to take my empathy to advance their cause and leave me drained. It is a story, myth really, that has led me into abusive relationships and kept me in them longer than it was healthy for me. It is a myth perpetuated, instead of challenged, by people like Eisenstein despite the election results. It is a myth that urgently needs questioning because it is misplaced, maybe even unjust, and prevents us from rejecting offensive views. Additionally, while we are trying to find empathy for Trump voters, the people who are incapable of empathy will continue to enrich themselves and destroy the world, possibly nourished by our empathy, certainly emboldened by our inability to call out their unacceptable behavior.
I do not hate Trump voters. Assuming that this is my only other option is a false dichotomy. It pains me to see the damage they have done, are doing, because they are unwilling to experience empathy, experience their own feelings. Or whatever else drives them to act out. Eisenstein suggests that underneath racism and sexism is fear, is a lot of pain. Of course there is. I am happy to hold people in their pain and grief once they are ready to face it. I do not see it as my responsibility to reach for them, to help them see what they deny. Part of having experienced living with someone who I could imagine voting for Trump is knowing the depth of their denial (I am no longer in touch with him, hence I don’t know how he actually voted). Facing their pain is so terrifying that they avoid it at all cost – no amount of empathy can bridge that. So, maybe, ironically, I already understand Trump supporters better than Eisenstein.
The shattering of a belief is disorienting. Actually, it is rather scary. The world is not the way you thought it is. It is less safe – or rather the safety blanket a myth provided was ripped away. It was a false safety. And it leaves a vacuum, which is where the disorientation comes from; it leaves the question “now what?” Given that I now see clearly that empathy does not heal all, that this was a myth I had learned to avoid seeing the starkness of reality, how do I approach reality?
For now, I have decided to listen less to white men and more to women of color. There is much more wisdom there that stems from a lived experience that is more closely aligned with this post-shattering reality I now try to embody.