I have to admit, I’m relieved the election is over and also that Biden won. I danced with joy and cried watching Kamala Harris give her speech on Saturday night. However, I know other people feel differently. There’s a part of me that still doesn’t understand how people can vote for a man who literally puts children in cages. Or how Kentucky residents reelected Mitch McConnell who laughed, laughed! when his opponent Amy McGrath criticized him for holding up a COVID-19 relief bill.
Are Kentuckians not suffering? Are they all employed and unaffected by the pandemic? Obviously not, so why would they vote for a man who clearly doesn’t care about their wellbeing? The first answer is that people like the familiar even if it’s toxic. It’s why they stay in jobs they hate or with people who are abusive. Change is hard. The second answer goes back to a question a dear friend of mine asks: “What is the boundary of your identity?”
There are people in the U.S. who only identify with people who look like them, act like them, think like them. And they vote accordingly. Research supports this. NBC News reported back in 2018 that when intolerant White people fear democracy may benefit marginalized people, they abandon their commitment to democracy.
“[P]eople who said they did not want to live next door to immigrants or to people of another race were more supportive of the idea of military rule, or of a strongman-type leader who could ignore legislatures and election results,” the research found.
It all comes down to fear but also groupism. I want to point out Democrats and progressives do this too – they also identify with people who think like them and act like them. And for those who don’t, they’re demonized and denigrated. They are not a part of the “in” group. No one, myself included, is immune from groupism and it takes commitment to keep expanding the boundary of your identity. However, whenever I think about the world I want to live in, it always hinges on universalism and cooperation. It always hinges on seeing myself in others.
So how do we do that? Some people practice a loving-kindness meditation, or perhaps they follow the work of Dr. Candice Nicole, who seeks to help people become less racist, sexist, classist, etc. As for me, I practice seeing the divine in everyone, extending the feeling of love to everyone. In the spirit of moving our world to a collective, cohesive one, here is a meditation that I created:
Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and inhale, filling your belly. Notice it rise with each inhale and fall with each exhale. Do that twice more, inhaling and exhaling. Think of a person or animal that you love deeply. Notice the feeling in your body when you think of this person or animal. Do you feel warmth in your chest? Is there a smile on your face? Just notice whatever arises as you feel love toward this being.
Let the image of this person or animal fade away so all that’s left is the feeling of love in your heart and body. Take three more deep breaths as you let yourself bathe in this feeling of love.
As you let yourself bathe in this feeling of love, recognize this feeling is always with you. It lives in your heart and your body. It doesn’t require the presence of anyone else and is something you can feel at any time if you choose.
Now imagine a person who doesn’t look like you or think like you. Maybe they’re Black or White. Maybe they’re progressive or conservative. Before letting yourself feel scared, or angry, or whatever feeling usually arises, bring to mind the person or animal that you love. The being you conjured previously. Imagine the person or animal you love standing in front of the person you have trouble identifying with, acting as a shield. Notice you can still feel love even in the presence of this other person.
As you let the feeling of love come back into your body, imagine the person you have trouble identifying with shrinking. Shrinking until they’re one inch tall. Once the person is one inch tall, imagine the person or animal you love scooping up that one-inch person and placing them in their heart. That one-inch person has now merged with the being that you love, has dissolved into the being you love. Again, notice the feeling of love in your heart. Be aware that you still love this person or animal even though they now carry the same particles as the one-inch tall person.
Feel your heart soften as you realize we all have the same particles as every created being in this universe. And also that you can extend your feeling of love. Take three more deep breaths into your belly. When you’re ready, open your eyes. As you do, remember you are helping to bring more love into the world. And more love means a better world for us all.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.