There is a Buddhist teaching that one's adversary can be one's teacher. In that sense Trump was a formidable teacher. I don't believe I have known of any other contemporary person who expressed so much of what I consider the worst of human nature. And in that sense he expressed the worst of my human nature, of me, as well. I found him so odious that I refused to watch him on television or stream his images over the internet, yet in the last four years he appeared more frequently in my dreams than anyone but my wife. Psychologists propose that all the persons who appear in our dream dramas are parts of ourselves, so I have known without a doubt that I possess in some measure all of Trump's odious qualities. And for better or worse, Trump showed them to me day in and day out as I read the news. In this he was a fine teacher.
Psychologists also propose that the parts of ourselves we abhor get split off from our conscious minds, get relegated to the unconscious and then are projected outwards onto others. But to be truly human is to be whole. And the challenge, as I see it, is to be whole-some by withdrawing the projections, accepting, integrating and possibly even transforming what I consider the odious parts of myself. It is not easy. When I awoke from dreams with a Trump character I felt that I needed a shower.
While I felt an immense sense of relief when Biden and Harris were sworn into office this week, I must say that even though I despise Donald Trump I also feel compassion for him as a person so damaged that he could be utterly egotistical, cruel and apparently devoid of even a shred of concern for anyone but himself. But just as we love children and tell them not that they ARE bad but that they ACTED badly, so I feel both revulsion and compassion for him.
To do any less is not just to condemn him, but to condemn parts of myself. It has always seemed to me that some people seek to perfect themselves, while others seek to make themselves whole. I've sought to incorporate as much of myself into myself as I could. Walt Whitman wrote "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." These are the words of a person who was whole, who embraced his own contradictions without splitting them off and projecting them onto others. I don't consider myself whole as yet, and may not contain multitudes, but there are many people in me: Trumps, Gandhis, teenagers with loud cars, grocers, cooks and even my cat Betty Boop.
Thich Nhat Hanh reminds me that "I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate. And I am also the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving."
May we all see and love. And have courage.