Maintaining Serenity in the Time of Donald Trump

Does the overlap between Trump country and the areas most deeply burdened by the opioid addiction epidemic trouble you, as it does me? One thing it suggests to me is the value in seeing Donald Trump—who he is and what he does—as a drug. 

He is seducing us all into addiction to him.

I know something about this. My mother was addicted to alcohol and nicotine. She died, ten years younger than I am now, from neck and throat cancer related to smoking and drinking. I neither smoke nor drink, but I was seriously affected by her disease. My experience has taught me that addiction is a family illness. Family and friends of addicts are sucked into the maelstrom of their loved one.

And we are all, surely, being sucked into the chaos that is Donald Trump.

This is the only thing that can explain to me how intelligent, accomplished men like H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn could sign their names to the America First Trump Doctrine. Why would another nation follow a leader who has declared having sole interest in its own power and well-being? McMaster and Cohn make no sense. They are spinning in the troubled orbit of Donald Trump now.

 As are we all. So what can we do? 

How can we gain and maintain serenity in the face of the dangers Trump poses to our country and to the world?

God Grant Me the Serenity to
Accept the Things I Cannot Change
The Courage to Change the Things I Can
And the Wisdom to Know the Difference.

The Serenity Prayer is a good place to start. It is a pillar of 12 Step Programs aimed at controlling addiction. These groups recognize that addiction is a spiritual illness so that connection to a higher power and placing oneself in perspective are the beginning of recovery. These are the gifts the Serenity Prayer offers.

It has helped me make choices about how to use my time and energy to protect the vulnerable right now (the poor, women, the immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ people to name the obvious) and to resist the present threat to our constitutional democracy. 

I cannot change Donald Trump so I try not to pay close attention to what he says. 

I do attend to what he does, as that impacts real people. I also attend to what the Republicans in Congress do, as well as Trump's Cabinet Secretaries, as they all have terrible power for good or for ill for so many.

I have the power to call and write and march in the streets. I pray for the courage to change the things I can and for the wisdom to recognize the opportunities to do that when they present themselves. I pray the Serenity Prayer every night as I lay my head down.

This observation helps, too: Changed attitudes can aid recovery. I think of "attitude" as a stance I take toward something or someone. It can also be our emotional response to another. And we have control over our attitudes. We may not think we do but when we pay attention, we find we can change our attitudes to people, places, and things. 

Trump's goal seems to be to rile us all up so that we all keep our eyes fixed on him.

This serves people like Kushner, Bannon, Cohn, Mitchell and Ryan rather well so that they can further their own agendas, while Trump jerks us around. They all have their own challenges achieving their goals with Trump in the White House.

But that's their business. Our business is controlling our attitude toward what we see so that we can set our own goals, see clearly how to reach them, and have the energy needed to move down the road toward them.

I was in true mourning after the election. I moved through the stages of grief and I still feel despair when the headline is something like the Travel Ban or the renunciation of the Paris Climate Accord. I have power over my emotional response—my attitude--toward these actions. I wear a hijab on Fridays in solidarity with Muslims and I marched in my city's Climate Change March.

I am changing my sadness to action.

Anger can be more difficult.

I sometimes still can be seriously angry at my mother even though she died 36 years ago. This is not helpful to me. An attitude of compassion for her is my choice. She did not choose addiction and I think she suffered terribly at the estrangement it caused from her children and spouse.

To be honest, I have not been able to change my anger at Trump himself. I am able to choose not to dwell upon it as it just makes me crazy. I change my attitude toward Trump by minimizing my attention to him.

Where, I think, we would all do well to change our anger to compassion is toward Trump voters. We know they have been sold a bill of goods. We get an appalling measure of how desperate their lives are in their vulnerability to his schtick or to the oblivion of an opioid. 

And we know that the divisions expanding among us endanger our democracy.

They serve most to empower the aspiring oligarchs like the Koch brothers and Robert Mercer. We can choose compassion for ourselves and those we disagree with, knowing that together is the only way we can stand up to these present powers that be.

I understand that none of this is easy. There is a good reason, "One Day at a Time," is among the most familiar bits of wisdom from recovery programs. Commitment to keeping our serenity in the face of a person like Trump is a daily spiritual discipline.

I am grateful for every day that I do not succumb to what Donald Trump tempts me to be. I offer these tools to you. I hope they help you maintain your serenity, too.

Photo by Elvert Barnes

Comments (6)

Thank you so much. I am an ordained Lutheran pastor and I am ashamed to admit that my anger has reached the level of rage at times. It is just so hard for me to understand how people cannot see how much they are being "taken" and "lied to." Your words have helped me a great deal. God bless you.

carol

Thank you for these insights. May I share them?

Cricket Park, Rector, Church of the Redeemer, Bethesda

Yes, of course, please share these thoughts in any way you think will be helpful to people right now.

It sounds like you are giving a lot of power to Trump over your emotional well being. I am glad you are able to pray the serenity prayer to guide you toward peace. I pray that Jesus helps you to see that He handpicked Trump to be our president, even before he was born, for such a time as this!

Yes, D.R., it seems to me to be a faithful Christian response to feel deeply the  inauguration to the Presidency of a man who has openly violated God's commandments not to worship other gods or idols (money and power in Trump's case), not to commit adultery, not to steal (from contractors and service providers), and not to bear false witness. If Jesus has handpicked Trump for this time, then, you tell me, would Jesus throw millions of children, disabled and elderly off health insurance to provide a tax break to the already wealthy? WWJD? What is Jesus' word to such a time as this?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings in this time of rage.  I think of Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go GEntly into that Good Night. but Rage against the dying of the light!" This villanelle is a touchstone for me  As a daughter of the 60's I "Question Authority" but I do it in the context of "Be still and Know that I am God."  May our days be filled with Love Action!

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