"Power and empathy are not mutually exclusive. Now more than ever, we need thoughtful, compassionate individuals to enter situations where suffering and conflict occur, and show a different form of strength, one that protects the vulnerable and holds people accountable without becoming contentious or abusive"."
I travel extensively, teaching leadership skills to business, community, and educational organizations. As the U.S. political climate became more vicious and divisive over the last year, increasing numbers of international clients offered me sanctuary.
"I will stay, regardless of who wins the election," I always replied, flinching slightly as I considered the implications.
Time to face the stark reality of that seemingly simple pledge.
For me, "staying" means neither isolating myself from the ensuing drama, nor contributing to it. Staying involves witnessing the grief, despair, frustration, rage, and injustice both sides have been feeling for quite some time. It requires seeing people as individuals, rather than declaring one group "righteous" or "enlightened," while objectifying the other as "stupid," "brainwashed," or "evil."
Soon enough, staying will demand taking strong, thoughtful, nonviolent action to protect the vulnerable and explore new solutions. But sometimes, especially in the beginning, it will require standing with people who are disillusioned, frightened, and in pain when it appears there's absolutely nothing we can do.
In this effort, I look to the very first President of the United States for guidance.