The battle for the presidency of the United States currently unfolds before us, as living history. I am profoundly moved, to add my voice, to those who have spoken for the continuance of our beautiful country, and the unifying principles that bring us together, as a social network that supports, not only ourselves, but each other.
In reading about Khizr Khan and the criticism and coldness he received from Donald Trump, I wish to support Mr. Khan, not secretly or privately through email or letter, but publicly, through my blog. He is such a brave and heart-centered man. To speak to the point, to say what is true, to appeal to both mind and heart, is central to the preservation of our democracy.
What I like, about Mr. Khan and his spirit, is that he is not intimidated by Trump, who has more money and social status than he does. Mr. Khan has a moral compass, and he unapologetically proclaims it. He has the boldness to say:
“What he (Trump) said originally — that defines him . . . people are upset with him. He realizes, and his advisers feel, that [his original statement] was a stupid mistake. That proves that this person is void of empathy. He is unfit for the stewardship of this great country. You think he will empathize with this country, with the suffering of this country’s poor people? He showed his true colors when he disrespected this country’s most honorable mother. . . . The snake oil he is selling, and my patriotic, decent Americans are falling for that. Republicans are falling for that. And I can only appeal to them. Reconsider. Repudiate. It’s a moral obligation. A person void of empathy for the people he wishes to lead cannot be trusted with that leadership. To vote is a trust. And it cannot be placed in the wrong hands.”
In response to Trump’s attack on his wife, Khan said that the Republican nominee’s words were “typical of a person without a soul.” (The Washington Post, Stephanie McCrummen, July 31, 2016 1:00 a.m.)
As a psychiatrist, I am not an expert on politics, and normally, I do not write any commentary about the political process. But this year is different, I am drawn to the political process, not because of any interest in, or experience with, politics, but because I am an expert on empathy, the mind, and the heart of an individual. It is very clear to me that our country is divided into two groups, with strikingly different values and priorities, symbolized by our current presidential candidates.
One group uses fear, blame, anger, and promises, to appeal to the masses. The other group uses hope, mutual responsibility, tolerance, and dedication to hard work, to appeal to the masses. One inflames. The other inspires. One says, "I, alone, can fix your problems." The other says, "We can do it together."
Of course, there is plenty of fear, in even the best of us, and when we hear Trump make his promises, so convincingly, there is a child in us that wants to believe him and wants to shift our responsibilities onto his shoulders. We hope, in our hearts, that he could fix our problems and save us.
However, responsibility is the other side of the coin for freedom. If one does not have any responsibility, one has lost one's freedom. Therefore, to give our responsibilities away, is the same as giving away our freedoms.
Empathy, also, is the price we pay for true power. It is easy to block our painful feelings (shame, fear, or resentment) and shift the blame for our suffering to our neighbor, a foreigner, or another country. But when we do, we are saying, "I do not have the power. They do. Because they do, I will reclaim my power, by eliminating my enemy." Power has never been reclaimed this way, and it never will.
In reality, when we look at ourselves honestly and, with humility say, "I can and will do better." We begin to reclaim our innate power, which had been waiting beyond the door of authentic suffering, without needing the fantasy of an enemy. Not only do we start to use our innate power to help ourselves, but through compassion, we are motivated to help others.
In this election process, the allegiances of certain political leaders tell me a great deal about who they are. When one candidate condemns Trump vociferously and, in the next moment, endorses him, what does it tell me, of who they are beneath their rhetoric? It tells me that they do not have the strength, to be a living example of their words, through real action. It tells me that they lack integrity. It tells me that they are afraid of being their own light in the darkness.
Being a light in the darkness means that, when the whole world might choose what is mean spirited and an easy way out, one chooses to remain compassionate and true to one's moral compass. I honor those Republican candidates who have remained a light in the darkness. I see their light shine, as the darkness deepens around them. I hope that they will remain brave and honest, when challenged to be otherwise.
Like Mr. Khan, I have something to say to those candidates who have aligned with Mr. Trump: we see you, as you are, through your choices. Don't be the fools that paraded along with the king, in the story, "The Emperor's New Clothes." In the end, you will share the sting of shame, as the truth reveals his vanity. Mr. Trump is the Emperor without clothes. But you don't have to march down the street, celebrating his new wardrobe, pretending you see something, when you know well enough there is nothing there.