Addressing the Root Causes of Trumpismby Raymond Rigoglioso on 12/04/16
We can point to economic stagnation of the working and middle class as a major factor in Trump's stunning rise to power. But we cannot underestimate the emotional appeal of his campaign's explicit xenophobia, misogyny, and anti-LGBT sentiment.
A wave of anger fueled Trump's campaign. People may have voted for Trump for a variety of reasons, but the fact is they chose a man whose style and policies bully, threaten, and devalue anyone who is not a white, Christian, heterosexual man.
As startling as this is, Trump's election has, as a friend of mine who is an Episcopal priest in Provincetown described it, held up a mirror to us as a country. In a moving Facebook post, he wrote, "Mirrors don't lie. The election of 2016 exposed an inner ugliness that for decades was cloaked by pretense and hypocrisy."
It didn't take much to coax that ugliness out of its closet. An op-ed in the New York Times from a former white nationalist describes how politicians can easily exploit the "fear of the other"--and not just among avowed racists, but even moderates--to win elections.
This year has given Americans a clear picture of who we are. The hierarchy of human value--with straight, white, wealthy, Christian men at the top, and everyone else underneath in descending order of social import--remains firmly in place.
We have much work to do--politically, and on the level of consciousness.
Advancing Consciousness Change
This election has challenged me deeply--personally, and in my role as founder and executive director of Gay Men of Wisdom. With someone as dangerous as Trump in the White House, I have asked, where should I put my energies?
I believe an effective response requires working on two fronts simultaneously: politically, and on the level of consciousness. I have made a personal commitment to do both. I cannot sit idly by while the new president prepares an agenda that will, among many other things I strongly oppose, make xenophobia a norm.
But political action without a clear vision leads nowhere. We need to offer an alternative. To do this, we must answer the question: What world do we want to live in? And then we must model that vision for others.
Consciousness change does not happen overnight. Trump did not happen overnight. Conservative think tanks, right-leaning media outlets, and regressive political policies have seeded the bed for years.
Truly Valuing Human Differences
If we truly valued human differences, Trump never would have won the election. We would not fear the "other," subjugate women, or threaten violence against an "outsider." Instead, we would recognize the contributions that each group makes to the whole of humanity.
We need a new way of seeing each other--one that replaces hierarchy with a circle. That is what Gay Men of Wisdom offers.
Gay Men of Wisdom provides a model for HOW to value human differences. It's premised on the notion that differences exist for a reason, and that by honestly exploring them, we can discover how differences strengthen the whole.
It offers an alternative to our current arguments for equal rights, in which minority groups deny and attempt to suppress their differences in order fit into and become acceptable to the dominant group. Rather than trying to fit in, this approach says, "We stick out for a reason."
Building a National Movement
This fall, Gay Men of Wisdom has formed as a nonprofit organization, recruited a board of directors, and is planning the rollout of national programs.
In the next four months, we will launch the monthly Living Out Your Gifts groups in Provincetown, Massachusetts, Orlando, Florida, Austin, Texas, Seattle, Washington, and online. We've chosen to design these groups to foster community--to invite gay men to gather with a sense of purpose, and to explore their distinct gay male gifts.
Each session of the groups will provide an exploration of one of the 14 Distinct Gay Male Gifts. The groups require no registration, no advance preparation, and request only modest donations. No one will be turned away for inability to pay.
Imagine a time when:
- All gay men recognize their social purpose and contributions.
- We understand that our primary difference from others is in the social roles we play, not our sexuality.
- Other groups of people begin asking themselves, "How do we contribute to the welfare and vitality of the human family?"
That is the world Gay Men of Wisdom is working to create. Let the valuing of human differences begin with us.