My daughter's high school World History class included a session on the impact of pandemics in history. In late January as news reports emerged about a new virus in China, she and her best friend remembered that class. Their quick conclusion: "We are going to get slammed."
So in late January and early February, both young mothers got ready. Food and medicine, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and yes, toilet paper. Not hoarding; just enough for a family to stay in isolation for two months when the inevitable virus hits.
Meanwhile at the White House, with access to the best scientific advice in the world and a meticulously prepared national strategic plan for pandemic, our president dawdled, trusting Fox News entertainment and his own hunches more than science or evidence. Our nation lost our most crucial time for preparation for the covid-19 invasion.
It's hard to imagine more incoherent, bungling leadership during a crisis. Leaders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health and Human Services and the Federal Drug Administration all fumbled their responsibilities. Thank God for Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx. The rest of the cast has been like something out of a TV comedy series. But it's not funny. The president's behavior -- ignoring evidence, facts and science; acting on his own hunches and ephemeral emotions -- is like a drunk driver who kills someone, but he didn't mean to.
Anger is the appropriate emotion when anything you love is threatened. Anger motivates action to protect what you love. Like many people, I am angry at Donald Trump. He threatens this nation that I love.
Mr. Trump's toxicity is a little like the covid-19 virus. I find that if I practice social distancing from him, I am less infected. I can get the news I need to know from sources that honor fact-based journalism. KUAF public radio and PBS are good. This newspaper and other mainline papers are informative. I briefly scan online sources, but I am trying to resist the temptation to bite into anything that screams with outrage.
In this outraged world, it seems impossible not to get hooked from time to time. So whenever I am provoked, I am trying to catch myself, to breathe, remember that "this too shall pass" and ask God to help us all overcome our failures to love. Then I have to forgive whoever has punched my button, and I have to forgive myself for being reactive yet again.
Forgiveness is something you do for yourself. Forgiveness is not condoning or forgetting. Forgiveness is liberating yourself, letting go of your bitter emotions and your desire to punish. There is nothing I can do to punish Mr. Trump that would make up for the damage and suffering he has unleashed. But I can free up the energy I waste being reactive toward him. I can choose to love Donald Trump and hope for his highest good.
Let me share with you a quote that has been important to me -- both liberating and challenging: "Every single human being, at every moment of the past -- when the entire situation is taken into account -- has done the very best he or she could do, and so deserves neither blame nor reproach from anyone -- including the self. This in particular is true of you." (Harvey Jakins, quoted in Forgiveness by Sidney and Suzanne Simon)
I believe Donald Trump is doing the very best he can. I believe he was profoundly damaged as a child, growing up with an emotionally absent mother and an authoritarian father whom Donald tried to emulate but could never measure up to. The perpetual lying, boasting, aggression, bullying, materialism, scheming and chaos that characterize the grown up Donald Trump, he learned at his father's knee.
I can empathize with Donald Trump because I too experienced a domineering father whom I couldn't please. I became so bitter I did some stupid and damaging things. Luckily I had a grandfather who showed me what unconditional love is and his love helped me believe in the possibility of infinite love.
So I work to place my faith in the infinite love of God. God loves Donald Trump. God plays a long game. God even used Pontius Pilate for good. God is willing to sacrifice, even die, for God's ultimate purpose of bringing all things to fullness. So I am choosing to forgive Donald, and I'm hoping to help create a more just, compassionate world out of this current mess.
Commentary on 05/19/2020
Print Headline: Forgiving Donald Trump