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Are Trump Protests A Collective Form of Boundary Setting?

build kindness not walls trump

In the week since our exploration of what Buddhists can do to counter Trump’s bigotry, massive protests in Arizona and New York City have kept up the national pressure.

BPFers and progressive spiritual friends have enjoyed great healthy debates about the article in many corners of cyberspace (y’all are awesome), and there are a few thoughts that I’ve offered elsewhere, resources I’ve shared, that I’d like to add here, taking the conversation a little deeper.

(1) Our radical counter-visions to Trump
(2) Non-spontaneity of Trump protests
(3) Anti-Trump protests as collective boundary-setting (psychology)

1. Our Radical Counter-Visions to Trump

Trump’s candidacy is scary. That’s real. And yet, what if it’s also an opportunity? How do we know when something is good luck or bad luck?

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

from Zen Buddhist Stories

In some ways I feel like Trump’s radicalism and brazenness gives us further permission to unleash our own.

Where Trump is reactionary, we can be visionary. What are some of the outlandish and glorious campaign promises we would make, toward the world WE want to see?

* Ethnic Studies ( / non-Eurocentric history) in all public schools
(countering racism)

* Free Housing, healthcare, childcare, and basic guaranteed income to all who need it
(countering sexism and anti-poor policies)

* Papers and Welcome for all immigrants
(countering xenophobia)

* Disband US Military
(countering warmongering)

* Build a Healing Economy to address human & ecological trauma done inside and outside US
(countering capitalism)

The gorgeous group of Black & Brown folks called the Dream Defenders recently released a video depicting what THEIR slate of candidates and government would look like, running for positions in the U.S.

2. For the Record: The Protests Were Planned

There were some loose rumors flying around that the Chicago shutdown protests were “organic and spontaneous.” I think it’s important to note that they were, in fact, planned — led in part by organizers who have been extremely active in local Chicago politics, like successfully ousting Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who helped cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald.

BYP100 (Black Youth Project 100), Assata’s Daughters (named for the Black liberation revolutionary Assata Shakur), students in the Muslim Alliance and other groups at UIC, as well as supporters of the Bernie Sanders campaign, all got together to plan things out and make it happen.

LA Times: How black, Latino, and Muslim college students organized to stop Trump’s rally in Chicago

I’m guessing there’s less confusion about the preparations that went into the Arizona freeway shutdown.


3. Are Trump Shutdowns A Collective Form of Healthy Boundary Setting?

Brené Brown is a sociologist (I think?) who has some famous TED talks on shame, vulnerability, and connection. Recently I saw a video interview with her where she talks about the relationship between boundaries and compassion. Identifying a boundary as “what’s okay and what’s not okay,” she says:

One of the most shocking findings of my work was the idea that the most compassionate people I have interviewed over the last 13 years were also the absolutely most boundaried.

What I think we do, is we don’t set boundaries; we let people do things that are not okay, let people get away with behaviors that are not okay… and then we’re just resentful and hateful. Compassion without boundaries is not genuine.

What if what we’re seeing with the nonviolent Trump protests is a collective assertion of boundaries against corporate-funded platforms for hate and bigotry in our towns?

I see folks setting boundaries on their Facebook walls: avoiding all mention of Trump, or asking vitriolic e-scufflers to ease up a bit. But I sense that many people feel that voting is where the truly collective boundary setting happens. That’s where we put a stop to the bad behavior.

Why not sooner? Why not assert our right to respect, our sense of what’s okay and what’s not okay, in the middle of Trump events, or on the highways heading to them?

And what else might collective assertion of boundaries look like?


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Comments (1)

  • Rob Wisoff

    I think that the possibility of Donald Trump becoming President is very scary. He’s a bigot, he’s misogynistic, he’s ignorant, and he’d completely screw up domestic and foreign policy if he were elected to office. With that said, I understand how African American, Latin Americans, and Muslims can protest Trump; it’s very reasonable. However, I think that the media and people have empowered Trump too much by giving him so much attention. Donald Trump is a man who thrives on controversy and focusing so much energy on condemning him and his campaign only adds more fuel to his fire. It might just be a good idea to completely ignore him and let the media take care of him. It would be wise to emphasize and promote the positive characteristics of Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. This way, people could exercise true power in the voting booth and sever any chance Trump might have at becoming President. If people were more educated about the policies of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, they would probably lean more towards voting for which ever candidate wins the presidential nomination. Of Course, both of these candidates are flawed too. Their only human. But, they are much better alternatives for the position of President than Donald Trump.

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