If you want to best oppose Donald Trump, don't cloud your judgement by hating him
A remarkable article from two political scientists, turned Buddhist practitioners, in Open Democracy. Their message is simple: hating Trump for his actions and words blurs your assessment of his next moves, by blunting your perceptions of him:
Hate encourages us to develop simplistic views and ignore the subtleties of the personalities and situation at hand. If we can develop a more nuanced and complex understanding we can predict people’s behavior more accurately. Unless we try to empathize with our adversaries we will never understand them, and this will put us at a disadvantage.
The authors cite some interesting research from behavioural psychology. If we’re sunk in a hole of hatred, we experience the backfire effect or confirmation bias, where we resist information that contradicts our beliefs. We may also suffer the Sunk Cost Fallacy, where we feel we must invest more where we have already (badly) invested. And as they say, hate weakens us overall, where the requirement is for steady strength.
They give an example of what one might discover about Trump if one takes a calmer stance of empathy and non-attached observation:
Trump has no real friends and cannot really love his wife and family. He is alone in a way that people who genuinely love other people cannot fully understand.
His desire for wealth and attention is insatiable. Therefore, he will die dissatisfied and confused.
Now that he is President, his past criminal activities and associates are being investigated. For the remainder of his life he will be dealing with the legal consequences of his past misdeeds.
Because he acts capriciously and maliciously, most of what Trump does has negative consequences. Although he is a multi-billionaire and holds the highest office in the land he is living in a hell of his own making.
In short, Trump is a pitiable man. He is harming others so we must oppose him, but we can do this more effectively if we realize how sad his life is. Pity is an unpleasant emotion, but it is better to feel pity than hatred, especially when it can be transformed into compassion, an active desire to help another person. Compassion can be cultivated through practices like loving-kindness meditation and consciously refusing to malign and slander those with whom we disagree, even as they may malign and slander you.
Rhodes and Shwenck suggest, finally, that as a diversion against hateful feelings, we redouble our efforts to being involved in democratic or activist processes aimed at removing Trump (or any massively destructive opponent) from office.
Might you need to be a deeply-wired Buddhist practitioner to maintain this level of poise against such an overwhelming adversary? Maybe. But it’s an interesting mental and emotional position to occupy.