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What is This Quintessence of Dust?

The recent presidential election has left people stunned and many frightened and worried. I have friends telling me how alarmed they are and wondering what is going to happen to all of us. Especially, what will happen to women, to immigrants, to minorities? What will the Supreme Court turn into? And what damage will an unbalanced Court in favor of extreme Republicans do to women’s rights, to the LGBT community, to freedom of speech and other Constitutional rights? Will the police turn even more brutal, completely unleashed to commit crimes against the innocent, without any restraints or punishment?

People are angry, panicky, despondent. I think of Hamlet’s gloomy speech where he despairs of earth and people and life:

“This goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?” 

He understood all of the gifts of people and life, the goodness that exists, but it was all obscured by his anger and revenge for his father’s death by Claudius. In the end, his rage and grief did him in. The whole royal family lies in blood as a result of so much hate between so many filled with ruthless and senseless retribution.

We are in many ways in new territory with Donald Trump as president. A man of no political experience and apparently little interest in politics. A wealthy businessman skilled in sales talk, big promises, and getting people to sign the deal. He is gathering a team of administrative and cabinet officers with extremely conservative beliefs and policy ideas, men and women who have spent their careers pushing isolated agendas that have little to do with national unity, the understanding and appreciation of opposing viewpoints, or the willingness to work with others for a common good for everyone.

Most worrisome are the crude and insensitive comments Mr. Trump made during the campaign regarding women, immigrants, and others. People worry that was not just campaign fodder for an angry base of voters tired of political correctness, but rather the actual character flaws of a man out of touch with the intelligent, moral, and decent values of the nation.

We will see. He has already moderated some of his blunt rhetoric. Perhaps a more mature and thoughtful Trump will appear. Perhaps he will quickly learn he cannot lead the country the way he operated his businesses, that he is now dealing with powerful life changing decisions and not simply luxury real estate deals. His lack of preparedness for the office of president is obvious and troublesome. America is a far cry from Trump, Inc. And it will require vast compromises on his part and personal and probably difficult adaptation if he and the nation are to succeed.

We the people are not helpless in these new circumstances. And already many have expressed themselves loudly and clearly that they expect and even demand a presidency for all the people, not one just for the wealthy, for conservatives and right wing extremists, for the connected and the powerful.

We will be required to encourage reasonable legislators, through letters, email, and phone calls, to stand up and support minorities, immigrants, women, the poor, veterans, the disabled, the old, and to not be silent in the presence of any abuse of these people, any bigotry, any incitement of violence, any act of cruelty toward any person or group.

We must be ready to speak out ourselves inside groups of family or friends who may fall into any easy mistreatment, whether verbal or physical, of any individual or group of people who make up the vulnerable, the different, the neglected, the lost and forgotten, the misunderstood and the despised.

We have to be reasonable and not knee-jerk ourselves into frenzy and bewilderment.

Novelist Neil Gaiman once wrote, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

The classic tales of David and Goliath; of Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort; of Frodo Baggins who fought endless enemies and finally conquered the lure of the ring; of Lisbeth Salandar, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, who defeated the white giant and her maniacal father; Alice Walker’s amazing Celie, who battled horrendous evil and won, and learned to love the color purple. These are heroic tales that carry the potential of human power over abomination, greed, injustice, ignorance, cruelty and fear.

Dragons have been and can be beaten. All is not lost. We have our hearts. We have our voices. We can resist. We can inspire. We can overcome. We can demonstrate a better way.

© 2016 Timothy Moody

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