The Five of Wands, Compassion, and the Invasion of The Trumpster Amygdaloids

Developing compassion for Trump supporters based on their inflamed amygdalas.

I’ve been trying to reach a space of compassion in my heart for rabid Trump supporters and it hasn’t been easy.  Any time that we see pictures of them, they seem to exist in a sea of snarling, angry, hate-filled faces.  Their social media posts are contemptuous, bigoted, ill-informed diatribes that frequently feature images of people with guns, swastikas, and confederate flags.

They, “feel,” very much like the Five of Wands.  A group of people swinging clubs as fast and as hard as they possibly can and rarely connecting with anything useful.  

There’s not much there to love or empathize with. It became much, much harder to feel a sense of common humanity with them after they stormed the Capitol Building on January the Sixth.  They exhibited all of the rage, fury, and mindlessness of a lynch mob and it’s plain that people would have been seriously injured or killed if the Trumpsters had been able to reach them.

I DO have a need and a perceived duty to feel compassion for my fellow humans.  If we believe, as I do, that we are ALL Souls at our core – small sparks from the Sacred Fire of the universe –  then we need to treat one another with the same respect that we would show for the origin of the Sacred and the Divine.  The rabid Trumpsters, then, could be perceived as wandering, confused, temporarily misguided human Souls.

But they’re such assholes.

I mean, they’re really, really REALLY hard to like.  I don’t like their politics, I don’t like their snotty, condescending attitudes, I don’t like their hatred or their guns or their racism.  So I was having an extremely hard time trying to come up with one thing, just one thing, where I could find some common ground and tell myself, “Yeah . . . THERE’S something we have in common!  There’s a basis for some empathy and compassion.”

And I finally settled on their amygdalas.

The amygdala, in case you’re not familiar with it, is a walnut shaped organ at the base of our brains.  It’s probably the most ancient part of our brains which is why it’s referred to as, “the crocodile brain,” meaning that it’s on about the same primitive evolutionary level as a crocodile.  

It’s also in charge of the fight, flight, or freeze reaction.  If we’re confronted with danger, the amygdala fires off and our brains and bodies are flooded with stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.  We’re on full alert and we’re instantly ready to fight like hell, run like hell, or freeze in place.

Also – and this is VERY important with understanding the Trumpsters – when the amygdala is fully activated the prefrontal cortex, which is the THINKING part of the brain, the RATIONAL part of the brain, shuts down.  Turns off.  Quits working.

One other curious fact about the amygdala is that the more it’s activated, the more dominant it becomes.  When we’re constantly frightened or angry, the amygdala actually GROWS in size and our bodies become like a sea of stress hormones.

Even to a rational, normal person, the last four years have been extremely irritating.  Until they took Trump’s Twitter account away from him, there was a constant, never-ending barrage of Twisted Trump Tweets.  Many times a day there were messages that basically said, “Be afraid!  Be very, very afraid!”

The Socialists are coming for you!

The Communists are coming for you!

The Chinese are coming for you!

The Mexican rapists are coming for you!

The Anitifas are coming for you!

The Democrats are coming for you!

The liberals are coming for you!

Toilets that you have to flush twice are coming for you!

Be afraid!   And – also –  be very, very, very ANGRY!

For most of us the tweets went from being stupid to being annoying to, “Doesn’t that guy EVER shut the fuck up?”

But now imagine what those tweets must have been doing to the rabid Trumpsters.  These were people whose amygdalas must have already been pretty active since they voted for Trump and his fear and his anger to begin with.  Then add a four year stream of poisonous messages from the Tangerine Troll and they had to have gone totally into Tilt.

If the amygdala actually grows every time we get angry or become frightened, they must have amygdalas the size of freaking watermelons.  And if the prefrontal cortex shuts down every time the amygdala fires off, well shit, they haven’t had a rational thought in years.

Bless their little hearts.

So I’m using that as my basis for compassion.  These people aren’t just assholes.  They’re actually suffering from extremely inflamed amygdalas, aggravated by shrivelled prefrontal cortexes.  I’m even beginning to think of them less as rabid Trump supporters and more as Amygdaloids.

“Yes, it was tragic.  When he was born he seemed perfectly normal, but sometime in his later development turned into an Amygdaloid.  No known treatment for it, you know.  Just . . . tragic.”

There now.  I feel better already.

The Fool, The Buddha, and the Corona Virus

Some Tarot interpretations say that the bag or satchel that dangles from the end of the pole on The Fool card is his karma. That he is a new born soul dancing into life and the memories of his experiences and actions – both good and bad – are carried with him into his next incarnation in that little bag.

And that’s a good question for all of us as we face this very profound experience of a world wide pandemic: What will we carry with us when it’s finally over?

Shit happens. We all know that. A lot of the time we experience life less as the Captains of our Fates and more as the silver ball in an old fashioned pin ball machine. We aren’t thinking, we aren’t planning, we aren’t really conscious of what’s happening to us or why. We just keep hitting and being hit by those paddles, bouncing around from one place to the next until a bright, neon sign lights up and says, “GAME OVER.”

And then we’re dead.

Did it make any sense? Did our journey through all of the joys and pains, the triumphs and shit sandwiches actually MEAN anything? Or was it just a random series of events that left us bruised and battered and ultimately puzzled over why it all happened?

A large component in that equation is consciousness. Actually being aware of what’s happening to you right now, right this moment and actively SEEKING for meaning.

Let me give you an example from personal experience. My life partner, Carol, died a couple of years ago and eventually I joined a bereavement support group, also known as a Grief Group. Basically, it’s a small group of people who have lost a loved one and we sit down together once a week and talk about that experience. In other words, we’re trying to find some meaning, some understanding of what we’ve gone through and where we go from here.

One of the most positive things I’ve carried out of that group is the realization of how very much alike we all are in the face of something that is as monumentally dreadful as death. It doesn’t matter if you’re an 81 year old great grandmother or a 25 year old newly wed; death is experienced in much the same way. There are periods of shock, then numbing, then panic and horrible anxiety, overwhelming sadness, and the feeling of being totally lost in the world. There can be great nobility and growth in that process if you can somehow stay connected to your feelings and look for answers. What does it mean? Why did they die? Why am I still here? What am I supposed to do with my life now?

And, sadly, there are other people who experience very little growth and get no spiritual or emotional insights from the process. They throw themselves into a flurry of social activities right after the funeral and, when they have to be home, they turn the t.v. up as loud as it can go and stay on the phone as much as they can. They spend as little time as possible in that Sacred Silence that follows death and they think as little as possible about what it means. In a phrase, “they move on,” from the grieving period as fast as they can. If they’ve lost a husband or a wife, they remarry or re-partner within a year, as if their loved one was an interchangeable part rather than a precious human soul who intermingled with their life stream.

In other words, they don’t carry anything out of it.

Perhaps that’s a form of basic, animal wisdom. As the Buddha said, all sentient beings seek to be happy and to avoid suffering, so there’s nothing unusual about not wanting to hurt. But he also said that suffering is inevitable. No matter how much we might wish otherwise, we each have our portion of pain and how we deal with that suffering – IF we deal with that suffering – that moment in time is the anvil on which we forge our karma. It isn’t just what we go through – it’s how we consciously integrate what we go through. Did we learn anything from the experience? Did we grow and evolve as human beings? Did our compassion and ability to love others increase or diminish? Did we make what happened to us MEAN something in our lives?

So . . . here we sit in the midst of a major historical event. And none of want to be in it. I haven’t met one single person who has said, “Damn, this is exciting! I’m so glad I’m here to see this happen!” But, we’re still here, like it or not. A lot of people are going to die before this all over. Many more will lose people they love with all of their hearts and souls. There’s going to be suffering and we know that.

Right now, millions of us are locked away in our houses and apartments, waiting for the storm to blow through, hoping we won’t be one of the people who are swept out into eternity by this goddamned virus. I guarantee you that many of us are spending this time with the television turned up as loud as it will go, constantly on the phone, constantly on the internet, constantly trying to be too busy to think or feel. They can’t wait to, “move on,” and, “get back to normal.”

In other words, they won’t carry anything out of it.

Right now, we are ALL fools dancing on the edge of a cliff. We can take the time to sit down and meditate, to read, to journal, to REALLY talk with people we love, or . . . we can turn up the volume on the t.v. If there’s one thing we should all know right now it’s that life is precious, time is precious. We can fill that little bag The Fool carries with some new found wisdom, compassion, and meaning. We can actually ask what all of this means, why we’re here, and what we’re supposed to do next.

Or not.