by Barbara Curialle
Full disclosure: I marched against the Vietnam War years ago and much later against the war in Iraq. I eat kale and arugula. I volunteered and voted for Hillary Clinton, and have been in mourning ever since election day. Having said that, I will add that this is not a political blog!
I think the situation I found myself in on inauguration day could happen to anyone, regardless of politics or even in a nonpolitical situation.
Since the 1960s, I’ve been distrustful of “hard hats,” as we called them, because of their opposition—sometimes physical and nearly always sexist—to “commie hippie pinko freaks,” as they called us anti–Vietnam War protesters.
On the morning of inauguration day, I was on the subway to join a peace vigil at noon at Washington Square Arch. I wanted to avoid being anywhere that I might see or hear the swearing-in ceremony, and this seemed like a pretty good way to do that. I was just riding the subway, bothering no one. At one stop, three very tall, strong-looking young guys got into the same car. I think they were construction workers, judging from their gear, especially the hard hats. They seemed to take up twice the amount of space as three ordinary people. I moved carefully to be out of their way.
I wasn’t really looking at them closely until suddenly I realized that one of them was wearing one of those red caps: “Make America Great Again.” It was the first time a red Trump hat had ever actually intruded into my liberal, feminist bubble.
I don’t know why it happened, but I seemed to be looking at myself from some outside vantage point. Time seemed to slow down as my heart almost stopped for a moment. All my abdominal muscles instantly tensed up. I felt my whole body getting rigid—partly from fear, but more from anger at the perceived insult that hat was transmitting to my entire being and everything I believe in. After a moment, I started breathing again. With a flash of gratitude, I realized I’d been given a wonderful opportunity to observe my reaction to an extremely alarming stimulus.
And I realized, with pain, that my response was prejudice and dislike—and shame. I was on my way to a peace vigil with very unpeaceful emotions.
For once, I didn’t try to deny it but took a good, long look at my response. No Trump supporter will ever persuade me to join their side. But I also realized I had lumped these guys into a nameless, faceless mass of Them. Very surreptitiously, I tried to get a quick look at each of them as individuals. I realized I couldn’t know what events in their lives or families had made them Trump supporters. If I could make assumptions about them, I was giving them permission to make assumptions about me.
But I also knew that although I couldn’t control their response if I had expressed my beliefs, I could control my own response to them. So I decided to remind myself about where I was going and why. With that choice, I felt a lot lighter in both body and mind, more aware of my surroundings, the space in front of me and behind me, the space in my head and above it, the dirty floor under my feet.
I went to the vigil with a lighter heart. It turned out to be run by a small Quaker congregation in the Village. At exactly noon, we stood in silence. I was able to receive—and, I hope, contribute to—the warm feeling of fellowship and peace as the silence enveloped us. I came away with a feeling of good-will toward everyone, even those whose beliefs I can’t share. I was even able to carry it within me as I went back home to face the rest of the day, and I’ve kept it in a little pocket of my mind to bring out and take a look at from time to time. I hope I’ll be able to keep remembering it for the next four years.
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/currialle.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]BARBARA CURIALLE, a graduate of ACAT, has been a nationally certified Alexander Technique teacher since 2009. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in music and social science from Fordham University and a Bachelor of Music (piano) from Manhattan School of Music. In 2011, she underwent spinal-fusion surgery and credits the Alexander Technique with a very directed recovery. She maintains a teaching practice on the Upper West Side and feels at her best when applying the Alexander Technique to physical activities such as walking, running, strength training, yoga, and swimming. She can be found at barbaracurialle.com [/author_info] [/author]