Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump smiles as he stands with 22 delegates from North Dakota to the Republican National Convention, who are the core of delegates that elevated Trump over the 1237 needed for the GOP's presidential nomination, Thursday, May 26, 2016, in Bismarck, N.D. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Photo Gallery

Donald Trump and the burning coal of politics

some text
David Cook

What concerns me lately about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — besides his eat-the-world ego, consistent cruelty and overall dictatorial tendencies — is the effect he's having on me.

Many days, I feel great disgust for Trump. Even greater anger.

Maybe even hate.

Trump is my trigger; so troubled — really, afraid — by the idea of his presidency, I've become a slow burn of unpleasant emotion, often annoyance, mostly anger.

Not long ago, an otherwise pleasant evening turned hostile when the person to my left began talking in pro-Trump ways. My emotions red-lined. How could this person, someone I know and love, be so wrong? I puffed up with impatience, accusations, shouting.

It got so bad, I had to get up and move seats.

"Anger is a burning coal," Islam teaches.

"There are three doorways to hell," Hinduism says. "Lust, anger and greed."

Anger causes us to jettison all wisdom, patience and calmness for hot actions and hot feelings. Our appetite for destruction grows. We lash. We isolate. We build our own walls. Anger is the gateway emotion — a doorway to hell, remember? — that tills the soil from which so much violence and damage emerges.

"Refrain from anger and turn from wrath," the psalmist says. "Do not lose your temper. It only leads to harm."

We have been losing our tempers for decades within American politics. (Show of hands: who's still angry at W.? Or Reagan? Some of you will go to your grave hating Obama.)

This is the toxic and most undiagnosed part of modern politics. It allows no safe room for wisdom or peace. Refusing to acknowledge the realm of the spirit, American politics and its players have created a hosanna-less landscape where everybody plays by the same rulebook: demonize, exaggerate, demean.

When was the last time you saw a candidate even say one kind thing about his or her opponent? Just one?

"All beings tremble before violence," the Buddha teaches. "All fear death. All love life."

We forget that our enemy — Trump for me, perhaps Hillary for you — is also like us. That he or she is full of lingering hopes, wishes and wounds. He, too, wants to be safe and happy. She, too, wants a life free from fear and violence.

The trouble comes with methodology, or the ways and means; their views on how to achieve a safe, free America are radically different from ours, which causes conflict. Trump's version of a happy America, I believe, is profoundly destructive, yet I can still honor the spiritual truth that he, too, is a human being who wants a life free of suffering.

Just like me.

And recognizing that — even just whispering it through gritted teeth — acts as a softening of sorts, encouraging compassion, not anger.

"Love your enemies," Christ said.

It is one thing to oppose others; quite another to hate them. Turning away from hate and anger does not mean going wallflower limp, a patsy-go-easy when it comes to wrongdoing or injustice. Anger-less hearts are not passive, bland hearts.

Instead, something dynamic and creative grows; we are able to see anger for what it is — fear, loss of control, the doorway to trouble — which then means we learn to oppose and fight against wrongdoing without getting hooked by the hot springs that is an angry heart. We fight without emotional riot gear. We honor the dignity of the other. We listen. The rampage turns quiet.

Our list of enemies grows small. Soon, we refuse to have enemies at all.

A No-Enemy form of politics would continue to fight and protest — always vital — for a better America, yet without wishing for our opponent's ruin. Without wishing them harm or ill will. Without wishing them injury or destruction. Without cursing them, or harboring hate, the worst immigrant of all, in our hearts.

My work this election season is to continue to wrestle for the good of this country, yet doing so without wishing for the destruction of Trump, the man.

My work is to wish for him happiness, a calm heart and peace of mind.

Just not, of course, from anywhere near the White House.

David Cook writes a Sunday column and can be reached at or 423-757-6329.