(Thank you Gary Olson and Bill Rettig for your helpful questions and comments regarding this post.)
(You can view Parts I and II, “How I Learned to Love Donald Trump” & “Things That Go Bump In the Night” at
& my “Living With Soul” page on Facebook)
This is the season of thankfulness. I am thankful for family, friends and my many blessings. I am also torn by conflicting emotion about our presidential election.
I'm disgusted: We elected a president that many - business people, political professionals, and analysts judge unqualified for the office.
I'm angry: Important government programs affecting the environment, health, aid for disadvantaged people and immigrants may be eliminated or downgraded.
I'm fearful: The US may revert to the militaristic foreign policies of the past.
I'm sad: The election exposed deep divisions among the citizens of our country. These are exacerbated by ignorance, isolation, and hatred.
I'm confused: I see no obvious solutions. We seem disconnected from the moral grounding of our ancestors.
I'm hopeful: I believe we have unrecognized potentials that will allow our nation to once again become a resource to the global community.
In the midst of these mixed emotions, life is getting more personal. My Haitian friends have introduced me to the pain and frustration of immigrants who are seeking asylum in the United States. My little grandson has opened me to seeing things in new ways. I now realize that oppressors are often oppressed themselves. When that kid bullied my grandson (See my last post), I thought only of Gus. Now I wonder about this little boy. Was he jealous because he had no grandpa to play with? Had he been bullied himself? In the heat of the moment, I wasn't able to relate to him. I wish I had behaved differently.
I'm still concerned about injustices in our world. Now the news reports are more than statistics. I anguish for the people caught in the violence. I envision myself trapped in Aleppo as bombs destroy my city;i or in Mosul as ISIS and coalition forces battle for control; or in Homs Syria.ii I wonder about the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, lovers and children of the fighters on both sides. They grieve over the death of their loved ones even as I grieve over the death of our son.
I'm no longer clear about the appropriate response to violence and evil. When I was young, the answers were simple. There were rules. I had to “do the right thing.” Now that I am older, evil is less well defined. Right and wrong are no longer polar opposites. The blacks and whites have faded into shades of grey.
In the past, religious and moral traditions provided guidance. Today these traditions have less influence. We are increasingly left alone and adrift. Unconsciously we look for people who support our views - a tribe so to speak. As with ancient tribes, we band together for self preservation. We have our own beliefs and values (gods). We promulgate our own creation stories (myths). We seek to dominate other tribes to protect our political, economic, and moral positions (territory). The belief that “Violence Saves” holds us in its sway.iii
The animosity that surfaced during the election exposed the depths of the divisions in our society. Given the present political climate, there is reason to believe that these divisions will result in a country riven by distrust and hatred. It is increasingly clear that we cannot deal with our differences through domination and violence. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put it well, “If we do an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we will be a blind and toothless nation.” We must find alternative ways to engage one another, or our democracy will decline.
I suggested one alternative in my last two posts. This is to tune-in to the emerging flow of the cosmos, a flow that constantly creates and evolves. There is no magic in this. It is a process; - like getting to know and love a friend. It begins with a desire for something more, followed by steps of curiosity, interest and finally commitment.
Like growing in love, this is not a rational process that can be clearly defined. It's something you know deep in your heart and gut. It's a sense of rightness about your way of living.
I offer this alternative to you because you care. You may be active in a religious community, or you may be turned off by religion. In either case, it is no longer sufficient to define ourselves as liberal or conservative; religious or non religious; pacifist or pro military. When we embrace both our positive and shadow aspects, traditional categories are insufficient. We realize that we, and all of humanity, are part of a whole. Everyone and everything has value.
In this sense, people steeped in the cosmic flow are threats to the status quo. We are not bound by cultural definitions of right and wrong. Buddha violated the norms of his society when he abdicated his role as ruler and warrior, abandoned his wife and child, and wandered without status among the dispossessed. Gandhi fomented a societal revolution using only nonviolent resistance. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., inspired by Gandhi, promoted acts of civil disobedience in his struggle against racism. Moses led a worker's revolt agains the ruling class in Egypt. Jesus healed and worked on the Sabbath; ate with tax collectors and prostitutes; and embraced the untouchable lepers. His actions and relationships were in direct violation of the cultural norms of his day. Joan of Arc violated gender stereotypes and became a warrior. Dorthy Day, an unwed mother and communist sympathizer, challenged the entrenched cultural traditions of Catholicism.
An activist friend of mine is committed to the welfare of the dispossessed. He is cooperating with a dictator because he believes this is the most effective way to help the poor of this third world country. Based on current cultural values, many would condemn his decision.
In a society that has lost it's moorings, we need people from all walks of life who are willing to engage the deeper humanity that resides in each of us. We need people who are willing to explore the profound shift that is occurring in consciousness.iv We need to use every ounce of energy to bind the wounds of the past. We need to challenge injustices and violence wherever and whenever they occur.
This requires people who are willing to put themselves in the middle of the action rather than living by proxy; letting others act in their place. It requires people who will engage social situations without prejudgement; people who can engage others who have different values, histories and perspectives. We need people who are willing to promote diversity and inclusiveness.
Even as I share these lofty ideals, I have no illusion that there are any quick fixes. We are involved in a transition that will occur over lifetimes. We may never see the results of our efforts. The best we can hope for is that we can forestall a major deterioration in the quality of life on our planet. If we survive this crisis, we will emerge as a more conscious and hopefully compassionate species. Surely, this is worth the effort.
iii “The belief that violence “saves” is so successful because it doesn't seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It's what works. It seems inevitable, the last and, often, the first resort in conflict. If a god is what you turn to when all else fails, violence certainly functions as a god. What people overlook, then, is the religious character of violence. It demands from its devotees an absolute obedience-unto- death. ... The Myth of Redemptive Violence is the real myth of the modern world. It, and not Judaism or Christianity or Islam, is the dominant religion in our society today.” Walter Wink, “The Myth of Redemptive Violence”