Sunday, January 9, 2011

Clarion Call on the Morning After

To all of those who wish to paint what occurred in Arizona as an isolated incident - this is our clarian call.

Responding to this issue with a clear-eyed view of how increasingly toxic, ugly and utterly broken politics and civil discourse has become in the US in the last two years is not - in and of itself - politicizing this tragedy. In fact, to reflexively turn a blind eye to the consequences of our actions, our (yes OUR) failure to do better, to stop the rising tide of hatred and the breakdown between people on different sides of the line -IS to politicize this. Moreover, the reflexive but understandable need to do this in this climate is actually a devastating abrogation of the opportunity for ALL of us to begin to healing.

There is a critical difference in the two primary ways we may respond to this. One path leads us through the wounds we've collectively incurred, through our being able to admit our own ugliness or weakness, to a place where we might begin to heal. This path feels very vulnerable in a climate of blame and lack of self-reflection or accountability on BOTH sides.

The other path leads us more deeply into denial and will leave us even more susceptible to a total breakdown in our society if we cannot stop deluding ourselves about what we've done and what we have become. Our national identity is sick and broken. To ignore this lumbering wounded elephant/donkey in the room and attempt to frame this as an "isolated" event - just the result of an isolated, sick mind - is to dig our heels deeper into the mud and this devastating divide - and perhance to unthinkable consequences.

I am not interested in laying the mantle of blame for the deaths of these innocent Americans - Americans who were practicing democracy in the highest, best sense possible (a casual meet and great with their rep, face to face - doesn't get better than that!) - on one half of this country. That one-half would include my father, my uncle, my cousins, my neighbors, and my friends.

In fact, I am not interested in deepening the disgusting stereotypes that have been worming their way into the public consciousness and poisoning our ability to think - much less communicate. Stereotypes that are easily conjured and offer some modicum of angry comfort in these dark and exhausting times - but that inevtiably lead to schoolyard taunts (saliant ones that come to mind are "libtards" or "repugnikans", oft found on Yahoo news threads) derailing decency and distorting our perceptions.

However - some people who have the megaphone and the ear of the nation ARE interested in precisely such things. In fact, they have gone to great lengths to exploit our divide, to rankle the scared and the wounded, to tap into the fears we all share, and, instead of calling upon our higher natures, they have strategically (or for their own sick greed) incited our basest instincts - instincts that are primed and rumbling just under the surface, as the world appears to fall apart around us.

Because YES - America is in crisis. We are in survival mode - a kind of collective fight or flight syndrome in the aftermath of too many traumas. Moreover, we do not have effective leaders in front of us, and if we did, then we totally failed to understand that we HAD to take the higher road, together (we, and our leaders) in order to climb out of these difficult times and co-create a more hopeful path ahead.

Critical to the functioning of our society is a civilized political process. Civil discourse - and every single one of us insisting upon it from our leaders - is the ONLY way we will ever solve complex and very scary problems. Civil discourse was used exhaustively (and yes, with plenty of rancor) by our founding fathers to ensure the creation of the most robust and successful rule of law document in human history - the US Constitution. Our founding fathers knew full well that complexity, and paradox, and deep philosophical divides HAD to be bravely tackled together - no matter how much you hated your oppenent in the moment - if we were to succeed as a fledgling nation and be able to guarantee that success, and our liberty, over time. These men understood that our higher natures HAD to take precedence. We HAD to find adequate and lasting compromise, through rigorous, frustrating, yet civil discourse.

We all know how our Congress performs in this regard now. I am ashamed for my country and my people that we have let it sink to this.

But the "WE" here is critical. Sarah Palin, and her keen ability to capitalize on our woundedness for her own gain, is a product of our times. Her exploitative nature and savvy political charm are, to some extent, to be expected. But the US media, and the US public, should know better. WE should be able to see through this fraud of a person and recognize, viscerally, the damage she and other political exploiters are causing to this nation. That so many in the country don't see this is a disturbing sign of just how deeply we have begun to delude ourselves in our surface-obsessed, "reality" TV, soundbite, spin-dominated times.

So - no - facing the fact that the way public figures have behaved in the US in the last few years can and does impact our collective psyche, or at least, our collective willingness to tackle things with integrity, is NOT politicizing. It is taking the humble, if uncertain road (one littered with landmines to be sure) toward our own healing. Toward the healing of this divide. I don't blame Republicans. That would be me defeating the purpose of everything I've just written.

But I want you to stand with me and denounce the ugliness we have all participated in. NOW. Before this reflexive defense is solidified in one half of the nation and we totally lose our opportunity to turn in a better direction. Before more of our neighbors and friends, and daughters and fathers die. We will never stop truly isolated incidents. But together, and only together, we can try to stop this tide.

Restoring our country and our political process is up to each of us. It starts with a hard look in the individual and aggregate mirror. It starts with facing each other without pointing fingers, no matter how mad we are. And it starts with dropping the insane perceptions we've formed of our fellow Americans - and - with a whole lot of humility and courage so we can find our way forward.

But that starts when we stop deluding ourselves with the idea what we don't have a great impact on one another - that what we do here doesn't really matter. Clearly, we do - and clearly - it does. And I am asking you to take this moment to extend your hearts and hands and meet me in the middle, ALL of us - politics, defensive masks and armor aside, to grieve together, over the horror that happened in Arizona yesterday. We must grieve, but we also honestly face the fact that it is no suprise that the cauldron boiled over in a sick mind, in our littered battlefield.

The future of our country and our children depends on our ability to do this.

1 comment:

  1. The politics of division is very ugly and has torn a giant rift in the moral fabric of our nation.
    I will lay blame, squarely where it belongs. On those who use the politics of division for personal, political or corporate gain.
    Recognizing the fault in ourselves is a necessary first step in squaring ourselves personally with the effects of divisional politics. But a personal and national / international cure, so that the effects can not return. Lies in taking the power back from those to whom we give it every day to misuse.
    We can do it nonviolently and legally while at the same time making the cure infectious.
    We all need to learn to live on less that more can live.
    I do it by living on a boat that I built myself. Buying all my clothing and as many other material "things" as I can from second hand stores and thrift stores. Also by buying all the food I need from local co-ops, organic farmers markets and gardeners.
    I consume practically nothing from the government and corporate machines responsible for creating divisive politics.
    The government is broke right now. If even 10% of the population did the same thing however they could. Or if 20% did as much of it as they could. The machine would crumble in short order and we would have a better world.