In the weeks leading up to the election, I worked myself into what we called a ‘dither’ where I come from. Concern became worry. Worry led to hopelessness and then depression. That may seem strange given that I live five thousand miles away and have not lived in America in almost fifteen years. But I still have three sons who do. Scattered across her great expanse from the East coast to the heart of Texas all the way to Hollywood. And Mamas always worry.
But it went deeper than that. It was not just the short-term safety and longer range well-being of my offspring still there. America was a microcosm for our world. All of it. Our economies are so entwined. As recent months have shown, what affects the health of one nation can quickly infect others. And looming largest of all is the destruction of this planet herself.
Never have we been more aware of our interconnectedness than in this internet age. This was not just an American election. It was a worldwide referendum on truth, justice, and all we thought was good or right in it. Or so it seemed.
And I was leaning towards the pessimistic.
Then things began to come my way that made me realize…
In the grand scheme of time and universe, it just don’t matter.
Yes, I said that. Now, let me explain why. Beginning with this quote from Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez:
He can stay, he can go. He can be impeached, or voted out in 2020. But removing Donald Trump will not remove the infrastructure of an entire party that embraced him; the dark money that funded him; the online radicalization that drummed his army; nor the racism that he amplified and reanimated.
That is the issue. Even IF Biden wins, and it looks like he might. Even if he manages to take office peacefully – which is another matter altogether. All we have really done was buy a few years, in one nation out of one-hundred-ninety-five, to get our shit together.
And that process will not be simple, easy, or clean. Nor does a Biden win necessarily signal that it will even happen.
- How do we even begin to build bridges across racial canyons that pre-date our constitution and America itself?
- How do we recompense indigenous peoples for centuries of genocide?
- How do we restore to women their sense of worth after millennia of oppression and degradation?
- How do we heal Mother Earth and create a more sustainable, fairer, and more justice system of self-governance?
When you begin to look at the breadth and depth of the real questions facing us today, who wins this election is just a drop in the bucket.
And in some ways, as we saw with the Obama presidency, raising the hopes and expectations of people for change that never comes can be worse. People around this planet are waking up. They are demanding real, genuine change from their leaders. And Trump’s presidency followed so closely upon Obama’s only proves if they can’t find that one place they will look elsewhere, sometimes into the darkest crevices of our humanity.
Combine this with the old systems of oppression, privilege, greed, and hubris fighting back for its very survival, and it is a molotov cocktail for fascism and disaster.
So, if elections don’t matter, at least as much as we think, then what does matter?
Yes, change by governments at all levels matter. So too, do changes by corporations. Religious reformations count.
But the sad truth is that we, the people, have little to no say in those things. Once you cast your vote, you have invested all your power into someone else. For two years, four years, six or more. As for protests, strikes, and boycotts? Few have any lasting impact. It is hard to maintain the momentum necessary to instigate long-term change. Short of a violent revolution, but we only need to look at the history of the French Revolution or read Animal House to realize that not even those guarantee positive, lasting change.
So, what can one person do?
Surprisingly, lasting personal change is the most significant contribution that you can make. Even more than voting. Or protesting.
But what? What should I be doing? How?
No one sees themselves as a bad person (or almost no one). I bet even Hitler and Trump did not see themselves as evil. They probably even believed that they were doing the ‘right’ thing. Most of us do. Believe that we are the ‘good’ guys and the ‘others’ are the problem.
Though I am no longer Christian, I still think that Jesus guy had some pretty cool ingots of wisdom to share with humanity. One of my favorites is:
“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?”Matthew 7:3 New Living Translation
The truth is that we all have our flaw, failings, and prejudices. Just as we have our good points. Or least our reasons for being that way. Yes, that is no excuse. But it is informative from a historical perspective as an explanation for some of humanity’s darkest hours. As the saying goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And we certainly don’t want to repeat 2020.
Do you recognize your own prejudices? Where those came from? How could you go about addressing them?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, this word comes from the Latin root ‘re’ meaning ‘back and ‘conciliare’ meaning ‘ bring together.’ Bring back together. Its modern meanings include:
- Restore friendly relations between.
- Settle (a quarrel)
- Make or show to be compatible.
For me, one of the most disappointing things was to witness the gloating and recriminations against those ‘others’ following the election. Hatred, bigotry, and prejudice have controlled our world for too long. How exactly are you any different if you merely turn the tables on the ‘losers’?
Yes, America’s troubles are deep-set. The same document that proudly boasts ‘all men are created equal’ excluded women, First Nations who had lived there for thousands of years before it was ‘discovered,’ and defined black men as two-thirds of a person, while still denying him any protections or the right to vote. Even white men needed to prove themselves worthy by paying a poll tax, owning property, or being able to read. (Those standards varied from states to state and across time).
So, how do we begin to reconcile those deep divides? By restoring friendly relations with those in our lives. By facing our own prejudices and phobias. By asking forgiveness from those, we have offended. And by baking cookies or asking that neighbor with the Trump sign to dinner. Avoid politics. Talk about sports or your kids or television. Find common ground. Reconnect to one another’s humanity.
Only after we have reflected on our own humanity and reconciled with our brothers and sisters can we even think about repairing the damage. Not just of the last four years but of a shared history filled with oppression of one group over another and ultimately of a handful of individuals over the masses.
I believe the best way that we can repair those social divides is through repairing physical ones. Banning together to clean an elderly neighbor’s garden. Fixing that single mother’s old car, so she can get to work and support her family. A modern-day barn building that begins with a couple of families and expands to the whole neighborhood, school, or community.
As we drink coffee (or beer), eat muffins, laugh, and drive nails, we are repairing not just the places in which we live, but those broken relationships, our communities, the nation, and this world.
Maybe all that sounds too simple or good to be true, but what’s your plan? Are the ones from on high going to be any better? Do we have, almost three months or more, by the time they make it into law, to waste? I challenge you to give it a try. What do you have to lose? Your prejudices? Your anger? Your self-righteousness? I’d rather lose those than my humanity. Because then we become the very thing we fought against.
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