Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Broken Heart in the Great Debate

Where did the truth go?

I'm not asking this in the usual left versus right, "I can't believe people believe ______!" paradigm.  I disagree with those who believe that one's value in life is determine by race, and class, and economic circumstances, but I have learned that respect of radically different viewpoints is the only way to start a way to reconciliation.

My sorrow this morning -- the morning after the first of three 'debates' between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump -- is that those of us who feel a sense of obligation to participate in the Great Ongoing Discussion about society and the world and how to make life whole and good for everybody are being conditioned to accept lies as truth.  Donald Trump said so many lies about so many subjects during the 'debate' that I stopped paying attention to the words and to my own anger.  I realized that Trump absolutely believes everything that he says, because the way he has succeeded in cultivating more wealth and notariety in his life is due to his speaking lies as though they were truth.

Everyone does that on some level.  Since the dawn of human consciousness, beliefs in the supernatural sprang up as a mechanism to explain the unexplainable.  It has never been enough for us to leave "Maybe one day, we'll know" as a mantra.  We had to know.  And we had to know now.

At some point in Imperial history, angry white people realized that facts were getting in the way of them running the country and the show. So there was a subconscious decision made to say anything -- ANYTHING -- that discredits those trying to bend the world's arc closer to justice.
Verifiable facts became the enemy. As information has become easier to transmit, facts about inequity and human-caused climate destruction and society's treatment of marginalized communities and other facts were no longer suppressed, the angry white people started to panic.
Enter Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign and his wink-wink to those people, and his subtle message of "Facts won't matter. We will make ignorance a virtue."
Then the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, with the subtle message of "We will stop government from thinking critically."
Then George W's theft of the 2000 election, with his subtle message of "I won even though I lost. Get over it."
Then the Tea Party takeover of the GOP in 2010, with the overt message of "No to everything that makes the world better. We are done apologizing for the past."
Now all the subtle has become overt.  Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump is the sociopathic result of this continuing distancing of belief from reality.   Those of us in professional religious circles who see the yearning for true connection in nearly everyone we meet also see how that connection is blocked.  I speak with people every day who think their truth is somehow undesirable, because the fiction we are forced to live is so dark.  Money cannot buy happiness, compassion or intelligence.  We know this because Donald Trump is not happy, compassionate, or bright.

Politically, there is no room for truth in the remaining days of the 2016 General Election in the U.S.  All we have now is a choice.  Do we reward not only the telling of lies, but the belief in them?  Or do we accept our shared humanity, our shared inherent value, our fears, our passions and our loves, and continue the slow, painful, complex journey to wholeness?  To reconciliation?  To racial justice?  To gender equity?  To a society where no one is starved?

The political nerd in me is righteously angry, and wants Hillary to crush Donald with a 420-electoral-point rout on November 8, with a 55-seat Democratic majority in the Senate.  Because that would be the only result that would end this sliding by the political right toward a total abdication of responsiveness to truth.  But the aspiring minister in me sees that we are all broken more than we were already broken by this election.  I am afraid of what comes next, while hopeful for the future.

May we see the light in ourselves to overcome division.  And may the next 6 weeks go by quickly.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Those Damn Trees

For my evening meditation tonight, I sat on the balcony that adjoins the bedroom of our apartment, on the third of three floors of this row house in Baltimore, Maryland.  A golden shade highlighted all the contours of the trees to the east, with the unusual shade of light casting a contrast between the trees and the landscape closer to the ground, where the setting sun's light could not reach.

I've been too focused lately on the coming election here in the United States, with two peoples' divergent viewpoints and ideologies ravaging a stage that Americans are taught in school is sacred to our democratic principles.  With 48 days to go until this latest "most important election in our lifetime", I was left with the realization that the trees with which I was sharing this evening's sacred space of meditation didn't care about the election.  They didn't care about the ideological conflict that I often believe could divide the United States in unhealthy ways.  They sat there.  Unyielding.  Swayed only by the winds.

How can they not care?  Isn't the election the most important thing ever?

No.  They don't care.  Most of those trees will outlive the two major-party candidates for President.  Most of those trees will outlive the third-party Presidential candidates too.  All the trees with which I shared space tonight survived the heavy construction and paving of this Charles Village neighborhood in Baltimore over a century ago.  They weren't swayed when Franklin Roosevelt was elected in 1932, when the American Middle Class was midwifed.  They weren't swayed when World War II started, or ended.  They weren't swayed when the end of the social contract for fair treatment ended with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.  They weren't swayed when the U.S. elected its first nonwhite President, Barack Obama, 8 years ago.  And they won't be swayed by this election.

These trees are part of an ecology that will heal, at some point, in some way.  Maybe humanity will survive its attempt at self-destruction through ecological rape.  Maybe we won't.  But those trees, and their cousins, and their offspring, will live on.

I cannot fix the toxic politics here.  Nor can I reach out and fix the bad days some of my ministerial colleagues had this past week.  Nor can I solve intractable life problems experienced by close friends.  But I can realize that I am part of a larger whole.  One that extends beyond the fertile and often harsh playground of human life.

I am born from the trees.  I am a product of playtime underneath the massive Oak tree on the front lawn of my mother's home in Michigan, its massive reach covering my imaginary Starship Bridge during "Star Trek" playtime when I was a boy.  I am a product of love, cultivated on walks underneath so many trees in so many places.  I am the product of awe, as I have witnessed the flowering of the tree in front of our Baltimore row house every spring since we arrived.  Those trees that wave frigidly in the winter, their bare arms demonstrating life and unending desire to grow upward.  Those trees that captured the attention of so many authors.  Those trees that rustle when the summer breeze bring relief to a sweltering day.

I am not the capable one to fix the world, for the world is beyond me.  But I will cue from the trees that shared in my meditation tonight, and rest aware that there is always tomorrow.