Everyone who isn’t dead or senile knows that America is facing its greatest ordeal, and the choices that will be made in the next week will determine whether the United States plunges into irremediable chaos or crawls out of the horrible divisiveness that has rent families, separated friends and seen an unprecedented amount of hate-filled rhetoric and violence.
The question that obsesses me is this: if Biden wins, and if this long dark night of the Trump horror ends, how will those who have won tend to those who have lost? How will those who have suffered so much trauma and despair in these last four years find the spiritual depth and courage to turn to those who have abetted this trauma and see them not as deplorables, traitors and lunatics but members of our large American family?
What do we need to be and what do we need to do to help Biden in his mission of being not simply a president for those who voted for him but a president for all Americans? Nothing is more important, because even if Democrats win, they will be dealing not only with the continuing ruthless amorality of Trump and his enablers (who are not likely to go peacefully and are quite capable of trying to falsifying the election and stir up right-wing domestic terrorism) but also with all those who are in agony and just beginning to awaken from their long and disastrous hallucination.
Here are my thoughts. I know what will not work. I know that denial of everything that we have lived through will only make the wounds that have been inflicted fester. I know that any New Age talk of radical forgiveness is obscene, stupid and utterly ineffectual, because in a situation as dire as we have experienced, there can be no forgiveness without justice and precise and devastating accountability. The crimes that have been committed on every level by the president and his enablers will have to be exposed in order for any reckoning to be possible and to help those who supported this corrupt fantasy to have a chance to wake up.
Waking up does not mean and should not mean coming over to the progressive side. After all, Trump’s example has nothing to do with authentic conservatism and the integrity and honor of authentic Republican practice. Without a strong and balanced conservative voice, authentic democracy cannot progress. This is very important because progressives cannot be seen as pushing their own radical agenda at the expense of all those who did not get behind it. This will merely create a resistance that could destroy that agenda.
Everyone is challenged to broaden their hearts and minds and souls because the country cannot go forward without mercy. This will be grueling and difficult. Progressives will need to scrub hatred and rage from their hearts, because neither will allow for the mystery of coming together. Progressives will need to set up an authentic dialog with those in the opposition, such as the Lincoln Project, who guard true conservative values but detest fascism and autocracy.
Progressives will need to go on a profound journey to understand with heartbroken compassion why so many chose to follow Trump and make a tremendous effort of soul to realize how grieved and abandoned many of those who love Trump still feel. They are our brothers, sisters and friends; the least we can do is to take their pain seriously and advocate policies that address their needs.
The dialog that progressives need to be first to start will be hard, because it will mean looking at our shadows and the ways in which we have been ignorant of so much of the distress that a significant minority have felt. Progressives will also have to stand up against ANY violence, whether it comes from groups like the Proud Boys or Antifa or anyone else, because any violence will only deepen the abyss that we are in danger of falling into. All of these moves will demand a new maturity of being, and if we can reach this together, then America can once again lead the free world.
I remember a conversation I had with my friend, Ellen Sirleaf, president of Liberia, who was presiding over a country that had been torn by horrifying civil war. I asked her what was her attitude to those who had done such terrible things. She answered, “I love them. I know that I myself am capable of being seduced by fantasy. I know myself that in weakness or need, I can be tempted to do terrible things. What I do is stand for compassion and justice with both ears open to all my countrymen.”
These words have been a trumpet call for me ever since I heard them. Because I recognize them as the words of an authentic statesperson. And now all of us are being called to be statespersons.
One concrete suggestion: If Biden wins, we should urge the Democrats to establish a Truth and Reconciliation process presided over by people of both sides, especially those Republicans who have been warning against Trump. This would be a laborious process, but if it was seen to be just and fair, it would be a wonderful beginning to the massing of the better angels of our nature. President Obama and President Bush could preside; representative members of faiths could also be present. True crimes would be punished, but the goal of the whole process must be reconciliation.
These are the thoughts that are roiling around in my heart. The last thing I would ever do is claim to have the answers. One of the gifts of this horrifying time we have been through is that we all have come to know that if we are at all awake, we need each other’s deep wisdom to guide us. This by itself is a potential leap forward for authentic democracy.
So I am asking you to ponder what I have been saying, take it deep into your heart and prayer, open your minds and hearts and souls and write me back what you are feeling could be the way forward at [email protected]. Whatever discussion we have, let it be calm and kind and noble-hearted. The most inspiring part of Biden’s message is his determination to be a president for all Americans. And as a spiritual teacher, although I myself am a progressive, I am also here for all of my friends and fellow travelers of the soul who have taken a different path. There is no other truly human way and now I, like you, will be tested to my depths to see if the compassion and patience I have given my life to are real, and to see too if I am capable of holding all human beings--whatever their choices--in my heart of hearts, wishing all of them happiness, stability and a good, wild, holy life.
Let all of us, whatever side of the political spectrum we find ourselves on, remember the core principles of the Constitution and let us also be very aware that if democracy fails in America, it will fail all over the world and extinction could follow. Our one chance of getting through the multiple crises ahead is through democracy, so now all of us are challenged to so deepen our familial natures that real democracy can be born at last, at the precise time when its practice will be so desperately needed.
All my love,
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