Listen to me. This is important.
We don’t know how; we don’t know why. Somewhere inside we thought his candidacy was just a dangerous game. But we were wrong. And in being wrong, we came to realize, for the first time in most of our lives, that politics is far more than just a great game played inside the imperfect but safe bowl of democracy. It is the organizing principle of human affairs, and without a sound political structure, we do not stand on solid ground – as a nation or as individuals.
That is what the true shock is: that the election of this man could threaten us on the very level of our every day lives. He could break something that we never questioned before: he could break America.
This gives us a great responsibility and opportunity.
We have been fragmented on the left for as long as I can remember. Perhaps during the Viet Nam war we were unified, but that was around a single issue.
Our lives and well being were at risk; the soul of the country was at risk.
This time it is different. This is not simply about our individual rights or the viability of our country. This is about the health and survival of future generations.
This is about our planet.
This is about our children.
The great flaw of the left, when it is not galvanized around a single issue, has been its failure to unify. There are so many deeply felt and morally legitimate issues. Black Lives Matter, GLBTQ rights, a woman’s right to choose, the despoliation of the environment, prison reform, the cost of college education and the rights of all children to go to healthy and hopeful schools; electoral reform, citizens united, handicap access, cruelty to animals. And I could go on. We all could.
But the issue is that we are not one, we are many. We may form alliances: Black Lives Matter stands in solidarity with Sacred Stone Camp, etc. But we do not subsume our individual issues under a common banner. We do not forge a collective identity. We stumble around, frustrated to the point of tears, marginalized in the collective American consciousness as “The Left” — a grab bag of grievances united under a political banner that does not draw the ordinary American citizen to us until their particular ox is gored by some event that radicalizes them.
But what we are facing now is too important to remain fragmented and too significant to be allowed to be marginalized. It is not simply political. It is human.
Understand, this election was not about principle, it was about anger. The people who elected Trump have nothing in common except their free-floating and undefined anger at some vague “other” who is keeping the world from being what they think it should be. If we allow ourselves to become that “other” we run the risk of turning that anger to hate.
We need to create a larger embrace. We need to recognize, whether we like it or not, that we live in a time of sound bites and branding. We can no longer afford to be a loose alliance of individual causes and grievances united under the marginalized politically-fraught identity of “The Left.”
We need to find a common banner that calls to everyone who is able to think beyond the notion of “country” to the notion of “planet.”
If we set this up as opposition, all we do is give the anger something to galvanize around. Remember, the people who are now been given power have no identity, only grievance. If we have no identity, but only grievance, they win, because they have the power.
Our power is in finding a common identity that embraces all causes and allows each to struggle for its own individual ends, not as part of an alliance, but as part of a common vision.
I think that identity has something to do with our children. I don’t have the phrase, but this is the one thing that all of us, including the angry victors, share — our love and our hope for our children. We somehow need to unite under a banner that brings in all those who are frightened and confused and want a direction of hope.
We cannot meet their anger with anger. Anger has, for the moment, won, and that brings out an entire range of emotions in us, anger being among them. But we have to find a different emotion – a different spiritual orientation – to confront their anger. It has to be something soft. I think it should have to do with the children.
There are many armies needed in a war, and with many skills. This, now, is a war. But it is not a war for political power, it is a war for the soul.
Remember this: anger might protect our children, it doesn’t guide them.
We have been given a moment, and, though it came from a dire and unexpected event, it is a moment, nonetheless.
Once we are past the shock and anger and disbelief, we need to seize it with gentle, thoughtful guile. We must not become them. We must do what Sitting Bull, one of my true heroes in life, counseled.
“Come,” he said, in the face of a government that vowed to destroy him, “Let us put our minds together to see what kind of lives we can make for our children.”
This is our time. This is our moment. We need to do what is right, and we need to do it together.