Monday, November 7, 2016

On the night before the election

I've been trying to find some words to share on this night before the election and they keep failing me. So I will just type and see what comes...

What will be settled if one or the other, Trump or Clinton, wins? Nothing, really, if we are talking about emerging from the collapse of the political culture and the demise of the two-party system as representing engines of change in one direction or the other. What we can expect, no matter who wins, is a fairly ungovernable nation. It's been bad for years now, but I think it's about to get worse. If anyone thinks we go from this chaos, ugliness, and slime-slinging to cooperation, compromise, or dealing with the fundamental crises of the planet, well, the reality check will come soon, methinks.

It's not for any reasons of partisanship that I write that, it's because of stories like these:
You get my point. Didn't come up in this election cycle, did it... Or how about this new story from Oklahoma? 
Have you heard anyone running for national office lately calling for an end to fracking, for stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline and dismantling it, for beginning the retreat from the coasts that now face permanent and increased flooding for as far out as humans can see right now, for beginning an immediate phasing out of fossil fuels and beginning the transition not just to clean energy but to what is really required if we want to meet the voluntary goals set by the Paris climate agreement - the end of market capitalism and the creation of new regulated markets bent on stopping emissions and transitioning as soon as possible from a resource extraction/consumption market economy?

No, I didn't think so. The main reason is not lack of boldness or not appreciating the nature of the crises. It's that those running for national office have high personal stakes in keeping this planet-wasting economic system in place, no matter how much more damage is done, and to hell with future generations. They're not here to vote yet.

Which is to say that if we are looking for our hope in this process, we have a harsh spiritual path ahead filled with disappointment, a sense of betrayal, and the potential for despair.[scroll down to read more]

I am not suggesting that voting is not important – it’s crucial. We have to keep exercising our democratic rights if we want to keep them. But we also know it is not enough to come to the polls and to decide between two people – whether for the White House or Congress – that we have little participation in choosing to be on the ballot in the first place. And there are certainly differences among them on issues, and we need to take all of that into consideration as we go to the polls. 

No, what I am suggesting is that voting is important, and it is also not nearly enough. It is not even the most essential thing. The most essential thing is how we make change in a way that can one day influence that process. It took a long, long time to create the political-cultural climate that allowed the civil rights and voting rights acts to be passed and signed in the 1960s, to end the military draft, to stop US aid to repressive dictatorships in Central America, and a long list of other struggles won over the long haul work of building movements "from below."

If we really want to salvage a vibrant living eco-community that is hospitable for humans on this planet, we have to go to the places where that kind of change actually comes about. And in those places we have to not just struggle and resist, but also build community - because community is a necessary ingredient for getting through this challenging era we face. It is also about the most counter-cultural thing we can do.

Look again at what's happening in North Dakota and you see what community can do, the witnessing not only to the sacredness of water and the treaty rights of the Standing Rock Sioux, but to a new way of life based in completely different values than the dominant one that has caused so much harm to our nation and the world.

My heart is heavy this night. I'm pretty sure it will be on election day and many days after that. What has happened in this election cycle, among many other things, is that we have gotten a pretty harsh view of where we stand as a nation. We needed to see this. We can't do effective work if we don't know what's "out there." We have to move past the toxic nature of the national dialogue toward that other world we know is possible.


We will only see proof of its possibility by working to bring it into being. 

Light a candle tonight and maybe share a quiet moment for prayer, or meditation, or whatever works for you and remember the ground you stand on. Feel the power of the Earth beneath and all around you. It wants to heal. It wants to work with and through us for the sake of life. Make this a daily practice. We draw strength from that font.


Margaret Swedish 

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