Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Still thinking...

I could barely keep up with the flood of email coming into me today, written by friends completely distraught over the results of last night's election. Strangely enough, what worries me most is the friends I haven't heard from - friends who just 24 hours ago were writing to cheerfully tell me about phone banking or leafletting or the really, really high hopes they had.

And so, I'm writing to you what I'd like to say to them, only it's just a little too early and the wound is a little too fresh. This isn't a definitive posting on what happened last night; it's basically just a first stab.

First of all, the "struggle for a better world" (can't think of a better way to put that) was never going to be over today, even if Kerry won. Even if the guy swept the nation, we were still going to wake up today with loads of work to do. So if things seem overwhelming now, remember they would be just as overwhelming if he had won. Kerry winning didn't mean we'd instantly be out of Iraq, nor did it mean that the poor in this country would suddenly find themselves with excellent health care, a safe place to live, and a great school to send their children to. All the problems we face now would not have instantly vanished. We would have had to ride that guy just like we have to Bush - although I certainly admit that the road to a better place now seems further and harsher.

Secondly, I truly think we have to come to terms with the fact that the majority of Americans like Bush, that they approve of him, and that the "moral issues" that seem like no big deal to those of us living here weigh heavily on the minds of most of the people in this country, much more so than the war and the economy. If there had been a low turnout, if millions of dollars were not made available to Democratic causes to make its case, then perhaps you could say that these issues weren't as important as they now seem; right now I'm not sure how you can make that argument. (The flip side to this is that if maybe - just maybe - the DNC had had the balls to put a truly anti-war candidate on the ticket, things may have been different... but I don't think this negates the impact of those "moral issues" that we in the solidly blue states really aren't terribly concerned about.)

Lastly - and this is the part I really have to think about and really have to consider pretty deeply - I believe there is a serious lesson to be learned from all of this. The lesson is not that we are powerless, that all that time put into volunteering and talking to your co-workers and so on and so forth was all for nothing; it's that we haven't truly come to terms with the extent of our power. It's that we haven't yet tapped into this core that I think exists in all of us, a place of light and change that can really effect the world, and found a way to externalize it.

If it sounds like I'm tripping, consider this: I'm sure somewhere, at sometime in your life, there exists a person who you had contact with who completely changed the way you look at the world. If you're anything like me, you've run into dozens of people like this. It could be anything - a conversation you had with them, the way they lead their life, whatever. That person affected you, deeply, and made you see the world differently. This is the power - or at least part of it - that I'm talking about.

I'm not suggesting at all that if we're all just really nice to each other, Social Security will still exist when I turn 65. What I am suggesting is that the major flaw with the election is that we didn't pin our hopes on a much grander goal than simply changing the occupant of the White House. The solution is not to put up a more moderate (more Republican) Democrat in '08; it's to extend the reach of what we really want.

A friend of mine - in a totally unrelated email - sent me an Arabic proverb that I think fits nicely in this ramble of mine:
Dwell not upon thy weariness, thy strength shall be according to the measure of thy desire.
When things seem bad, it's only human to try and snuff out those bad feelings, to put them in a box and pretend the whole incident never happened. That desire we all felt 24 hours ago might seem really tough to revisit, but I think it's important that we do. Instead of suffocating it, let's strengthen it. Let's let it grow. Let's let the desire for a better world grow so huge and so powerful that it becomes all-consuming, and then let's go from there.

(And yes, in case you're wondering, I am currently working on some thoughts to put this to practical use!)


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