There are weeks when everything seems stuck in-process — bubbling in the sociopolitical cauldron, unresolved — and others that offer breakthroughs, allowing a peek at future progress and potential. This week gave us some of both, starting with a major shift of political fortune to our north. Congratulations to our Canadian neighbors for putting the conservative leadership of Stephen Harper in their rear view mirror.
Although the more progressive New Democratic Party started strong in the 78 (!!!) day campaign, the more moderate Liberal party won the prize, with the election of Justin Trudeau promising an end to some of the stultifying austerity measures of former neoconservative leadership. While the election can be seen as repudiation of corporate values over populist ones, Trudeau’s support of TPP and the XL Pipeline continues a worrisome lack of environmental reality that will, hopefully, fall short of Canadian support.
Still, here in the states we celebrate every shift back towards governance for and by the people, and although largely untried, this new Trudeau (Pierre’s son) is a welcome ally to progressive causes. In his first week, the new Prime Minister canceled pending air strikes against ISIS and welcomed an additional 25,000 Syrian refugees into his nation. Since the U.S. is leading the mission against ISIS, this may not thrill the Pentagon, but Trudeau is expected to be a warmer alternative to the chilly relationship between Obama and Harper.
In terms of closure, the week began with Democratic moderate Jim Webb pulling out of the Dem presidential race, disgruntled by lack of attention and mulling a run as an Independent (where he would REALLY be ignored!). It ended with the only Republican Senator to vote against the Iraq war, Lincoln Chaffee, pulling the plug as well. That leaves Clinton, Sanders, O’Malley and perhaps Lawrence Lessig to duke it out, and only the first two count. Do note, by the way, that the pendulum swing quickly took out those too moderate to meet the populist demand.
O’Malley is interesting and well-spoken, but these election waters aren’t conducive to the survival of smaller fish. In that regard, Lessig told Bill Maher last week that his pledge to win, defeat Citizens United and corporate ownership of the political process, and then hand the presidency over to his as yet unnamed Vice President was “stupid.”
Running this through our populism-inspired ‘authentic-o-meter,’ his comment seems remarkably candid, but hardly politically astute, nor was making such an admission wise on a politically incorrect comedy forum where people are comfortable connecting dots from such statements to possible leadership capability. Largely unknown, he, Webb and Chaffee never got a single point in the polls, and for the moment, Lessig is the last man standing among the largely unappreciated.
The other politico to pull out of the Dem lineup — even though he never actually entered — was Joe Biden, who seemed to be endlessly scuffing his toe in the dirt, weighing his options and giving pollsters apoplexy. What can we say about Joe, one of the last remaining politicians whom the nation views with affection? I read a lede the other day saying he was “the last of an era,” and perhaps of all the commentary we could make, that is the most accurate. Having come to terms with our systemic dyfunctionality, Biden represents what used to be — not what is.
Joe’s intent to reach across the aisle to make law in a bipartisan manner is laudable but no longer possible, given the divide among the political factions. If these last years have proven anything, it’s that partisan stonewall will not go quietly or respectfully into the night. As Joe was bound to run on that long history of bipartisan achievement, he would have had as much success in that venture as does his boss. Or, for instance, Dennis Kucinich, who joined with FOX News to occasionally represent the view from the left, winning him a long exercise in yelling into the black void of misinformation and hearing nothing but the chirp of crickets in return, as well as a top spot on the Google cue for “where are they now?”.
We really want to behave in a civilized manner, don’t we? And there is every reason to be suspect of an inability to come to the table when mere political ideology is the point of separation between parties, but that is not what’s happening now. What we’re experiencing now is a growing awareness that there is no freedom to choose what is driven by oligarchy, with our divisions fostered by it and our citizens bewildered by the fear it promotes and the patrons it produces. It helps to remember that those who serve this cause are often themselves blindsided by misinformation campaigns and religious dogma.
Speaking of same, Ben Carson is running ahead of Trump in some polls. He’s been on local television, signing copies of his book in a Christian bookstore to my north, which pretty much says it all. He’s got Trump arrogance AND knows his Old Testament — a sure winner with the base. Ben wants to ‘intensify’ the war on drugs, while Bernie, meanwhile, has called for an end to the policies that have put so many of our citizens into an overcrowded and nonproductive prison system.
Paul Ryan has signed on to run for House Speaker, though he made it clear he wouldn’t take the job if the far-right continued its purity antics — they will, he will, and we will have more of the same. I suspect Ryan is counting on a bump in gravitas for a future run at the Oval Office, but it will also reveal some of his weaknesses, one of which is that he’s much less intellectual than his reputation and a good deal more regressive. He can run, but he can’t hide.
Mid-week, there were a number of revelations pushed to the top of the heap. One was the leak on Obama’s drone wars, of which little has (yet) been made, and a teen hacking into CIA Director Brennan’s personal e-mail to lift sensitive information, some of which was shared on a Twitter account. The hacker(s) told Brennan they would relinquish the account for “2 trillion dollars hahhaa, just joking.” When the CIA Chief asked for the next offer, he was told “We just want Palestine to be free and for you to stop killing innocent people.” (Crickets.)
Acting on an exposé by the Los Angeles Times, Bernie Sanders went after allegations that Exxon had done extensive research into the dangers of fossil fuels as early as the 1970s, and buried the result. He asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to have the Department of Justice investigate the allegations. While that may or may not occur, this news has galvanized observers to consider that in Exxon’s unceasing push for profit, it cannot escape responsibility for not just irreversable damage to the planet but for the many deaths climate change can already claim, not to mention those to come. As Bill McKibbon put it, no corporation has ever done anything this big or this bad, and they’re daring us to stop them.
Unless you’ve been kidnapped and held in total isolation, you know that Clinton had a productive week, considering her eleven-hour ordeal of swatting back a swarm of killer bees, otherwise known as the 8th Benghazi Congressional Committee (only the first two inquiries were bi-partisan). Thanks to the Republican penchant for repeatedly beating a dead horse (and a slip of the lip from the former Pub candidate for speaker) this was largely viewed as a witch hunt even by Pubs, with Hillary the witch and defeat of her presidential presumptives the prize at hand.
Nothing new happened in all those tedious hours except for a televised, and outrageously disrespectful, tantrum by those on the right, determined to find something criminal to hang on her. In the end, it was Hillary’s to lose and she didn’t — she walked away tired but unscathed and looking, the Baggers rue, very presidential.
That whole drill was painful to watch, so I avoided it, checking in from time to time to see how Mrs. Clinton was handling incoming fire. Much was made about her facial expressions this time around, pictures posted on the net, and my favorite was the one where she looked tired and bored, leaning into her palm. This is a former First Lady of the United States of America we’re talking about. She knew exactly what that face portrayed, exactly what her posture represented, exactly what she was doing when she did it. Some would say that’s a cynical take on my part and a scripted response from her, so let me just say this about that: after decades of Hillary-watching and a certain appreciation for the Scorpio energy she is, that was an entirely authentic Hillary move, face in hand. I’m betting she knew she had ‘em on the ropes by the time she posed for the camera.
The hot air coming out of D.C. is rhetorical, part of that cauldron bubbling with goo, and all but puts an exclamation point on the week. But elsewhere, suddenly, the air has become much more threatening, with Mexico bracing for the strongest hurricane ever recorded. Hurricane Patricia, a Category 5 — similar to Typhoon Haiyan that did so much damage in the Philippines in 2013 — will likely devastate Puerto Villarta and surrounding resort areas, leaving them “uninhabitable for weeks or months.” Loss of life and property seems unavoidable.
While this event appears to have shocked the meteorological world, due to “explosive intensification” over the last 24 hours, surely we might have predicted it. Climate change is the villain of all this extreme weather, even though we’re still not willing to level an accusing finger. For the moment, El Niño is getting the blame, having produced Pacific water temps of 87 degrees and more, running unusually deep and creating moisture in the air to bring a weather event to the Western Hemisphere that we’ve never seen before. If you’re the praying kind, keep positive thoughts for the well-being of all living things in Patricia’s path.
One last thing I’d like to speak to as we finish up this week’s list of seemingly disparate people and situations, at odds with one another. Today — all day — is a free event called Global Oneness Day, planned by the spiritual community for much of a year. It’s a gathering of world leaders, scientists, entertainers, spiritual leaders, activists, and business leaders, coming together to share a sense of our oneness and mutuality with one another and the planet.
You may recognize some of the names: Iyanla Vanzant, Michael Beckwith, Gary Zukav, Marianne Williamson, Ken Wilber, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Jean Houston, Ervin Laszlo, Neale Donald Walsch, Panache Desai, Nassim Haramein, Dean Radin, Doreen Virtue, Patricia Cota-Robles, Stephen Dinan, Matt Kahn, and a video recording created for the occasion by Desmond Tutu. There are over forty speakers, something for most every interest.
If you’d like to experience this spiritual event, go here. You may discover that this is a day all about you. Every opinion out there, no matter how disconcerting we find it, exists somewhere within each of us or it would have no resonance with us — we would simply move past it without recognizing it. All those issues above, fleshed out in the news of the day — seemingly so disconnected to our daily lives — are part of the larger entity, WE.
They are part of what we are exploring about ourselves, a catalyst for our growth and self-revelation. We can only truly see ourselves in one another. As Marianne Williamson tells us, “A wave cannot separate itself from the ocean, nor can we separate ourselves from each other.”
Politics is personal and the news is as much our own story — yours and mine — as are the stories we’ve shared today. Recognizing and embracing this is the work, making each decision in kindness, compassion and respect, if we are to evolve our humanity and build a safe and sane world for those who come after, unto the 7th generation — and beyond.