“Fear and guilt are your only enemies. If you let go of fear, fear lets go of you. If you release guilt, guilt will release you. How do you do that? By deciding to.”
— Neale Donald Walsch
Rudy Giuliani told us this week that Obama hates America, and that his comments aren’t racist because Barack had a white mother. With logic like that, how is it that he wasn’t elected president, again?
Marco Rubio, eyeing a run himself, had a sudden attack of conscience, making it impossible for him to allow Homeland Security to go unfunded unless Obama gives up his immigration plans. He abandoned his party, if you believe Breitbart readers and others on the extreme right. There goes his run for the Oval Office. And a legislator in South Dakota equated Planned Parenthood with ISIS, saying that both were ‘dismembering’ and ‘beheading.’ He no doubt has presidential aspirations.
This was the week that Jeb Bush tried to convince us that he was neither his father nor his brother, to no avail. Long touted as the smart brother, I was surprised how clumsy his presentation was, and dismayed by his tone-deaf list of political consultants, including infamous Neocon Paul Wolfowitz (who, bubbled in his own reality, believes Dubby won the war in Iraq).
I know it seems too early to be thinking about the next election, but the money is being divvied up right now, the largest portion of it swinging toward Jeb. Chris Christie’s star appears to be fading, while that of Wisconsin’s union-busting governor, Scott Walker, is rising on the far-right. Walker recently told the nation, with a wink and a grin — similar to the wink and grin that a clever used car salesman employed to sell me a lemon of a Corvair, several decades ago — not to bet against him.
Walker, by the way, seems typical of a new brand of conservative that I find disturbing. He doesn’t have the chops for this amount of hubris. Riding on his success in his home state, he concludes that he’s entitled to it everywhere. Tea Baggers are like this, especially when they quote their party’s leadership about what “the nation” wants (a personal peeve of mine) while skidding on the reality of their own rural and regressive voters. The nation, the world, is bigger than their view, but they seem both myopic and misinformed. The worrisome part of that is, so are the voters who support them in a system that badly needs reinventing.
At this point, Jeb has the establishment vote but not the nomination, while whoever gets the nomination is not likely to please the establishment. This is not just perception, not just fact, but an acknowledged Republican meme. If you aren’t regressive enough to please the rural crowd, you’ll never get a shot at the big time. Yet reaping the whirlwind of that wisdom and the gerrymandered districts that gave us Tea Party zealots, the Republicans find themselves too radical to either govern the nation or win a national election, and the excuses bellowed from their media bullhorn (FOX News) are increasingly unable to excite more than the faithful. This is policy akin to witlessly falling on one’s sword, but I fear not quickly enough to loosen the grip of irrationality that has seized us.
Why am I focusing on a political event more than a year out, with Dem candidates still undisclosed or undeclared? Because we’re going to have a choice about where to put our energy in the coming months, and it’s necessary for us to be very careful of our footing. The metaphysical maxim “What you resist, persists,” is not only true but inescapable. It is incumbent upon us to work FOR something, not AGAINST something. If we are to succeed in transitioning from the old paradigm to a new one, we must — sincerely, and with all of our will — become part of the solution, not the problem.
It comes as no surprise that the Republican stable of candidates will swing from full-blown idiocracy to Jeb’s moderation, giving us another spectacle with clown cars and bozo noses, a slide-show highlighting the alternate reality that is the extreme right-wing. Consider this a major distraction from real problems of the day and as horrifying a prospect for American leadership as progressives can imagine. Think not? What about the gut-cramping prospect of a President Huckabee? Is Paul or Walker rearranging pictures in the Oval Office enough to make you grab the Excedrin? Is (ugh!) Perry, or dark horse (no pun) candidate Dr. Ben Carson more agreeable?
And with no one declared on the left, Hillary seems likely to sweep if she can only shake her coziness with big business and her hawkish ways — but what if she won’t? What if she’s the recycled establishment candidate to take us into an era desperate for progressive leadership? And what about the unknown unknowns, as Rumsfeld would put it, of Pub candidates Lynch, Payto, Russell, LaRose, Kinlaw, Andrews, Bowers and Hill? “Who?” you ask. Exactly!
See? A handful of known-knowns and a full house of wild cards, fearsome and distracting. So it’s on us, each one, to reconfigure the way we think about this prospect. In fact, it’s vital that we rethink the whole of our collective analysis about what’s dangerous and how we deal with it, because it’s being used against us to keep us in turmoil. The seduction of herd mentality is always just a decision away.
Here’s an example: the President is under fire this week for his insistence that we not declare ourselves at war with a religion enjoined by over a billion souls, which must come as a relief to Muslims and nuanced thinkers everywhere, but not to those on the right. This position is sane by any standards, except those of the conservative parties that have considered Islam the enemy since before the democratization of this nation. Dealing with the problem of ISIS as violent extremism, wherever it is found — and much of it growing here, on the home front, by the way — does not demonize an entire people. This is both logical and a very progressive stance, one totally at odds with the regressive outlook that names groups who do not agree with it ‘evil enemies.’
It’s no surprise that the conservatives are the party most likely to take offense, most easily spooked by threat, and most eager to respond with punishing violence. We’ve all read the studies that prove these attributes hard-wired into the conservative brain. Unfortunately, that’s a loop that never ends, a deep-sea dive that can’t come up for air. As Nietzsche told us, “Speaking generally, punishment hardens and numbs, it produces concentration, it sharpens the consciousness of alienation, it strengthens the power of resistance. Insanity in individuals is rare – but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule.”
Unifying the disparate conservative factions under the Christian banner of Judeo-Christian punishment/reward consciousness was one of the most brilliant achievements of the Republican party in the last century. It was also the most divisive, and I suspect, the least constitutional. There is a fundamental difference in the philosophy each type of person adopts, based on their response to stimulus. The Pubs have gained the upper hand in social concerns for a couple of generations, given the end of separation of church and state, while the problem of unifying progressive interests into a single movement has been stymied since the unions were decimated. We needed that common goal of working rights to get our attention, because on other levels we don’t scare so easily.
If it’s true that an enemy in common pulls people together, then why — facing a parade of more repugnant political poster children than we’ve seen in years — has it been so hard a sell to get the left on board? Liberals are more likely to live and let live, though they get disgruntled when someone tries to interfere with their self-expression. They’re more likely to question authority but withdraw from a process they find distasteful; they allow growth within their personal belief system and expect the same from others.
Liberals dwell in a larger tribe, more likely to condemn distasteful policies and actions rather than people. Conservatives employ a more selective group-consciousness, eager to condemn personalities who do not agree with them (most often referenced as the godless and unsaved). Face it: if liberals had a conservative’s disposition, Cheney, Bush, et al, would have been in prison years ago.
Something happened on 9/11/01, however, that changed everything. Conservatives became terrified of everything that went bump in the night, and liberals slowly realized they were being squeezed into too small a box to breathe. And since our experience with Bush, liberals have struggled, not to avoid demonizing those who thwart them but to accept that those who thwart them somehow represent the world they live in. Our indignation seems elitist and patronizing to the right, while their self-centered hypocrisy seems more than we can bear.
Fear plays on both sides now. The Republicans have become radicalized, and radical conservatives frighten us. Those of us with vaginas don’t have to explain further, while those without don’t want to fight unnecessary wars or work for slave wages, and all of us want to build a productive future, not stumble backward into a regressive, delusional past. And yes, it’s human nature to target what frightens us, which is why the public can be kept busy with fear-mongering while empowered entities, like corporations, continue to victimize us all (for-profit).
Here’s the kicker: this is ALL too easy to accomplish. While writing this, with CNN on in the background, I succumbed to a ‘button pushing’ moment that got me really REALLY hot under the collar. For reasons that completely elude me, this question of Obama loving America has taken on a life of its own, with CNN holding a roundtable discussion with Dem strategist Donna Brazile (a fave of mine) representing the left. When she mentioned that all of us should be careful to speak respectfully of one another, she was challenged (as a Clinton supporter) to hold Hillary to the same rule, with the right-wing pundits all chiming in, pouncing like they’d caught a mouse in a trap.
That was when I saw red. WTF! As Criss Jami wrote, “Whenever we want to combat our enemies, first and foremost we must start by understanding them rather than exaggerating their motives.” When was the last time you heard Hillary question someone’s love for his/her country? I resent the projection from the right that those I admire would behave with such contempt — I resent those who would misrepresent the motives of those I respect — and that path leads to madness. Let me explain.
Early this week, I got an e-mail from our Len Wallick about my inclusion of Amy Pascal as an example of truth-telling. Pascal is not an attractive personality, certainly, but she appears to be fearless in terms of public opinion, which is why I included her. Len wrote:
Anybody who actually believes that the world “won’t work if everybody is nice” makes me want to vomit, to be quite honest with you. There has been too much abuse in my life for me to do anything but pity her on my most charitable and tolerant days. On my bad days, I must admit to utterly and passionately despising her and those like her.
Len’s visceral response to who Pascal appears to be and what she tells us she believes in is both honest and human. When we talk about the ‘mirroring behaviors’ of those who upset us — as in, this is my doppelganger, so much like that me I’m missing it — in this case, that ain’t it. This is more likely the other reason we respond passionately to this kind of opposition to what we honor and value: this is what we once were or once did (probably not this incarnation, although perhaps) that we have judged against. Karma behaves this way: it brings us opportunity to sensitize in no uncertain terms.
Within our human illusion of duality, it is second nature to judge against any display of those behaviors that are either projections of our own failings, or those we have overcome. It is the ‘judgment’ portion that trips us up, because — as Course in Miracles tells us — we don’t have any talent for it. ACIM suggests that we do not have the complete picture of our situation, our history, our culpability or our evolution, and so do not have enough facts to truly judge either self or others.
Another insight occurred this week, when a conversation within a private meeting of our conservative Missouri lawmakers surfaced. You probably know that we’re among those states that have made legal abortion almost impossible and keep working toward its demise. Some of those who support these things were caught on camera not just questioning the possibility of passing a proposal that would require the father’s permission to eliminate a pregnancy, but the ethics of such legislation. This is counter to the notion that all Republicans think alike, although — to be fair — they VOTE alike, hive-mind a prerequisite.
Does that change my opinion of Missouri Republicans? It does, although I’m wary. I look for a reason to change my mind every day. James Redfield, author of “The Tenth Insight: Holding the Vision,” clarified when he wrote, “In reality, there are no enemies; we’re all souls in growth, waking up.” I know that the more I open myself to the possibility of change, the more I will find. To wallow in resistance and resentment does not serve my purpose.
The Way Forward
In truth, George W. Bush was our guru, informing us about the limitations of ideological nation building and enforced democratization (for-profit). Dick Cheney is an example to us of stubborn resistance to the compassionate humanizing of those who opposed him, almost to the point of mental/emotional illness (and heart constriction). And we would not have found any healing at all on those issues had we not elected an unflappable intellectual of a president who insisted this nation embraced neither of those things, but another ethos entirely.
Once we perceive the human variable — different opinions within a group, for instance, identified as the wants and needs of the individual instead of the herd — we can personalize a response rather than fall into the trap Nietzsche describes in his warning, “When a hundred men stand together, each of them loses his mind and gets another one.” It’s a very human failing, slipping into group-mind, but we will not find our growth in that kind of comfort zone. Seeing ourselves in one another is the only hope for busting through those ideological walls to find our common humanity. If that’s not the entire point of incarnation, it is at least an important part of this one!
Moving into our own power to make heartfelt, respectful and harmless decisions for ourselves and others requires us to make every decision count. Each resentment we nurse is our petrie dish for enlightenment, inviting us to stumble. Each ‘enemy’ we perceive is our teacher, offering us a gift of awareness. Each time our buttons get punched, we’re being given another chance at our heart’s desire for evolution. Each problem is an opportunity for practice, each challenge an opportunity for growth. If we are faithful, each decision will take us closer to awakening.
Truly, it’s only when we take the hand of our enemy that we begin to heal that which is disenfranchised within ourselves. When we step out of resistance to find commonality, we break the structure that holds us in old paradigm pattern. When we see our brother/sister as ourselves, we begin to mend the schism of duality. When we forgive ourselves as we forgive one another, our heart begins to open and the prize is revealed. Jed McKenna said it very well: “The bottom line remains the same: you’re either awake or you’re not. One day, there it is. Nothing. No more enemies, no more battles.”
Neale Donald Walsch told us how to get there: decide for it. And A Course in Miracles put some wind beneath our wings when it taught that when we get it wrong, we have the capacity to choose again and again until we get it right. Before we can act differently, we must see the situation differently, of course. We must change our mind.
As the silly season of political struggle has arrived early, giving us reason to avoid the theatrics, and along with it the responsibility, for our political realities, let’s — instead — make it our practice to remain aware; to decide, choose again and attend to the bottom line of our human evolution. With friends like these, who needs enemies? We must, or we wouldn’t create so many of them. So here’s our chance to change our mind, see into ourselves and pull the plug on that old iteration of human behavior.
Course gives us this affirmation: “I can see peace instead of this.” It’s our decision to make. Let’s meet fear with love, meet conflict with love, meet judgment with love. Let’s agree to love our way out of this mess and into that space where, one by one, we discover “… no more enemies, no more battles.” Let’s choose peace, instead of this.