“We have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963
The Democratic and Republican conventions are over and we enter now the final sixty days of the U.S. presidential campaign. The outcome of the November 4th elections will determine much of how America rises or falls in the coming decades, as well as how the rest of the world – and Gaia Earth herself – will relate to America.
(If you aren’t already registered to vote, or know people who are not registered, I appeal to you to do something about that. Many of us are first-time voters, or long-time disenchanted non-voters; this year we will make the difference. Voting from home, by mail and often earlier than the actual election, has never been easier and is more reliable than voting by machine. One useful site for complete voter resources – including finding out if you’re already registered – is https://www.voteforchange.com/ )
I have been following the Democratic candidate since Barack Obama’s keynote address at the last Democratic convention, four years ago. I was a volunteer on the campaign of Dennis Kucinich and had the chance to meet and speak with Dennis several times. He was right on every issue – healthcare, employment, the Constitution, the economy, peace, war and environment – although my vote that year was cast for the guy opposing Mr. Bush.
Barack’s address that July evening sent shivers through me. I saw in this man our past and our future, as well as a bolt of lightening from the beyond. I am an interracialist and internationalist, a traveler and a reader of geography, history and social progress. I saw, and see, in Barack Obama a middle way through the lockstep inertia that has gripped America and its citizens for these past twelve years and longer. Like, back to our beginning, when “equal” was interpreted as “for some” and when “liberty for all” was limited to a few.
That speech and the “fierce urgency of now” that Barack sent out into our world that night re-inspired me about how the ways things are could become they way things ought to be, that “possible” wasn’t a fantasy but simply just outside of our reach – it could happen!
When Obama declared his candidacy in February 2007, I was ready. I signed on to his campaign website, began contributing money, hung a sign in my window and slapped a sticker on my bumper. I began emailing and talking to friends and pretty much anybody about this movement of hope and for change. As a buddhist meditator I took note of how circumstances seemed to support Barack’s campaign – and through the thick and thin of it, watched how cool and self-possessed were Barack and his wife Michelle with all that went down around and at them.
So, yes, consider me a supporter, but don’t misjudge my devotion; I get that this movement is not about Barack – it’s about us, we the citizens (yes, we the citizen-consumers) of these United States. The work to be done begins first at home, in our hearts – grown fearful, distant and disconnected; our minds – bent insecure, anxious and over-loaded; and our lives – subjected to difficulty, aggression and obsessions.
Something needs to be done to clean up our personal situations first. Elvis sang, Clean up your own backyard. The Buddha said, Begin with yourself. Only there can we begin to be of any use to each other, our societies, the planet or our communities.
I’m old enough to remember – yes, remember – the last revolution, forty or so years ago. Growing up in Palo Alto in the Sixties, I tasted first-hand the social shifts brought about by the so-called counter culture. I saw exhibits of the artwork produced in Paris and Prague during the spring of 1968. Change was happening around the world, not just here in America. Dr. King and Robert Kennedy were gunned down within two months of each other. The antiwar and anti-draft movements were surging, and psychedelics were affecting mainstream society, blowing the minds of people everywhere.
It’s been relatively quiet since then. The babyboomers have become baby daddies and soccer moms, infiltrating but also grown complacent in their own generational everyday ruts. Even Buddhism – which some of us practitioners consider the ultimate revolution – has entered advertising, the best seller lists and slang. As a result, our lives and this society have returned to a kind of Fifties redux, albeit slightly more diversified and sophisticated yet equally disconnected and abstract.
Barack Obama is no knight in shining armor, no slayer of dragons or crusader. Nor is he by any means perfect, as he frequently informs listeners and credits his wife for reminding him. But he is a listener, and a thinker, as well as a reader, writer and eloquent orator (and as Alice Walker has said, he is a father of daughters, not sons.) Barack inspires us to examine clearly how things are and to look ahead to how things might be.
We could use someone right now who has the capacity to receive and to reflect, to consider and to act in moderation. The world has grown ever more interconnected, we have been shown that there is an ecology not only of the Earth but of heavenly spirit and pragmatic earthiness – what we think, say and do affects those around us; none of us is any longer an island. Together, we will sink or we could sail.
I encourage you to become involved in this fall’s political campaign, for whatever candidate(s) you find are genuine and relevant. Much depends upon your choice – your personal circumstances will be shaped by the laws and Constitutional interpretation, economic and social decisions, climate and environmental developments, cultural changes and so forth shaped by the next leaders of government.
Change at the top, as well as in middle and lower management, may seem far removed from your individual life, but have no doubt that you are intimately related to everything, affected by and effective of it.