Are you one of the many people who have been disappointed with the tone of our recent political debates and the general state of our local and federal government circumstances? I can tell you that no matter which side of the divide, you are not alone in your discontent.
I have been reading a lot and trying to figure out how to keep my chin up and courageously prepare to cast my vote in the strangest election of my life. I have also spoken to many people who, like me, are dismayed by the fact that none of the candidates are morally upright and worthy of the voters’ trust and neither major candidate supports all the issues important to me.
I have found it helpful to communicate with people about the generalities and not the specifics. Chicago’s Archbishop Cardinal Bernardin and Pope Francis have been my inspirations in this search for “common ground.” It did not surprise me that, when we agreed to leave out the whys and hows, we all wanted the same things: respect for all human life, safety for ourselves, our children and our families, the ability to seek medical assistance when needed (without having to sacrifice food and shelter), the possibility of improving our circumstances through meaningful labor, protection and provision when health or abilities fail, respect and care for our natural resources, and protection of the freedoms detailed in our Bill of Rights, Constitution and related amendments.
The concepts which separate us are always the specifics. What is your definition of “respect,” “safety,” “life,” “need,” “protection,” “meaningful labor,” “natural resources,” and “freedom?” HOW do we stimulate the economy? WHAT responsibilities come with our freedoms? WHO will provide for those who can not support themselves? HOW do we interact on a global scale? WHAT is enough? WHAT is our role on the global stage? HOW do we financially provide for goods and services?
This most recent presidential campaign has really showed me that the greatest need of our age is the rebirth of the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” without trepidation. Unfortunately, fear makes many people twist the adage to “do unto others BEFORE they do unto you.” Hope is in short supply.
Fear has become the key emotion in too many hearts. So many people are launching preemptive strikes in an effort to protect their own interests. Threats, or perceived threats, are creating impulsive shots (physical, verbal, and emotional) between people. Police are fearful for their safety and may use deadly force too soon. People of color are fearful of racial profiling and when confronted, quickly lash out in an effort to protect themselves. Women are destroying the very life within them because they feel abandoned and threatened by lack of financial, physical, medical, and emotional support. People with physical, psychological or emotional instability are left to fend for themselves out on the streets. Those who are blest with a living wage are fearful of being generous because of future uncertainties. Many young people, including our veterans, are resorting to suicide because they fear the future and have lost hope.
I have lived through the administrations of eleven presidents, three wars (“police actions”, call them what you will), a “cold war,” two threats of impeachment, several recessions, major energy crises, several scandals, and an assassination. I am still here and our political union is still here. After 64 years on this planet I am certain of these three things. 1. Life is all about change. Like a Midwestern winter, if you are uncomfortable now, just wait and be patient, this too shall pass. 2. Fear is useless. If we act out of love and NOT self-aggrandizement, courage will arise. 3. The only thing I have any chance of controlling is my attitude. I am a conduit. If I allow negativity and hopelessness to fill me, that is all I will be able to convey to others. When I feed myself with positive, loving, grateful, generous thoughts, I have a better chance of influencing the actions of those around me.
I’m not saying it is easy! I often raise my voice and lash out against the injustices of this world. However, I generally discover that my anger is fueled by fear and accomplishes nothing but the raising of my blood pressure. Just because I am not successful in being a source of peace 100% of the time, does not give me the excuse to give up trying. Whenever I fail to be a channel of calm and balance, I pick myself up, look to the Golden Rule, and renew my determination to try again.
I wish I knew all the answers. God knows I don’t! Still, as we all move through these final days before the elections, I hope we can open our hearts, stop the name calling, conduct serious research to get beyond the lies, exaggerations, and political “spin,” and sincerely pray over our decision before we cast our votes. I can be certain that if the people of this country choose a candidate other than the one I would hope for, I will continue to face each day with perseverance, hope, and most of all courage, because as Winston Churchill said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Besides, in four years we will be faced with new political decisions and choices!