November 17, 2016

November 17, 2016

A frequent explanation for the unexpected election result is that this was a “change election” in which a majority of voters wanted some kind of sweeping change at the national level. Disruption is another word being used to explain both the method and the aim of the Trump campaign. The new leader represents the energy of disruption that will shake things up and turn things around.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that disruption comes from the root rupture which carries troubling meanings like “tearing asunder, breaking apart, splitting up and breaking to pieces." When it comes to change the old warning is ‘be careful what you wish for.’ People who simply want some kind of change often wind up ‘throwing the baby out with the bath.’ Like the Brexit vote in the British Isles, there will be increasing buyer’s remorse as people realize that the problems of the modern world are massive in size, complicated in nature and global in scope.

Change, so greatly desired, is not easily accomplished. Genuine change requires a sense of unity, a feeling of wholeness as happens when a person’s entire life becomes altered; mind and body, spirit and soul. The same truth applies to a country or a culture which must touch its deepest, most inclusive roots in order to both unify and genuinely change.

On the day after the election a group of us were meeting in the office of our non-profit organization that works with at-risk youth, people in various states of trauma and inter-cultural healing projects. We were trying to imagine what changes and what troubles would come from the upsetting election and the vitriolic campaign. The obvious concern was that the fractures and divisions in our culture would only be intensified and the rampant disparities be increased.

Our weighty conversation was interrupted by the sound of people shouting, getting louder and louder in the street outside. Pulling up the window blinds revealed a group of 70 to 80 high school students marching up the sidewalk below, calling out in unison, “Give us our future back. Give us our future back.” We went down to the intersection where they stood chanting enthusiastically, their tone sounding more like a song than a demand.

An older man with a loud, deep voice yelled out: “White lives matter too!” Someone nearby answered, “Of course;” as if gently pointing to the white students who looked to be the majority of a diverse group that included African American, Hispanic and Asian boys and girls all standing together.

The chant shifted to, “Save our future. Save our future.” Some people in cars began honking back in a kind of rhythmic support of the young spirits. Others banged their horns impatiently, as if to say, “Get out of my way; I don’t have time for this.” For a moment the daily traffic ceased as the divide between the past and the future appeared in the intersection along with the potentially growing distance between the young and the old.

Painful divisions in the culture have been there all along, serious injuries have gone unhealed for decades and great injustices have been routinely ignored. Now that campaigns are waged like desperate, all-out wars, all the underlying angers, resentments and fears have been stirred up and have risen to the surface. There is a return of the repressed fears and feelings and a release of toxins as when an old wound is opened or ruptures.

Amidst reckless provocation, the age-old American problems of race, ethnicity and immigration have become weaponized and the fractures and fault lines between genders and age groups, between urban and rural populations, between wealthy and poor groups have been rashly exploited. 

When a country becomes so divided winning is a lot like losing. When the electoral vote and the popular vote diverge everyone loses something. Amidst all the vitriol, crude animosity, fake news and false information something essential has been lost and everyone’s future is in greater peril.

There in the street, I wanted to tell the students that they were right to cry out in the midst of all the pain and fear. I wanted to call out that those who indulge in hating others secretly hate themselves. I wanted to shout that every war has two losers; that the real battle is always in the human heart; that the genuine ideals of truth and justice, of love and beauty remain worth fighting for regardless of the odds.

But, they were on the move again, crossing through the intersection with a new chant that became even more passionate, “Love trumps hate! Love is greater than hate!” The words rang out above the sounds of the street as the intersection began to clear and the daily traffic resumed. “Love is greater than hate,” echoed loudly from the walls of the buildings on both sides of the street as everyone moved on carrying their own thoughts and hopes and fears.

The world can become polarized and threatened in a thousand different ways and we can become deeply disheartened as “man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.” The fact that love is greater than hate is all that tips the balance of the world towards life. But only if enough people, young and old, find the love and courage in their hearts to truly change the world.

One root of the word change means to simply “exchange one thing for another.” The deeper, more radical root means “to transform, to become a different substance entirely.” What we need at this critical time in the history of the world are the kinds of changes that go beyond the limits of power politics, fixed ideologies and economic theories. What we need are the kinds of changes that can only begin in the depths of the human heart and soul, the place where history is always being made. Hate and anger can change things in the moment; but love is greater than hate and what the heart loves can alter the substance of life and thus change the world.

An old idea states that each soul comes to life at a time when it has something to give to the world. Each child born, regardless of race or ethnicity, gender identification or sexual inclination, social status or economic condition brings some gifts and genius qualities to life. Each person is automatically valuable and worthy of respect because each has something substantial and unique to contribute to life.

We live at a time when both nature and culture need healing; when people all over the world need a renewed sense that life is indeed meaningful, that each living soul is worthy of love and respect. This is no time for cynicism or giving in to despair; this is the time we have come to life to live, the time to work for what we truly love. As the African proverb insists, ‘what you love is the cure.’ What we love is the cure for what ails us and what brings healing to the human heart also helps heal the world.

Love can be gentle when care is needed, but fierce when change is required. Despite all that is disheartening, because of all the pain and fear, it is time to become true agents of change in order to help transform the world we must live in together. Amidst all the darkness at this, the darkest time of the year, we can take heart from the voices and diverse spirits of the young who must imagine a better future for human cultures and for the common earth we all inhabit. When in touch with what we love our hearts become young again. Love is greater than hate, love tips the world towards ongoing creation, what we truly love is the cure.