Thoughts for Election Week, 2004

November 22, 2004: Remembering John F. Kennedy

November 22, 2004: Post-Election America: Walking a Changed Landscape

Thoughts from the day-to-day life, chopping wood, carrying water, waiting for the world to change.
We are all called to live in two realities at once: The future of the earth must be held in our hearts and minds. And the floor must be swept.

These are thoughts that I feel to share somewhere on the website. Some of this material may end up on the permanent pages, when it is ready - I always welcome your responses.


 Thoughts for Election Week, 2004


    For months, I could feel little except fear and outrage about the coming election; I knew that I was not holding it in God, in trust – but I just couldn't feel anything else for more than a few moments at a time. At the very last moment, I was blessed with a sense of peace, as the hard edges of fear and anger gave way to sadness - regret for the very hard path our country has chosen, sorrow for the pain in the souls of those who are so willingly helping darkness to do its work right now. Perhaps it is the only way to heal at the depths where it needs to happen.

Take heart.
There is more going on than what appears on the surface of things.
Darkness may appear to triumph, but in the long run is always defeated, because truth is stronger, love is stronger, the goodness of the human spirit is stronger.

Human institutions - governments, religions, economic systems - can be distorted to serve evil ends, but truth is truth, and the natural law of God is never broken.

Do not despair. Hold tight to the truth of your heart and mind, and know that help is on the way.

November 4, 2004
As we move past this moment, I feel grateful and moved by the tremendous coming-together of love and caring that typified the Democratic effort to bring more humane and compassionate government to our country. Pettiness and ego were put aside as people rose to the occasion, rose above the occasion. A tremendous current of light was brought into the arena of party politics; it will not go away, and it does make a difference. We are the real winners.

Below is part of a letter from John Kerry that went out to all the Kerry-Edwards email subscribers:

    ...You worked your hearts out, and I say, don't lose faith. What you did made a difference, and building on itself, we will go on to make a difference another day. I promise you, that time will come -- the election will come when your work and your ballots will change the world, and it's worth fighting for.

    I'm proud of what we stood for in this campaign, and of what we accomplished. When we began, no one thought it was possible to even make this a close race, but we stood for real change, change that would make a real difference in the life of our nation, the lives of our families, and we defined that choice to America. I'll never forget the wonderful people who came to our rallies, who stood in our rope lines, who put their hopes in our hands, who invested in each and every one of us. I saw in them the truth that America is not only great, but it is good.

November 6, 2004
I find it so ironic that the party that more nearly embraced true spiritual values – those of compassion, humility, integrity – offered them to the public in such a secular way that their moral force went unnoticed – while the other party was able to capitalize on peoples' yearning for moral direction and spiritual certainty merely by mouthing the language of morality. I would like to offer this quote from Thomas L. Friedman's recent New York Times article, "Two Nations Under God":

    My problem with the Christian fundamentalists supporting Mr. Bush is not their spiritual energy or the fact that I am of a different faith. It is the way in which he and they have used that religious energy to promote divisions and intolerance at home and abroad. I respect that moral energy, but wish that Democrats could find a way to tap it for different ends.

    "The Democrats have ceded to Republicans a monopoly on the moral and spiritual sources of American politics," noted the Harvard University political theorist Michael J. Sandel. "They will not recover as a party until they again have candidates who can speak to those moral and spiritual yearnings - but turn them to progressive purposes in domestic policy and foreign affairs."

Michael J. Sandel spoke what I have been feeling, but unable to express so clearly, for years. I highly recommend the entire article - many links are available on the web, as a Google search will show. Here is one that is active as of 11/20/04:

November 22, 2004: Remembering John F. Kennedy


Forty-one years ago today, president John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. That day, from the moment the news permeated the halls of my junior high school, is etched forever in my memory – the excited buzz in the hallways, not a happy excitement, but one of shock and confusion, I understand now in retrospect. My algebra teacher was passing down the hall as I walked out of my last class of the day, her face taut. “What’s happening, Mrs. Boyd?”, I asked. “The president’s been shot.” Could this be true? I didn’t know. It didn't cross my mind that he could be dead.

Leaving the building, a bus pulling away. A boy leaning out the window, yelling “Yay! Kennedy’s dead!” “Lousy Republican!”, I shot back - not believing for a moment that he, or I, were talking about something real.

When I got home, I told my mom, “People at school are saying the president was shot.” We turned on the TV. Dallas. A grainy film of the president’s car passing through Dealey Plaza, played over and over.

Later, in the days and weeks that followed. The funeral, watched by a nation, John Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s body as it passed in state. Flags at half-mast. Place names changed to honor a fallen leader. Idlewild Airport. Cape Canaveral. A touching image from a news magazine: The Russian chauffeur of an American diplomat in the Soviet Union, the day after – tears running down his face, in his halting English: “President Kennedy great man”. The Russians – our enemy. But the greatness of a human being does not stop at national borders.

Later still. Conspiracy theories. Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone? Was he even involved? If not him, then who? Why had so many people who might have known something died or disappeared? For most of us, these were not things we thought much about, if we wanted to sleep at night.

The years that followed:
There is a hole in who we are, who we believe we can be.
We are a great nation, but something has been taken away that cannot be given back.

I was twelve when John F. Kennedy was killed - close enough to childhood that the world beyond family, school, hometown was still a little beyond the "real". But he had meant something to me, personally. Some part of what I believed the world to be about, and what  my place was in relationship to that world, came from him. In 1963, addressing the graduating class of American University, he said:

"We can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."

I loved John F. Kennedy. I recognize that he was not a perfect leader, not a perfect human being. But he helped us to believe that it was good to care what happened in the world, good to strive to make the world better – and that our caring and our efforts made a difference. He helped us to believe that a better world was possible, and worth trying for. Whatever his limitations, John F. Kennedy was a messenger of hope.

November 22, 2004: Post-Election America:
Walking a Changed Landscape


I talked to my brother on the phone last night. He is hurting over the election results, over how it seems to cement with finality the disastrous direction our government has been taking these past four years. He believes that most of the nation stands behind the administration, stands behind the extremists controlling Congress. “We’re just a couple of islands of blue states in a sea of red ones”, he bemoans.

My brother is hurting. He is afraid. He says he is doing his best to emotionally disconnect from what is happening in our country, because otherwise he doesn’t know how he will get through the day. I know exactly how he feels. I would look away myself, if I could.

Today’s news is full of the uproar over the election in Ukraine. How ironic, I think, that so much attention is focused on the distortion of that country’s election results by fraud and intimidation – a country without a tradition of democracy, taking its baby steps, learning how to be a free nation. How ironic, when the subversion of the free electoral process in the United States – the United States! - which should have been the news item of the century, seems to have sunk beneath the waves of the world’s consciousness without a whimper. In the wake of this, I find myself walking through a daily sea of non-reality, where most people are going along not only as if Fallujah and Darfur were not real – but also as if the loss of our own democracy and our own moral center as a nation were no big deal.

No doubt there are powerful forces that have made this so – but lest we get too carried away with fears about strong-arm tactics to suppress information and discourage inquiry, I have to wonder if the “story of the century” is being suppressed mainly through the effort of Darkness itself to separate us from reality - and our own desire to not believe it. Even after months of trying to prepare myself for this eventuality, I still had to pass through shock and grief after the election, trying to absorb what had happened. Although I’ve been at odds with many of our nation’s policies for most of my adult life, I always felt a basic sense of safety in our institutions of freedom, believing they could be bent but not broken, that a certain basic standard of decency and fair play were fundamental to what we were as a nation and could never be lost. These days I am reminded of the shock I have sometimes felt after the loss of an intimate relationship, the warm cocoon of safety that had become so familiar I didn’t know it was there, until a sudden chill signalled its loss.

As I walk through this changed landscape, I wonder if I am walking on solid ground, if the next step might pierce the illusion of solidity and drop me into an abyss. But what makes these days even more dreamlike is that everyone around me seems to be going about their business as if nothing has changed. Does no one else see the funnel cloud on the horizon heading our way? Has no one noticed that the ship of state has been ripped by an iceberg and is slowly sinking into arctic waters? The dance band on the Titanic deck is sawing frantically at their fiddles, but everyone is dancing instead of running for the lifeboats - maybe they know that the lifeboats have been stolen and sold to further line the Captain's pockets. Maybe they believe the Captain will somehow keep the ship afloat by sheer will, defying the laws of physics, even as it lists crazily to starboard, even as those trapped in the lower holds are already drowning. Why not dance?

Not that my own life has stopped. Today I will go to work, shop, cook, eat and clean the dishes, and work on this website if any energy remains. But today will also carry, for me, a sense of gravity, the knowledge that we are living in serious times indeed. And while a part of me knows, and rejoices, that these times carry the possibility of miraculous transformation, I also must spend every day preparing myself to be strong as the deck continues to descend towards the waterline.

Does the nation primarily stand behind the president, as my brother believes? Are we suddenly not the same land, the same people, that we were in October? The landscape has changed - but maybe it isn't the election that has changed it, so much as let us know how much it had already changed. Nonetheless, I don't share my brother's view that I live on a "blue island" in a "sea of  red". The "political capital" of this newly re-elected government is built upon a portfolio full of dubious investments bought with counterfeit currency, ranging from sabotaged voting machines to destroyed voter registration forms to millions of  people frightened and deceived into voting against the best interests of their families and their country. But the idea of a "mandate" creates a psychological advantage to the side that "won", no matter how shaky the grounds for their triumph. It is entirely possible, had the election campaigns of 2004 been conducted legally and truthfully, that we would now be awaiting the inauguration of President John Kerry and the seating of Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.

But maybe not. We don’t know that, and we never will know. It is certainly possible the elections results would have turned out the same, even if they had been legitimate from top to bottom: The further we stray from our purpose as a nation, the further we as a people detach from the world’s reality and from God’s -  the more separated and frightened we become, on a deep and mostly unacknowledged level, and the more likely we are to put our desperate trust in false leaders who substitute arrogance and bravado for the genuine strength that comes from integrity, truth, and an abiding inner decency centered in God.

And perhaps, in the great story of the earth’s redemption, it doesn’t matter who “won” or who would have won, if only. What is foremost on my mind, these days, is that the issues have passed beyond politics, beyond “red state, blue state”. We are all Americans bearing witness to this crisis of our nation’s soul. We are all human beings, separated from our Source, many of us currently seduced by a false sense of security based on lies, by the promise of protection from fear by means of reckless aggression, when the only real protection from fear, ironically, would be to do the very thing we most strenuously guard against – to open our hearts, our arms and our nation’s doors to those in need – including those who live within our own borders. Perhaps a “blue state” is a place where a slightly higher percentage of voters were resistant to that seduction, and therefore able to make a genuine choice based on the kind of world they wanted  – but our common humanness recognizes no state borders and overrides any distinction of “red” versus “blue”.

Darkness seems to be on the ascendant – in the limited view that is represented in the mass media, that is certainly the case, to those looking at that picture with sensitive and caring eyes. And, among all the places on the earth, the United States of America seems to be one where Darkness is making the greatest display of musculature. Light is on the ascendant too - it just doesn't make the six o'clock news very much because it doesn't care to compete with Darkness in muscle-flexing contests. But we all vote, every single day, by what we hold as precious, as important, as worthy of our notice. I'm voting for Light...and putting one foot in front of the other, learning how to walk this changed landscape. If it feels like a dream, it's one I must learn to live in, because it's not about to go away. My wish for my brother, who feels he must look away – and for myself, who cannot – is to remember that the real story of the century – indeed, the story of all centuries – is that Light is healing the earth, no matter how different it may look in this one place in this one moment of history.