Shumon, Kairen and I spent an hour and a half on the morning of October 24th standing in line and voting at the Columbia County Board of Elections early voting site in Hudson, New York. Standing in line, forfeiting our time (a small sacrifice to be sure), seemed satisfying. More satisfying than if we had driven to our local polling place and spending five minutes to vote.
As this is being written the election ballots are still being counted in a number of states, we don’t yet know the final outcome. Since I first wrote this Joe Biden was announced as President Elect. What we do know is that the United States is split nearly down the middle, 50.5% for Biden and 47.7% for Trump, not just between political parties.
One side voted for a return to the rule of law in America, a recognition of the diversity of this country, a desire for a more fair and just society, a vigorous response to the pandemic and a program to mitigate the ecological crises. The other side is best described by their slogan Make America Great Again, heralding back to a time before the 1960’s.
What hurts is that people who I have respected, as neighbors, friends, family, coworkers, are part of that MAGA, almost 50%. They support, consciously or unintentionally, white supremacy, sexism, homophobia, and authoritarianism, while denying climate disaster, they don’t believe the medical experts, nor government. This is perhaps the most pernicious form of uncertainty that we have today.
More optimistically, over half the American population has rejected the MAGA creed. This election is the beginning of the new demographic reality that the margin of victory for the Democrats was due to people of color and women. Young people voted in a larger percentage than before and more people voted in this election than any time since the early 20th century. We have the first African-Asian American WOMAN Vice President. It is important to remember that many of the people who voted overwhelmingly for Obama in both his victories voted for Trump in both his elections.
We need to move beyond uncertainty and create an atmosphere of inclusivity. We need to go beyond us and them. We need to learn how to effectively diffuse the corrosive effect of conspiracy mythologies. We need to engage in dialogue and discuss constructively with people who represent what we abhor. I do not know how to best accomplish this. What methods, what strategies, do we employ to have constructive discussions that can lead to the positive results? I’ve read the books, taken rhetoric, and debate classes. Those materials don’t seem to address the difficulties we are having.
Along these lines I am looking forward to online conversations produced by Writer’s Institute, University at Albany. Telling the Truth 2020: Conversations on the Toxic Divisions of America’s Political Landscape.
You can access this at: https://www.nyswritersinstitute.org/tellingthetruth2020
A week-long series of in-depth conversations with prominent authors, journalists, political observers, social critics, former public officials, and thought leaders examining the toxic divisions of America’s political landscape. November 11-18, 2020. Video events premiere at 11 a.m. each day and are available for your viewing at your convenience thereafter at www.youtube.com/NYSWritersInstitute..
The people presenting are:
Elif Shafak. How To Stay Sane In An Age Of Division – Wednesday, November 11
Amy Chua. Political Tribes – Thursday, November 12
Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry, Minyon Moore. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics.
Friday, November 13
Casey B. Mulligan and Joe Grogan. A Conversation with Key Trump Administration Insiders. Saturday, November 14
Allison Schrager and Michael Strain. Bridging the Political Divide: Leading Thinkers of the Center Right
Sunday, November 15
John Lithgow. Trumpty Dumpty Wanted a Crown – 11 a.m. Monday, November 16
David Hopkins Red Fighting Blue: How Geography and Electoral Rules Polarize American Politics -Tuesday, November 17
It is time to reconstruct our civil society. We need to do it as citizens, as part of humanity and as Buddhists.
It seemed as though many of us were past the terrible times of the pandemic while in some parts of the country, the world, we witnessed the infection and death rates soaring once again. I follow the daily rates. Yesterday, November 6th, there were 132,797 (+57% over 14 days) new cases, and 1223 deaths (+12%) in the U.S. and there has been a similar increase in many countries around the world.
In the Capital Region of New York State, we have had the most positive cases since April. If this continues, we will be going into a new lockdown, just as we were seeing movie theaters opening, and other venues loosening of the knot. With influenza season approaching, we have an additional complication. What a dismal outlook.
A seismic shift has occurred in our society and in our personal lives. The familiar patterns of friends and family, gathering together of sangha and community, daily small joys at the coffee shop or a stroll through the neighborhood, celebrations and memorials, attending films, concerts, sporting events, observances of milestones like birthdays and weddings, have receded into fond memories. As indicated above we will also be engaging in recapturing a sense of decency in the public sphere. We want our lives back. We seek reassurance we will regain what we have lost. What is most remarkable about this is that we know we, individually and societally, are on a different trajectory than we were this time last year.
Now is not the time to relax our vigilance. We can use our Buddhist practices and teachings as a means to meet the demands that are required of us. There is our sangha that meets virtually to support one another. We have tools in our spiritual toolkit to ameliorate the suffering and perhaps even gain wisdom’s insight during these trying times. Breathe deeply and prepare to celebrate gathering together once again in the foreseeable future. We will get through this in one piece together.
Love and Gassho . . . Monshin