Blissful sand convenes
With crystal sunshine water—
Blissful sand convenes
Blissful sand convenes
With crystal sunshine water—
It is apparent that radical liberal politics are just as dangerous, uncompromising and self-referential as radical conservative politics. The more extreme and inflexible the position at either point on the political continuum, the more disconnecting and destructive its response to opposition. Devotees withdraw into a bastion of self-affirming sameness; disciples lock arms, signaling partisan virtue with unquestioning adherence to orthodoxy; and evangelists encourage tribal authentication with evermore rarefied acts of militancy. Theory and tradition wage a vicious war, while the moral high-ground is ceded to political expediency and narrow cultural dominion, subordinating truth, tolerance, and reason.
Both sides of the breach are caricatures of their foundational attributes. The left is illiberal in its demand for conformity, and the right is revolutionary in its subversive indifference to diplomacy. Ironically, the mantles are interchangeable.
A blend of earnest, anxious, and mean-spirited activism is consecrated at the core of each party, supported by rearguard dons who cling recklessly to power, regardless of the prevarications and preconditions necessary to maintain their grip. Voices of moderation are bullied into silence. Honest, open-minded attempts at understanding and reciprocal accommodation result in ridicule, hostility and excommunication—social and political drama of the most perverse kind.
The untamed instinct to neutralize extreme opposition by cleaving to the opposing extreme, and shouting insults across the divide, is both primitively self-indulgent and lavishly unwise. Dwelling exclusively in these diverging camps reveals a distorting hypocrisy and signifies the destruction of a unifying dream—the American dream. A more productive and sustainable response to this conflict is informed compromise and deliberate moderation, a centering and healing diplomacy, whether we wield the power or chafe against it. America has to rethink culture and change, and Americans have to outgrow the divisive vestiges of our tribal heritage. If not, the country runs the very real risk of becoming yet another cautionary tale of a great enterprise falling behind and failing or tearing itself apart.
A good place to start is a serious commitment to exploring and developing our empathy. Opening ourselves to other perspectives with the goal of understanding and the grace of good will, though not necessarily agreement or conformity, is the first step. Avoid virtue signaling, media echo chambers, and most of all, avoid authoritarian leadership, chief among the many societal traps that lead to homogeneity of thought and punishment of dissent. We must reverse the trend of political polarization; expand our circle of empathy; humanize our neighbors; find the personal resonance in outsiders to bring them in; build on diverse histories and create shared experience; smile at strangers; be open to change. When we practice this approach to human interaction, the invitation will more than likely be returned in kind, and the tribe of humanity will grow and thrive.
As we become more accepting, welcoming, and trusting of difference, our decision-making as a culture will improve and our understanding of the world around us will be enriched. There is an intelligence in groups of people with varied histories, experiences, and perspectives that cannot be matched by individuals or homogeneous groups. When a diverse group of people cooperates in a network of trusted relationships, there is integration of ideas and culture without appropriation; there is familiarity without judgement; and there is balance without abasement.
Empathy is the key to establishing the trust and exercising the wisdom that is within our collective reach. Yet the cultural gravity is shifting to the margins, pulling people apart, and exciting a fracturing wave of racial, cultural, and political exclusivity. We impose these boundaries reflexively, precluding the kind of proximity that builds and sustains empathy. Instead, we should examine and acknowledge our biases. We all have them. They are but one thread in the complex weave of our human nature. If we recognize our own imperfect aspects and adaptations as things we have in common with every other human being, and we open ourselves to mutual improvement, while still honoring the best of our existing traditions and beliefs, we will be one step closer to accepting the imperfections and, more importantly, the differences in others.
This is how we evolve, become a more perfect union, and revitalize the breathtaking, bewildering and, though imperfectly executed, brilliant experiment called America.
Turning and turning in the Washington gyre
The politicians cannot hear the people;
The country falls apart; the center cannot hold;
The Southern Strategy is resurrected
And loosed upon the world,
The brain-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of Democracy is drowned;
The center lacks all conviction, while the margins
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some correction is at hand;
Surely a reckoning is at hand.
The reckoning! Hardly are those words out
When a harrowing vision vexes my sight:
Somewhere in sands of Florida
A man with no morals and the ego of a spoiled child,
A character as dark and dangerous as dictatorship,
Is shambling his way to power, while all about him
Reel the shadows of grasping sycophants.
The damage is done; and now I know
That two centuries of spotty democracy,
Are turned to nightmare again by a narcissist’s dream,
When a terrifying clown, his hour come round at last,
Slouches toward Washington to be crowned.
The red of a cherry
and a bad boy’s knees,
the blood-shot eyes
of a three-day high,
and the hot blush
of shame are nothing
in the quick, cold
circumstances of life
next to the ironic prick
and the scarlet wrath
of a rose’s stem.
The root of the ancient, persistent, and pervasive issues we’re all grappling with so fitfully in the wake of Trump’s election is tribalism. The inherited compulsion to associate only with “your tribe,” which is so powerfully nested in our genes because once it was what kept humans alive, is now what threatens to keep the country and the world divided by difference (whether it’s race, ethnicity, religion, nation, politics, or any of the host of defining characteristics people tend to cling to). If humanity doesn’t evolve beyond those instincts, and outgrow their exclusive tribe, we’ll destroy any hope of harmonious human coexistence and unity. Just sayin’…
Better angels, with flight lost to that skyward ruin
and tossed to Earth, where they will surely do in
time, as mortal souls, a dance of celebration
for the humanity of Icarus and his determination
to fly, as they themselves become more luminous beings
having left behind the wry conspiracy of angels wings.
With a great hush of orthodoxy
this sacrament on a cliff face
sits groaning beneath the weight
of its own romantic mythology.
Wide-eyed guests wander the grounds,
zealously guarding their human potential,
and staff struts, self-absorbed,
quixotically exploring their absence
from the world and blindly suffering
the accretions of an insular life.
Stuck for a spell to this loadstone
of the West Coast, this asylum of need,
some imagine deliverance, and some
even transcendence—the next step—
but while their proximity to paradise
promotes the notion of movement
it depletes the ability to move,
and most are left wanting more
of Esalen and its opaque perfections.