Sacred America, Sacred World
Introduction: Part Three
In 2003, Dennis Kucinich was the first national political leader I found who carried an aspirational vision for our country that was also grounded in deep spiritual principles. He was just beginning his presidential campaign, and in him I found a kindred spirit. While his campaign never became competitive, it provided an opportunity to turn my growing passion into action, beginning with hosting a large fundraiser for him in San Rafael, California, that featured authors Ram Dass, Shakti Gawain, and Jack Kornfield, as well as music, poetry, and mobilizing. Almost two hundred people gathered that night for passionate political talks, singing, and funky dancing. It was a new kind of political happening, and it was electric!
A frenzy of activity followed this exhilarating first night, as I created a kind of Chautauqua tour of new-paradigm political events. I organized a speaker’s bureau of pioneers, authors, and musicians to bring some on the road to places like Chico, Davis, Grass Valley, and Sonoma. In our grassroots tour of “Convergences” we would find wise souls in each town who were awakening from anti-political slumber to bring a higher possibility into our political discourse. It was an initiation into the practicalities of campaigning and an eye-opening exposure to the deeper hunger in America’s citizens to have a political process that elevates us and speaks to our highest vision rather than forcing us to focus just on beating an opponent.
In the course of this journey, I was hooked on forging a new kind of politics. The most satisfying aspect was finding others who had similarly yearned to have their whole being — body, mind, and soul — fully welcomed into politics. During that period of full-throttle engagement, several people encouraged me to run for office myself someday, which I had never previously considered. I took a serious look at the matter and eventually decided that seeking elected office would not be the best channel for my skills. My talents lie more in the direction of visionary strategy. By forging new organizations, media, and writings, I can help sculpt a vision of where we are going and offer a practical roadmap of strategies to get there. I can plant seeds of change wherever the soil is ready and influence political leaders on both sides of the aisle as well as everyday citizens.
Over the years, my political orientation has evolved still further. I’ve supported candidates in races for Congress, focus to influencing our current elected officials rather than mainly backing candidates who share my views. I’ve learned, through working with groups such as the Friends Committee on National Legislation that one of the most important responsibilities of citizenship is to support, influence, and empower our elected officials to make the best choices they can, day in and day out, rather than focus solely on the next round of elections.
My political work has also evolved beyond championing progressive candidates and policies to encouraging evolution of our political culture, both left and right. While my politics still lean strongly progressive, as I’ve matured, I increasingly see that fulfilling our country’s mission will require the best skills, insights, and policies from across the political spectrum, including conservatives, Libertarians, and moderates. Learning to respect and honor the full political spectrum leads to a stronger end result than competing with a political “enemy.”
That recognition informs this entire book, which harvests the best of what I’ve learned in my journey of integrating spirit and politics, left and right positions, visionary future possibilities and the pragmatism of what it takes to create change. And from that vantage I now consider myself a transpartisan progressive, a term we’ll explore later but which speaks to finding a higher ground in which all are honored for their views.
I have also learned that we need to transcend charismatic figures. Millions of us grew enamored with Barack Obama and the message of hope he carried powerfully in the campaign of 2008. On his victory night, I shed tears of joy that America had evolved to the level of electing a man of mixed race and stirring vision to the presidency, beginning to heal a racial schism that has long festered in our hearts. We attended the 2009 inauguration with millions of others and stood shivering on the National Mall, delighted to be part of this historic moment, waving our flags with patriotic pride.
But then, during his presidency, my elation became tempered with times of disillusionment: frustration with his appointments and policies, the fading notion of grassroots change, and partisan stalemates. In many ways, these disillusionments were necessary to dissipate the expectations many of us had for a political messiah figure. It’s easier now to see the limitations of putting too much hope and expectation on anyone, including the president of the United States.
It is actually a form of our political immaturity to expect someone to save and protect us rather than to stand in our own power and patiently help our system and people to evolve. Our political maturation means removing excess hope and excess resentment from our political figures, while offering our personal best in service to the collective challenges we face.
This holds true even if the elected leader does not share our political party. If history is our guide, we will spend about half of our lives under political leadership that does not come from our favored party. We can either spend those years resentful, frustrated, and scheming to take our power back — as much of America now does — or we can see these times as opportunities to work with people of different temperaments and values toward a shared goal of America becoming a shining light unto the world.
I now firmly believe that a single political party or ideology cannot deliver the kind of healthy, integrated, evolutionary growth that will lead America to fulfill its mission.
To be continued in the next issue of Catalyst...
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