"There are no sides, only angles.
And when we see it from the right angle,
we are all on the same side."
-- Swami Beyondananda
One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is from the 1951 classic, African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. The film is set in Africa at the dawn of World War I, and the heroine and hero are struggling to get their little boat, The African Queen, through a mucky channel to the open sea. The ship's propeller is broken, so they are slogging through the bog pulling the boat with a rope through the deadening heat. Finally, they can go no further. They are exhausted, and realize they are doomed. They lay down on the boat's deck, ready to die.
At that point, the camera pans up and we see they are a very, very short distance from the sea. Then suddenly, there is a downpour, and the rising waters from the typhoon lift their boat, and sail them out to open waters.
Call me a hopeless hopium addict, but I believe that we -- the sane and reverent* Americans on all sides -- are "in the same boat". Our ship of state has run aground, because the "propeller" (the guiding principles of our founders, along with perennial and native wisdom) is broken.
The rule of gold has overruled the Golden Rule. In the place of the sacred, we have been leveraged to live by the principles of predatory, extractor capitalism: Doo-doo unto others before they can doo-doo unto you.
Uniting Around Virtues and Values We Share
And what will lift our boat is nothing short of an "upwising" on all sides, where we wake up to how we've been divided into two warring tribes, and consequently "conquered" by those who benefit from keeping the body politic in ignorance and turmoil.
When we "wise up" to how much we the people truly have in common, and how much more powerful we are united around the virtues and values we share, then we're in "open water", ready to face the daunting real problems we have with equanimity, creativity, resourcefulness, determination, and love.
Get The Latest From InnerSelf
In the half a year -- hard to believe as it is -- since Election Day, I have gone through what many others who identify with the progressive "tribe" have experienced. My immediate concerns were threefold: First, the families that will be unnecessarily and cruelly broken up by the immigration crackdown. Second, going way backward on the environment and climate change. Third, and most dangerous is a "lone nut" whose party is in control of all branches of government, with no qualms about making himself dictator.
One thing I recognized immediately was that Trump didn't win -- Hillary, and the Democratic Party she and Bill created 25 years ago, lost. They lost because their brand, "We're not as bad as the other guys", didn't work anymore. People were waking up left (Bernie) and right (Trump) and Hillary was stuck defending an indefensible status quo.
In light (or dark) of that realization, here's what I did.
I took a deep breath, and then a deeper look at "deep history" to see how we got to where we are. Immediately after the election, Trudy and I watched every episode of Oliver Stone's 12-part series, The Untold History of the United States. Watching this was a sobering reminder of the Democratic Party's role in enabling predator capitalism, from the purge of Henry Wallace as Vice President in 1944, to allowing and empowering the secret government since the end of World War II.
And then I reached out to my friends and colleagues who chose Donald Trump as THEIR lesser evil. In the atmosphere of polarization and misunderstanding fed by the media (on both sides) the easiest thing in the world is to see and fixate on the "shadow" of our opponent. It's in seeing and acknowledging our own shadow that true learning and breakthrough takes place.
Clear-Eyed Self-Reflection: Seeing Our Own Shadow
There is no need to elaborate on the shadow, and the flaws of Donald Trump. Even those who voted for him -- at least the ones I know -- have no illusion in that regard. It's in seeing the shadow of progressive liberalism, the contradictions and disconnections behind the well-meaning façade of caring and compassion, that we can find an awareness deep enough to transform a toxically unworkable system to one that moves us toward "the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible." (C. Eistenstein)
Before I offer two pieces -- another article and an interview -- that are guaranteed to upset the apple cart of established progressive thinking, I want to share a bit more about my own journey.
In December, someone sent me a 90-page article by Ken Wilber that you can now download, "Trump In a Post-Truth World" that calls the election "a backlash against the failure of the leading edge of consciousness (postmodernism and pluralism) to acknowledge the lie underlying the progress they've pursued." The blind spot of progressivism -- to tolerate everything except intolerance, expressed through the rigid application of political correctness -- has replaced truth and justice with identity politics, and prevented us collectively from facing the deeper and more disturbing issues, often conveniently dismissed as "conspiracy theories." (This eye-opening interview with journalist Mark Crispin Miller is well-worth watching!)
The gateway to transformation is clear-eyed self-reflection, and in that spirit I offer an article that might be even harder medicine to swallow than the Ken Wilber piece. It's by Andrew Markell, and the title only begins to unravel the yarn that has made "liberalism" a convenient tool of the exploiter/extractor class, The Progressive/Liberal Mind: Lost, Confused and a Strategic Failure.
No, folks. This is not masochistic self-flagellation but a clear-eyed assessment of how progressivism has worked "perfectly" to keep the current system in place -- all the while giving the impression it is working "against" the forces of exploitation. Remember, the truth shall upset you free.
"Resistance" Is A Fixed Game
Just as surely as the upwising entails recognizing the shadow of our "opponents", the exploiters and extractors, it is equally important to see how "resistance" itself is a fixed game, being played by the exploiters' rules.
So ... what do we do instead?
I'm glad I asked that question.
To answer it, we need to venture a bit further out of the (ballot) box, and for that purpose, I've linked to a provocative and yet promising interview with a blunt and visionary one-time Marine Corps and CIA intelligence officer, Robert David Steele.
Trudy and I met Robert -- and his colleague on a new transpartisan venture, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Georgia) -- at the Transpartisan Citizens Summit in 2009. While you might not agree with everything he says, Robert is one of the few out there who understands why and how we need to overgrow the "two-party tyranny".
He is also an advocate of "open source intelligence" and truth and reconciliation. The intention of the movement they are launching -- Unrig: Beyond Trump and Sanders is to awaken awareness of the "deep state" and coalesce a movement for electoral reform (the Election Reform Act of 2017) to make sure the missing ingredient in government by the people -- the people -- are actually represented.
The planks include:
- Universal registration of voters, including prisoners
- Free and equal ballot access for all citizens
- Tightly drawn, un-gerrymandered districts
- Free and equal public funding
- Free and equal media access
- Inclusive debates
- Open primaries
- Election Day holiday, free public transport
- Paper ballots and exit polls
- Ranked choice voting, instant runoff to include minority party candidates
- Transparency in legislation -- no secret clauses
- Economic and financial democracy -- end opposition to unions, nationalize central banks
Recognizing that this platform has been formulated by a "left-winger" and a "right-winger" should be cause for encouragement, if not celebration. To me it illustrates what can happen when left and right come front and center to create a new conversation, instead of the divisive one that has kept corruption in the driver's seat.
Oh, and in relation to the movie introduced at the beginning of this article, in Hollywood, the rains can magically come out of the sky and lift our boats. In the real world, we the people have to be the "rainmakers".
Long may we "rain"!
Book co-authored by this author:
Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There From Here
by Bruce H. Lipton and Steve Bhaerman.
About the Author
Steve Bhaerman is an internationally known author, humorist, and workshop leader. For the past 23 years, he has written and performed as Swami Beyondananda, the "Cosmic Comic." Swami's comedy has been called "irreverently uplifting" and has been described both as "comedy disguised as wisdom" and "wisdom disguised as comedy." A political science major, Steve has written - since 2005 - a political blog with a spiritual perspective, Notes From the Trail, hailed as an encouraging voice "in the bewilderness." Steve is active in transpartisan politics and the practical application of Spontaneous Evolution. He can be found online at www.wakeuplaughing.com.