I read three good quotations in one day last week. I find I like to let the ideas tumble around in my head for awhile and it is amazing what my brain cells come up with. Mythology says that Athena, the goddess of wisdom, was created full blown from the mind of Zeus. I wonder if that means that ideas, when allowed to rest in our minds for a time, will spring into being fully formed?
Anyway, the first two ideas were from Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, philosopher, and contemplative.
Unless our hearts are transformed, our fears will continue to manipulate our politics, reinforcing a polarized and divided society.
Our job — tear down walls and build bridges.
Now both of these quotations create an umbrella over our current political situation. I listened to hearings from the House of Representatives the other day. The individual subjected to nine hours of questioning, for all practical purposes could have been somewhere else. There were no substantive questions, only accusations, and the view of the House of Representatives’ committee tearing each other to pieces with personal innuendos was an embarrassing view of what was supposed to be democracy in action. It was partisan politics at its worst, regardless of your political persuasion.
What are we going to do to turn this farce around? Both sides cry out for “freedom and democracy” and all we are doing is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy centered on the quotations above. We are a polarized and divided society and we are building walls and digging chasms between each other that will take a generation or more to repair. As I get older I sometimes see a vision of a bombed out city, maybe I watched Planet of the Apes or too many sci-fit movies. Culture and an organized society are gone and like medieval Europe the land is ruled by a few lords who control vast swaths of the country. All sense of organized rule or government is gone. The crux of the story is always, we did it to ourselves.
Building bridges is such a basic exercise in creating peace and justice for all. We begin by forgetting about ourselves and our ideas and focusing instead on people, those near to us, but also around the world. And we do it by putting a face on the billions who live and work with us on this planet. When speaking about the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin said it so well, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
My third quotation is one from Bill Moyers, contemporary historian and journalist, on a subject of much concern to all Americans. The antidote, the only antidote, to the power of organized money in Washington is the power of organized people.
The political action committees have taken over our elections and we are pawns to the amount of money they will spend to elect one-issue candidates to office. The amount of money being poured into Montana, for example, in this Senatorial race is frightening. It goes back to our early history when Senators bought their seats in Congress. It is why we had to pass the 17th Amendment (1913) for direct election of Senators to be sure they represented the will of the people. The prime example was Montana’s Senator William A. Clark who spent huge sums to get elected to Congress. He tried once and failed. (The following is from a website sponsored by the U.S. Senate historical society)
“Nine years after his initial disappointment in 1890, William Clark won the Senate seat he so avidly desired, presenting his credentials on December 4, 1899. The Senate admitted him immediately, although on the same day his opponents filed a petition charging that Clark had secured his election through bribery. The memorial asserted that Clark had spent far more on his election than the $2,000 permitted by an 1895 Montana law aimed at controlling political corruption. The Senate referred the matter to the Committee on Privileges and Elections, which quickly asked for and received authorization to conduct a full investigation into Clark's election.
On April 23, 1900, after hearing extensive testimony from ninety-six witnesses, the committee returned a report unanimously concluding that William Clark was not entitled to his seat. The testimony detailed a dazzling list of bribes ranging from $240 to $100,000. In a high-pressure, well-organized scheme coordinated by Clark's son, Clark's agents had paid mortgages, purchased ranches, paid debts, financed banks, and blatantly presented envelopes of cash to legislators. In addition, the winning margin in Clark's election had been secured by the votes of eleven Republican legislators under suspicious circumstances. Clark did not enhance his position when he admitted that he had destroyed all his personal checks that dealt with campaign transactions.”
How we say “no” and then support our candidates with our money will be a huge move in freeing this country from outside control (Russian and others) of what should be free and open elections. It will place in office men and women who owe no allegiance other than to the people and the Constitution of the United States.
It is good to read other ideas and let them roll around in your head. May the Goddess of Wisdom guide us in freeing ourselves from old stereotypes and allow us to see people and issues in new and liberating ways.