Now for some politics. In our starkly polarized civic moment, it is nearly impossible NOT to be political. Even our conversations at board meetings, in the kitchen and grocery store are happening in a backdrop of tension and uncertainty. We drop our voices now when we want to make certain comments in a public setting. We look at strangers with an implied questions: "Who's side are you on?" Some of us view the sitting president as a rogue, imposter or even treasonous. Others literally think him to be God's gift to the nation. Where to begin?
The dark and entrenched mating of money and politics is inherently wedded to the third leg of a destabilizing triangle: corruption. Corrupt practices are self-dealing and opaque, and this is what distinguishes them from vibrant economic exchanges and good governance. Robert Mueller called this unwholesome threesome the Iron Triangle. He considers this maze of criminality and power to be a singular debilitating factor in social well-being, robbing the whole world of trust, opportunity, justice and autonomy. The 2010 Citizen's United decision at the Supreme Court, which contributes glue to the Iron Triangle of money, corruption and power, has had an equal and opposite effect of uniting and empowering we the people, the lower case version of citizens united. The president's dark inauguration speech is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The power of We The People may be the silver lining in this dark cloud.
I feel more patriotic now than I ever have, because it is possible that our valiant experiment with liberty and self-governance can be lost. The urgency that so many people feel right now is not easily matched with a clear idea of what, exactly, to do! Two Jewish teachings can help us here. One phrase from the appreciation prayer, She-he-chi-yanu, contains the phrase: "...who sanctifies us with discrete deeds.." Our many small and individual actions can lead us in the right direction. And the famous teaching of the Mishnah (Pirkei Avot 2:21) states that none of us alone can complete the work, but none of us is free to refrain from our share of the work.
What is The Work in our challenging times?
Self-care, sweetness and cultivating joy and spaciousness in our lives is necessary and political;
Connecting with our community in sustained projects of mutual care and benefit is political;
Using our resources (time, money, intelligence) in ways that match our values and hopes is political;
Knowing the truth of the context and root causes of our social decay is political. Truth is oxygen. Truth counters the dizziness caused by our "political leaders'" constant gaslighting and spinning;
Feeling our feelings is political. Feeling the grief of what is lost. Feeling empathy with the victims of despair, displacement and depression. These are political. The opposite is numbing. The opposite is locking ourselves (our voices, resources, humanity) behind gated communities. Our voices are needed and our full humanity, our hope and grief, are part of our full human capacity. It is vital - in the root sense of "life giving" - to attend to our feelings. They are our conscience and guide.
Together with you in interesting time