A hierarchy of creeds
Some philosophies are better than others. Some creeds provide the higher good for the greatest number. Not all things are equal or even equivalent. And this is not a zero-sum life. Some people are givers, others takers. Or maybe it could be said that some are all about I and others We. Some people have an open heart, others are more closed. I remember when I was little, if I fell, my dad would say something like, ‘ Don’t cry. Get up. It’s nothing’. My mom would scoop me up with a hug and dry my tears and tell me I would be alright.
As I sat through both conventions and tried to understand why anyone with a good heart would find any difficulty making the right choice for November, I struggled to figure out how to define the qualities that have prompted me to be a progressive (although I dislike labels, that is essentially who and what I am and have always been) all my life. In every way, it is irresponsible to make the wrong choice because the impact will be on billions of people around the world, not just our country. Ponder the thought of these candidates holding the Football and the Biscuit, and that call in the middle of the night. Think of the advisors with whom they surround themselves, or perhaps they do not have advisors, but follow their own counsel and impulse. And maybe those advisors give them false information, as happened with the Iraq war. We need to be sober in reminding ourselves of the gravity of this decision.
To my mind, some people grow into a set of loving principles early. My mother is one of those people. From the time she graduated from college (at 20!) through every day of her amazing career of service to others, she has embodied the soul of goodness, kindness, caring, understanding and acceptance. Both she and I are Democrats because we have only two choices and the Democratic party embraces the spirit if not the precise letter of our beliefs and convictions. My mother echoed the sentiments of Elijah Cummings who recently said, “we have been blessed so we can bless others”. We measure success by the improvements we make in other people’s lives, says Tim Kaine. To do right, not to be right. And we do it better together, than alone. That is what human beings are: social creatures, not isolationists, we work, live, progress in groups. Study your anthropology and you will see this has always been so, for five million or more years.
You need only have watched those two conventions to understand the stark difference in world views between the two platforms that represent our binary choice. I wish we had a parliamentary system, as that would enable each of us here to find the exact niche into which we fit most comfortably, or to create one and give it a voice in national decision-making. But we are not given any viable alternative options. This year, in my opinion, the choice is democracy or authoritarianism, Americanism or Trumpism.
If we had that more nuanced and robust system, I would likely be a Green party member. As it is right now, they always propose flakes. Ms. Stein is nothing more than a spoiler idealist who is seizing on the naivete of the millennials. She knows this full well and for this I view her as I do Ralph Nader: self-serving. Stein is not thinking of 330 million people. She is thinking of 13 million or fewer. Not too smart. Not practical. And worst of all, not good.
I am able to separate the lies that have been told about Clinton from the person I know her to be, because I have paid close attention to the real facts, from primary sources, for the past 30 years. I read! And not silly, hateful, biased opinion sites. On my news aggregator I have the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Le Monde, Figaro, London Times, Der Spiegel, etc. I watch CSPAN. At our house we read books and papers and journals by credible and vetted experts. Most of all, I listen. I heed the words issuing from people’s mouths. If you pay attention to Mr. Trump — a spectacularly failed and corrupt businessman — you will hear a petty, selfish, immature, nasty, insecure little man whose insatiable need for attention (and other people’s money) has been the primary feature of his entire life, from the time he was limousined to elementary school, protected and isolated from ordinary people like you and me, to today. He keeps his papier maché house-of-cards Madoff-style ponzi empire afloat by bilking poor and trusting and vulnerable people, and promoting bigotry, fear and hate. Having inherited 200 million dollars and continually squandering it and investing in bad deals, he now needs this publicity so he can collect more money from the fatuous, largely now from Russia, Asia and Eastern Europe to keep it all going. He is an exploiter and a liar. He never wanted to be President. He entered the race to raise cash. But, he has tapped into the bewilderment of the white Boomers who see their dreams slipping away from them and is now stuck in a job he is unqualified for and too lazy to do properly. I feel so sorry for the people who believe him. I consider him a narcissist, borderline sociopath with no sense of decency.
Back to me. I am not rolling in money, despite the wealth both our families accumulated. On my own, as a middle class, educated, Caucasian female, from a nice family and a wonderful part of the world, having had every advantage, including an Ivy League education, a PhD, and talents and abilities, I do not make a fortune. The work I do is frequently given to people with a fraction of my training, experience and expertise, from fourth-world countries. Here in the US, few can afford a behavioral therapist any more. Asian and South American nurses and vocational trainers do that work now, for a sliver of the cost just ten years ago. I get it. I chose a profession instead of a trade. Maybe if I had had the attributes suited to software development instead of human analysis and understanding, I would be making bigger bucks. No lawmaker did this to me or to us or to the workers of this country. Global technological, informational and industrial macro-evolution did it!
I don’t whine or complain about it. We choose our vocations when we are 18, not 48. Thirty years of hindsight still informs me that the choice was probably the only one that interested me, anyway. I planned to be a professor and started out that way. But one thing led to another, and each choice led me here. Will we inherit money to make up for it? Maybe. But, who wants to capitalize on the work or death of someone else? Not me. So, I simply accept and make the most of the work I do, the place my life has led me and do not blame it on anyone else, least of all our leaders.
Would I have liked Al Gore instead of George Bush? Yes, regardless of whether I liked either of them as men. Why? I am not too fond of starting expensive, immoral, ineffective wars simply so some people can make a killing in profits — pun intended. We were led into that war in Iraq on gross lies. Would I like to see more of a Denmark-style economy where everyone lives a good, healthy, productive, happy, cheerful even, modest life. Yes! I don’t need a mansion, a luxury car, a yacht, diamonds, and three homes to make me happy. I find happiness in my garden, knitting gifts, eating fresh and healthy foods, sharing ideas with my husband and friends, including the ones I have made here, exploring new hobbies like photography and blogging, or old ones like singing, keeping myself fit, looking and feeling and being and doing as well as I can. Those are the things that make me thankful, grateful, celebratory. Not “stuff” and certainly not while others are doing without the basics. While there are people living under bridges here and anywhere else, I cannot be greedy for more than I have. While women are being enslaved to sex traffickers, I cannot ignore the importance of women’s rights worldwide. While animals are being tortured slowly in hidden concentration camps to produce “food” for ignorant people, I cannot turn my back on them. And, I cannot ignore the perversion of religions, whether that means Islam or Christianity. I am 100% certain that Christ would not condone any of these things, nor the selfishness that is being invoked, incredibly, in His name.
It is hard to describe why I am a progressive. I have tried to do that over the course of the blog, which is beginning its fourth year. It’s almost like explaining why water is wet. I know science works and embrace it as the best method we have for exploring, understanding, demonstrating and predicting in our physical world; I believe in education for training robust minds to gather real facts from primary sources and analyze them dispassionately and without prejudice so the truth emerges from that process; I have lived in a fourth world country with two classes and seen the results of a tiny group of exploiters reveling in a lavish existence at the expense of their downtrodden populace — neither group thrives, there is ingrained and rampant suspicion, hatred and fear in both classes and I want no part of that for America; I have known strong, intelligent, hard-working, caring women, my grandmothers, my mother, leaders that I admire like Eleanor Roosevelt or Clara Barton or Florence Nightingale or Hillary Clinton, and even me, who is by no means in their league. I believe that the two genders are equivalent in ability and responsibility. I don’t need anyone, man or otherwise, to do my work or my thinking or my decision-making for me.
For me, the United States works best when the majority of the people are in the middle class and that middle class has useful work, a good roof over its head, healthy food to eat that is not based on torturing any creature, safe air and water, a protective order force that is color-, gender- and creed-blind, and a beautiful, flourishing, temperate cherished planet, shielded from exploitation and abuse by benighted greedy people, along with a health promotion and care system attentive to everyone so that needless expense and worry does not sap resources better applied to more uplifting and group-enhancing activities. And most of all, I fiercely condemn bigotry, racism, sexism, ageism, religionism, handicapism (just another echo of Nazism) and any of the divisive, evilisms to which some people cling in fear and anger. Read my post on Ashleepism to see what is really at work at these low levels of unconsciousness.
One group subscribes to this and the other does not. I could write a book on all the ways to illustrate this, but I don’t think you need that. It is obvious: good people take care of themselves and then with whatever is left over, take care of others. Mrs. Clinton said it best: America is great because America is good. Simple as that. One group is driven by talk radio shock-jock ratings-spawned venom, going low and lower, as Joy Reid recently observed. I am with Mrs. Obama, when they go low, I want to go high. Some people only spread their cloak of comfort and love to themselves or their families, others of us throw it wide to embrace and shelter all of humanity and living creatures, all over the earth. When we do that our hearts and capacities for love grow exponentially.
So, to sum this up: what do I as a Progressive want for my life and others? What kind of leadership I do I think will help us achieve that life?
- To be free to realize my potential, within the bounds of our laws and norms and standards, and only as my realization of that potential does not unduly or unfairly abridge the rights of any other organism;
- For all people of any race, gender, or religion to be treated equally and fairly under these laws, norms, and standards and have no one group think they have the right to be more equal than any other group;
- For science and scientific research, properly conducted and peer-reviewed to dictate our treatment of the earth, our health and well being, and the management of our precious resources;
- That all living entities be dealt with sensitively, kindly, and humanely, no matter how lowly we assume them to be, or how insignificant they appear to us with our limited 21st century understanding and vision;
- To extend a reasonable amount of protection, care, safety, and nourishment to the earth’s entire population and not have one group thriving at the expense of any other, largely due to accidental circumstances or the ability to trick others into giving up what is rightfully theirs in a civilized, enlightened world;
- To mete out justice in a fair and benign manner by a properly trained and equipped peace force whose primary aim is to serve, not to dominate in a quasi military way or to intimidate by the use of extreme force;
- For us to elect sane, balanced, educated, self-controlled, disciplined and thoughtful people who have the emotional health to handle adversity in as prudent and wise a manner as possible, especially when it comes to that ultimate power entrusted to them via the nuclear triad. They will make mistakes because they are only human, but they will not do so lightly or irresponsibly, and they will have the maturity and generosity of spirit to admit it when they are wrong, seeking to learn from their errors and improve their own and others’ lives in so doing.
That’s progress, that’s the future. If you look back five hundred years, that was not where humanity was. It is today. It is inevitable. Change that is progress is not bad, it may not be easy, but it is good and unavoidable. We can either get with it and help it improve and accelerate, taking all with us, or we can resist and impede it, slowing down advancement and grinding people under instead of propelling them forward. Each of us has that choice. And I made mine thirty years ago.
Images: Chez BeBe assets: the Sage fire/Stevenson Ranch California, July 2016