I am now in what I have determined to be my sixth phase of response to the November 8 election: First there was shock, confusion, and denial; second, expecting a miracle rescue; third, watching the inauguration with sadness; forth, ecstatic uplift from the marches on February 21st; and, fifth, horrified that the first days following the inauguration boded worse than expected. These phases were mostly outward, directed in a reactive or resistance mode. But now I am in the sixth phase, going inward, focussing on that still-forming spirit of strategic “next steps” that is coming to life carefully, faithfully, in me and others as community after community is forming and calling forth new structures of economy, relationships, inclusiveness and sustainability.
Maybe this is only wishful thinking because I can’t exactly name what is going on in me personally, or in others, or in groups or movements. But there is a sense of resolve stirring, coalescing, building. The mode of resistance needs to continue for sure, but we need to be very strategic about how we apply our finite time and talents to this part of the work. Perhaps more importantly, however, we need to be taking positive actions that support alternative personal, social, and political structures or we will surely become discouraged if we lack vision and noble purpose.
And at this date I am less interested in particular strategies or engagements as I am with what values and hard-wired morality supports whatever I or others do. My personal values and moral base are grounded in my Quaker faith and practice. I believe that all life is an awesome, sacred, mystically created complex web of interdependence that is lifted by the power of love and rescued and sustained by the power of truth. Within that essential belief system I rely on very practical moral precepts that guide my daily life. Among them are my commitment to nonviolence and peace building, an essential equality of our human beings, a moral obligation for the stewardship of the earth, and a commitment to live more simply, all held together with personal integrity and a community of accountability. (Whew, that may be a bit much, but it is the moral framework I try to use to guide my life.)
The result of such a moral framework is that I have reference points for my personaldaily choices - simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship. But they are also guidelines for my political and social life as well. I believe, in combination, they serve what we may refer to as the “common good.”
The moral values and commitment that define the common good are certainly counter to the Trump mindset. But reference to the “common good” also seems to be a bit vague or useless concept for many in our culture. Yet a commitment to the common good is the very heart of what gives society true meaning and fulfillment. When we pull together as a community, as a “commons," in response to a tragedy or a crisis there is such deep pleasure and satisfaction in moving beyond our own personal needs and serving and supporting the needs of others.
Which brings me back to my “going inward” in response to the Trump election. As noted, I am going to be committed to doing my share in the resistance to the Trump political mindset and policies. But I also intend to be more focussed on living with integrity around my values, my commitment to the common good, and my practice of nonviolence. And I intend to be more intentional about encouraging others to do the same. What values most anchor our personal choices? What is our understanding of what constitutes the common good? And how, then, does this translate into imagining and implementing alternative lifestyles and cultural structures in the society around us that reinforce, sustain and build on these values?
A Postscript: Last night Cathy and I were looking at the gorgeous full moon, and I began quietly to sing “I see the moon, the moon sees me…” and Cathy proceeded to sing several more verses. It turns out it was the theme song between her mother and her father when he was in the army during WWII. Everywhere he might have been in the war the moon connected them, so Cathy’s mom would sing the song to herself for comfort and connection. So what I thought was just a lilting lullaby is actually also a tender love song. On Valentines Day this coming Tuesday you might want to sing this little song out to the all-seeing moon to connect you across our little blue planet to all those people you love, all the places you love, all the things you love about life. What a wonderful way to commemorate Valentines Day! I like this version best…