I've been reluctant to take on this theme, but I feel emboldened by the recent primary results in New Hampshire. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have come to the lead in their respective parties. This is not a mistake. Despite the profound differences in the two candidates and the perceived differences between liberals and conservatives, there is a common thread that cuts across the political spectrum: Something is not quite right in America.
Our political system is corrupted. The mainstream candidates are clearly beholden to corporations and lobbyists, and they are out of touch with the lives of the average citizen. It is for this reason that people are beginning to clamor for a serious change in our political system. The concept of a political revolution has become part of our day-to-day conversations.
I too have serious concerns about the state of U.S. American politics. While living abroad over many years I watched in horror and fascination as the United States continues to lose its credibility on the international stage. The problem is not Obama, nor our endless and ineffective war on terrorism. The problem is that we are lost in our political divisions and have lost sight of the big picture. We seem to be self-dividing and self-conquering ourselves. We have undermined our capacity to be a force for good in the world.
Sometimes I like to imagine the countries of the world as individuals hanging out in a large room. In this place some countries are working out and getting strong. Some countries are studying everything they can get their hands on. Some are sickly and wounded. Some are self-repressed and exhausted. Some countries are teaming up with others and making grand plans for their collective futures. The United States is in the corner wearing a tattered king costume while mumbling to itself about how great it is, its schizophrenic mind torn into two.
Ken Cloke (again) says that when the ship is sinking it doesn't matter what side of the boat you're on. I can't think of another place where it is more relevant for us to realize that we are all in this together. The United States is too big and powerful to be having this kind of crisis. It is simply dangerous for us to be divided as we are. We need to stop scapegoating others inside and outside our country for our problems. We need to take responsibility for our own future. We can either learn to work together and make some deep changes in our political system, or I'm afraid our days are numbered and the fall will not be pretty.
So as usual, I'll end with an appeal... As this political circus continues to unfold, let's try to notice not just our differences, but also let's try to embrace the spirit of change and revolution that is so alive in our country. We need a new way of being in the world, one that's better for U.S. citizens, for the rest of the world and for our planet. And we can only do it if we work together.
For those interested in a non-partisan vision for radically changing politics, I encourage them to to check out Rebooting Democracy: A Citizen's Guide to Reinventing Politics by Manuel Arriaga. Here is a pdf of the first chapters. Just reading "10 reasons why politicians fail to represent us (and always will)" is a powerful experience. The link to the website is here.
For those who feel that there is no way for liberals and conservatives to understand each other and work together, I encourage them to listen to this TED talk by Jonathan Haidt about the moral roots of liberals and conservatives.