Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Setting Aside Childish Things

For the record, I have at times, especially in the past few months, felt a bit of pity for George W. Bush. He is, to my mind, someone who wants very much to do what he sees as right, but who doesn't know (or really care) how to get the results he wants in a complicated world. He wants very much for the world to be as simple as he perceives it is. He appears incapable of finding a way to comprehend it even just a little bit more, so instead he works as hard as he can to make the world into what he says it is. Of course, this is an activity reserved only for the very privileged and very powerful. If he had lived a different life, a life more like the one most of us live, he would not have the luxury of attempting such futile architecture, especially at the expense of so many people all over the globe.

Last week's Domestic Disturbance blog entry by Judith Warner, "Bauer and Bush, Running on Empty", to me captures very well the essence of what we are left with courtesy of our former President. Even though I have never watched the show "24", I was moved by Warner's assessment of the Bush years, and how his personality affected his egregious actions. And though I know I will continue at times to feel pity for the man, I was also very moved by this poem, which was comment number 7 in the blog:

let’s save pity
for the millions of victims
of bush’s conscience.

for bush
there ought to be
only howls of ’shame’
execrations, and
a speedy trial
where he stands in the dock
with his co-conspirators and -perpetrators.

he is the best proof
of the truth
of his argument
that there actually is
such a thing
as evil

Steve Elkind

I won't weigh in right now on whether I think Bush is evil. But I think another bit of Warner’s piece is instructive: she discusses briefly Pema Chodron and her work. Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, talks about seeking out and using our fears and discomforts in order to grow, to become bigger people, to open up and feel compassion for all humanity. She calls this “leaning into the sharp points of fear”. I believe this kind of uncomfortable search for what makes us who we are when all the lights are out, all the ice cream is gone, and there’s nothing on TV but infomercials, this is the search that gives us meaning and keeps us going in the darkest of times.

And as I sit listening to the children's choir heralding the Inauguration of our new President, Barack Obama, I feel like we are entering out of the darkness and into, at least, some sort of twilight. Obama somehow, as my mother said on the phone this morning, has been able to “galvanize our hopeful selves” in a way that I have not seen in my lifetime. Obama himself, and the whole Obama family, I think embodies the Chodron idea. He grew up bi-racial in a racist society; when he was born his parents would not have been able to sit on the bus together in many parts of our country. As we enter into some very difficult times for humanity working to heal so many violent rifts across the globe, dredging ourselves out of the economic bog we’ve created, and working to stop global warming and the calamities that go along with that, I think President Obama offers us an example of how we can as a people rise to the occasion, make the necessary sacrifices, and make our world a better place.

Certainly Obama’s race brings a new perspective to the White House, and has a lot to do with the jubilation that has accompanied his election and today his Inauguration. Though there are many who see his bi-racial heritage, the fact that his father is Kenyan and not African-American, and the privileges he had growing up a bit better off than many inner city blacks in this country, and say he can’t represent them. But his race is not the whole story. I don’t agree with everything Obama stands for, and I’m sure I’ll continue to disagree with him at times. And that too is beside the point. The point is that we are all one people, we are all one family, and as a country we can come together and realize that our common good means much more than any beefs we may have with one another. And Obama, right now, at this time in our history, seems to embody this truth of our common good not just for our country but for folks all across the globe. Let us each answer the call to hope and find our own kernel of goodness.