Crying for Change
Here is an open email I received from a friend, Reavis Moore, a moving force in Earthdance, in New York today. It says it all really – about the significance of today’s election and about the hopes that hang upon it – and an excellent comment that’s come in right away that offers another perspective.
My friends, As many of you know, I’ve been torn about this election. Is this a chance for real change or politics and politicians as usual? Is he sincere? Is he ready? Is he honest? Is he naive about the many
people around the world who hate us and would be happy to kill our children? Will his election make my family in Israel safer or more at risk? But all that melted away at 6am this morning walking to my polling place in NY (symbolically, just a block from the housing projects in the Lower East Side). As I walked I thought about my family who fought for our freedom in the revolution, in the civil war, in World War II, and my older brother whose life was ruined after fighting in Viet Nam and who died a broken man. And I thought about my 40 years of deep sadness and anger with our leaders and our policies, from Nixon to Bush. And I thought about my fallen heroes, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy, and the death of
innocence and hope that accompanied their murders. And I thought about my small children, Olam and Muka, and the hope they haven’t lost yet.
And I cried, for them, for myself, for everyone who has suffered under tyranny, and for all of us who have dreamed of and worked for a better world. And I found beneath those tears a small burning ember of a long
lost flame of faith in America. And I voted, for hope, for peace, for change, for the world, and for a more loving and peaceful future. I voted for Barack Obama. May God (and we) help him now. reavis
It’s strange how this letter gives me such strongly mixed feelings. The sentiment is understandable, of course (excepting the overly simplified “people who hate us” rhetoric)… but I still feel as though it’s only sentiment. Obama is a symbol for hope and change… but only a symbol, not the change itself. His foreign policies perpetuate American “greatness” through military-industrial domination, his economic policies perpetuate the reduction of human beings into consumers and workers, even his environmental and women/minority rights policies are weakly centrist at best, making all sorts of compromises with hard-leaning Right-wingers without any nod to “radical” liberalism (by which I mean anyone who is actually honestly liberal these days).
I don’t want McCain to win, of course. I can’t see how anyone could possibly vote for McCain/Palin except out of fear and ignorance (just the fact that the race is so close I find horrendously depressing)… But I am also so very worried about people who vote for Obama with stars in their eyes, weeping and experiencing the exalted, revelatory moments that all good ritual can bring on, especially after the (manufactured) continuous stress and uncertainty of the campaign season… and who will tell themselves for the next four years, like an abused spouse trapped in a bad relationship–as the change they envision is put off and put off again–it’ll get better tomorrow, surely, things will start to turn around tomorrow…
I have to say I was very moved by Obama’s victory. I have no illusions about the seemingly impossible tasks that both he and the rest of the world faces – he is a persausive orator but whether he will be able to make a difference remains to be seen – but this is a black man in the White House and that alone is quite a paradigm shift! If we are to find positive change in our world then the symbols that dictate what is possible need to change also – that certainly happened with Obama’s election as president. We cannot underestimate the impact of this event on the way people feel about themselves; in times of such dark disillusionment and cynical pragmatism, we need symbols of hope and change to remind us of what is possible, even if those symbols eventually prove to have feet of clay. It was wonderful to see Obama and his family walk out on that stage this morning at 5.30am – I was born at the height of the civil rights movement’s struggles in the mid sixties; I never thought I would see this in my life time. It is something to celebrate whatever future challenges bring.
I wanted to email this to you, but couldn’t find an address or contact form. But I thought you would get a kick out of it — Obama talking candidly about environmental policy:
That’s from Newsweek here: http://www.newsweek.com/id/167581
Coming from a different generation than you (I’m 22), but still with a pretty big chip of cynicism on my shoulder about the U.S., I can definitely empathize with what this letter says.
There’s a lot of things to change, but I hope that everything in the Obama presidency can be done with the respect for others, optimistic hopes, and value of reason and articulation that Obama showed throughout his campaign. If we can retain all of this, then even if, in the end, we do not accomplish as much as we hope we can now, I think it will be so worthwhile.
I am deeply moved by the thread as it develops here. Deep feeling and thoughtful concern, yes, but also fear and apprehension in the guise of caution, reasonablness, and a certain weariness born of too much pain (of whatever kind) and too many broken promises.
I would like to propose that fear leads us to the path of fate, and that hope leads use to the path of destiny. It may be that the destiny we are to live for will not end well by whatever scale of meaning we chose to employ. But there are no ends, merely turnings of the wheel. This is life, and I think that America, after many,many years of avoiding the path of destiny, has an opportuinty to live once more. The opportunity may fail, but I have no doubt that it has now arrived, and that we are called to strike out on the path.
I’m reminded of the Labour government coming to power in 97 in the UK, and how all the old-school Labour supporters were so enthusiastic, and how it all went to hell when it became apparent that “new” Labour is just the Tories in another guise.
However, I did weep at the election and Barak Obama’s speech, and I don’t apologise for it – it was ritual, sure, but what’s wrong with ritual? It is a public acknowledgment and acting out of our deepest desires and longings as humans – that the world gets better and we become more fully ourselves.
Sure, President Obama won’t walk on water or solve all the worlds’ problems, or even all of America’s problems, and don’t forget he only has a maximum of 8 years if he’s lucky. But you know, it’s enough for a start. It’s enough if even a few people start realising that things could be different, even if they’re not different straight away. Gorbachev was the foot in the door for communist russia, maybe Obama will be a foot in the door for a deep sea-change in America. I mean, even a black man as President was unthinkable until this campaign started, now we realise that even the unthinkable CAN happen. It’s not up to Obama, it’s up to us.
well said Paul!
the President of the International Guild of Alchemists announces: “Something transmuted in America on the night of November 4. I believe the election of our 44th President released true mercury into the world, the only substance that can eventually transform our nation and the entire planet in the next eight years. The deeper truth of what happened is stated most clearly in the myth of the Grail King. The previous diseased and corrupt King has been disposed, and the living King is revived. And throughout the land there is a new sense of renewal and hope in the hearts of the people. Long live the King and the alchemy of his Work!”
– Dennis William Hauck
Open Letter to Barack Obama from Alice Walker
Nov. 5, 2008
Dear Brother Obama,
You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us
black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because
you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you
deliver the torch
so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade,
after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of
of law, is almost more than the heart can bear.
And yet, this observation is not
intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed,
all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It
is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations,
that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of
the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was
part of our strength.
Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom,
character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only
I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that
world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing
back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is
to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits
sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely
daughters. And so on.
One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the
House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we
notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon
have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is
no way to lead.
Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all
this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From
your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that
so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and
houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can
manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to
them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of
I would further advise you not to take on other people’s enemies. Most
damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those
occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain
racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only
adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that
you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect
our beloved country; this we understand, completely.
However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often
fought, “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” There must be no more
crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as
a means of ruling a people’s spirit. This has already happened to people
of color, poor people, women, children. We see
where this leads, where it has led.
A good model of how to “work with the enemy” internally is presented by
the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts
Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul
must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might
be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to
to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your
with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust
characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy
self-worth, spirit and soul,
that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in
all of us,
lighting our way, and brightening the world.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.
In Peace and Joy,
My dear friend Hennie pointed me to your blog and I have spent time tonight enjoying the conversations that flowed about being naked and also the obituary of your uncle. Sounds like another magnificent man!
Anyways I came to this post and now I have tears streaming down my face! I love Alice Walker and she is so wise isn’t she.
I have been struggling lately since our own general election here in Aotearoa/New Zealand last weekend, and the move is one that does not sit well with my own politics nor vision of where my country needs to be heading. I have been so angry, and so terribly distressed at what I see ahead….
But now I shall borrow this post of Alice Walker and put it on my facebook and also meditate upon it, with great thanks to you for showing it to me.
Standing in the now, being myself, walking gently in the World – being the ones we have been waiting for – that’s brilliant!!!!
Anyway my dear, my own little child – who by the way came naked into the world through my own naked body …. is tugging on my dreadlocks so I shall go and nurture her and my own soul for perhaps that is all I can do for now,
In Peace and Love
Lovely to see you here! The Alice Walker piece is great isn’t it? And I’ve been wondering about how people are feeling re the NZ elections. Even though the Labour govt amazed me by their stance on GM it seems very sad that the govt has moved to the right. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see….
Thank you for the Alice Walker letter Philip – it’s beautiful.