What If American Democracy Collapses?
Responding to Fear and Uncertainty with Love and Hope
Reading an article this morning about the potential collapse of democracy in the United States left me feeling down. Just one more challenge along with environmental destruction, the growing divide between rich and poor (9 million die of hunger each year), and a virus that has killed 5 million people and limited our social connections. Plus the stories my clients tell me of childhood abuse, sexual assault, addictions, and all kinds of relational trauma.
My human heart swirled with fear, sadness, confusion. My mind desired to know, “What does it mean? How do I respond? Where is my power?”
As I ate breakfast I tried to digest the article’s impact. Talking to my housemate, I commented, “It's hard to even know what's true in the world!”
“Well, I know some things to be true,” she said.
“Yeah, like what?”
“The power of love.” We made eye contact and she saw my wet cheeks. “Are those tears?”
“Yeah, I'm feeling really sad,” I said.
She came over and put her arms around me. Her care gave me the safety to feel the pain more fully. “There's lots in the world to feel sad about,” she said. “It's nice to see the tears sometimes too. What do you know to be true, Alex?”
Seeing a bright bouquet of roses, I smiled and said, “Roses are red.” Like the Valentine’s day poem that keeps things real simple. Remembering the last bouquet of yellow roses I add, “Sometimes roses are red.”
“And sometimes they're yellow!” my housemate says. We both laugh.
Journalists and political analysts don't talk much about love. But I trust in a deeper power, a wisdom and source of love that is not threatened by the events of the world.
In early college I remember longing acutely to know if the world, with its great suffering, also had a greater purpose. Whenever I have prayed I have received an answer, most commonly in the form of an infusion of comfort and peace. During my first ayahuasca ceremony I finally received a clear certainty that life on Earth was indeed supported by Bodhisattvas and loving guides, and had a worthwhile purpose.
I believe we, our collective humanity, will be teachers of compassion in the universe. The question of our time is how long that will take, and just how painful our learning will be. We are here to learn faith and trust, love and compassion. And to learn how to respond to violence without enacting violence, how to hear the pain and see the humanity of our would-be enemies.
It's part of the game that we as humans do not understand the larger meaning of our soul's incarnation, or of how our actions ultimately affect the world.
Did the love of a Black slave for the white children she cared for help end slavery and remove the stain of racism? Does sitting in meditation and practicing tonglen actually affect our world? Does anything we do matter in the great scheme of things?
We can't know for sure, but I trust it matters. I believe you matter, and how you choose to live and respond to the challenges in your life is as at least as powerful as your political vote. I believe in the ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the worthiness of trying to live up to them. In the midst of vigorous disagreement and debate, I hope we can agree to value the freedoms articulated in the Bill of Rights, the importance of democracy, and the rule of laws that allow us to peacefully pursue our unique paths in pursuit of happiness.
Martin Luther King Jr, wrote., “Love is the most durable power in the world. This creative force, so beautifully exemplified in the life of our Christ, is the most potent instrument available in mankind’s quest for peace and security. Napoleon Bonaparte, the great military genius, looking back over his years of conquest, is reported to have said: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I have built great empires. But upon what did they depend? They depended on force. But centuries ago Jesus started an empire that was built on love, and even to this day millions will die for him.”
Jesus, along with Buddha, MLK, and other great teachers, planted seeds. They reminded us that we are powerful beings, connected to infinite Love.
So maybe turn off the TV tonight. Sit in the sacred darkness of winter with a fire, cup of tea and journal, and rest in quiet contemplation. Perhaps the imaginal space of the world will answer the questions most pressing on your heart.
May we all remember our inviolable connection to each other and the essential nature of hope, light, and love.