I voted today. I wish I could say I was proud of it.
Much has been written about this election. There’s nothing I can add about that, but maybe there’s something to say about my vote. I realized this morning that I was voting out of fear rather than hope.
My Buddhist practice leans heavily on mindfulness — observing what my mind and body are up to. So I need to recognize and accept the fear — even nurture it.
I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Hillary Clinton will emerge this evening as the victor in the race. I and most Americans fear Donald Trump more than we fear her. Voting for her was more important to me this year than voting for a third-party candidate because of my fear of a Trump victory. But I recognize the significant number of Americans — roughly a third of us — who fear Hillary more than they do Donald.
The truth is that who wins the election is less important than the underlying fear felt on both sides.We’re fearful because our political system produced such poor choices — an old-school narcissistic bully and an old-school political aristocrat. We’re fearful because our politicians no longer listen to each other, no longer compromise for the public good, and make no room for new approaches — new approaches needed for a rapidly changing world. We’re fearful that the America we were taught about as children is disintegrating.
I’m afraid that, if we fail to learn from 2016, something good will in fact have disintegrated. We need to learn how to listen again, how to listen with compassion. I’m tempted to soften that last phrase…to say that at least we need to listen without hostility. But again my Buddhist practice tells me that nothing is possible without compassion. And my Unitarian Universalist faith tells me that everyone has worth and dignity. We’ll never understand each other if we don’t have compassion for each other.
That’s the America I learned about as a child in the 1950’s, a land of compassion, where the Statue of Liberty had greeted my immigrant father three decades earlier. And as the son of an immigrant, if I can’t listen with compassion to those who fear today’s immigrants, I’m betraying my own American dream.
We’re fond of saying that every vote counts. The only way I can imagine to make that true is for us all to respect the fears, hopes and dreams that went into every single one.
— Mel Pine (Urgyen Jigme)
Copyright 2016 © Mel Harkrader Pine