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David Spangler and Me on "Winning at All Costs"

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On the thread on my website in which my piece, posted here yesterday, entitled "What Hillary Has Now Shown About Herself," the noted spiritual thinker, David Spangler, posted some thoughtful comments, which included this passage:
what Obama is up against is not just Hillary nor eventually McCain, but a mindset, held by millions of good people, that this is how the game is played, winning is essential at all costs. It’s not just that Hillary has decided to take the low road and now can’t be trusted or has become as evil as Bush; it’s that for many people, this isn’t even perceived as a “low road” but as “the” road. Divide and conquer, and you divide by fear or any other means. This is the tragedy of our times, and while we can argue Bush has intensified it and turned it into policy, he’s not the first by any means, nor could he have done so unless it was already present as a mindset that this is the way the world works.

About this comment, I want to say several things, first among which is that it is an excellent point. My thanks to David for expanding the picture in that direction.

Second, I'd like to point out that David's excellent point both instantiates and substantiates the central thesis of my work (on my website NoneSoBlind.org) from the outset: namely, that the coming of this darkness to power in the political realm would not have been possible without its being part of the larger picture of a breakdown in moral structures in American culture generally. In this particular instance, the breakdown has to do with how much power ideas having to do with fair play and honesty and principle have to restrain individuals and groups in their striving for advantage, gain, power, victory. When the power of those principles that serve Wholeness is great, the ability of selfishness and lust for power to subvert Wholeness is less. When the power of those moral structures of Wholeness falls with the erosion of those structures, then the destructive power of people's selfish and sadistic lusts increases. And that, as David Spangler just put it, is part of "the tragedy of our times."

Third, a basic truth warrants stating again in this context, a propos of the idea that for many people "this isn't even perceived as a 'low road' but as 'the' road": that people are made up of many elements, and that even many of the people who have this space in which "winning is essential at all costs," there is also within them --as I expect David would agree, given what he says about those kind and considerate people who have embraced Bush-- a belief in the sacred value of fair play and truthfulness and restraint of self-assertion by principle. So there emerges the political/spiritual task of summoning back into the picture that better part of the self to predominate over the more broken part that the evil leader specializes in bringing forth from their followers. This basic truth about the combination of good and evil elements in people is why I make so frequent use of Lincoln's phrase, "the better angels of our nature.

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Which leads to my fourth thought in response to this: namely, that I believe that David's point could be regarded as pointing toward an area that Obama should begin to address with more strength and focus and heart: Obama should talk about the need to change the game into one where fairness and principle, and not just "winning at all costs," are how people conduct themselves. This theme would embrace not only the kind of rhetorical strategy against Hillary's low-road "winning ugly is good enough for me" tactics, in the manner I argued for in "Here's How Obama Should Fight Back." It also could embrace the major problems the Bushite way has created for America both at home and abroad. It embraces having our country behave in a way --e.g. in Iraq-- that turns all our old friends against us, for breaking our own rules about when and why our nation would go to war, for breaking our own rules about torture and the rule of law. And it also embraces the fascistic merging of corporate power and government power to conduct a massive fleecing of the American people --by not protecting workers, by having a drug bill that enriches Big Pharma, by creating pension law that leaves the people out in the cold and protects Big Money, etc. etc. Into such a rubric of "let's bring back fairness and principle and self-restraint and let's end this 'win at all costs' and 'who cares who gets hurt or what gets destroyed' ethic," Obama could focus his message, contrast himself with Hillary, and give the American people a clearer notion than he's given so far of what kind of choice --what kind of CHANGE-- he represents for them.


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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)

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