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Political Unity in the Big Tent

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The barker in democracy’s Big Tent strode on to the stage and called out to the crowd: “Gather round, good people! Lend me a moment of your time. Democracy’s coming! Soon it’ll be up here on this stage for you all to look at.”


The crowd pressed in eagerly in preparation for the spectacle. The barker donned a scuffed bowler hat that perched rakishly aside his head. He was a youthful man endowed with a showy red mustache. A red and blue silk scarf with ample folds was knotted at the side of his neck.


“Before democracy gets here, though, I’m going to tell you something, my friends.” He began to twirl his ivory-handled cane. “I’m not a sermonizer, so I won’t take long.


“Now’s the time to rebound from the ruins of Washington’s misrule,” he proclaimed. “We can save America and redeem ourselves. Progressive values and policies will sweep the country in the coming years, and we’ll achieve joyful liberation from hypocrisy, stupidity, and exploitation.


“Let’s make it happen! Our collective voice will inspire the next president to lead an American reformation.”


His voice gathered timbre as he went on a bit more slowly. “To succeed, a reformation of a personal nature is required of us. We have to achieve and maintain unity, as we forsake the left-wing political infighting and Democratic Party civil wars that have been our downfall for too long.


“Suppose you disagree with the policy choices of other people here. Maybe it’s about who is best to lead us. Maybe it’s an issue of how quickly to bring the troops home from Iraq. You can speak up and fight fairly for your views. But if you become resentful at being outvoted, you’re entering the darkness of divisive politics.”


He paused and swept the crowd with his eyes. “Any negativity that you feel toward anyone here, unless you know them for a blackguard or a criminal, is your negativity. It’s vitally important to understand that. Your venom belongs to you. Don’t be such a fool as to think otherwise. Our reform aspirations will be doomed if you start projecting and transferring your negativity onto your fellow citizens in our Big Tent.


“If you’re overruled, or should your identity politics or single-issue concerns be set aside, some of you will be tempted to sink into feelings of being helpless or into feelings of being marginalized, disrespected, and ignored. These feelings are common to all humanity and are a source of great mischief. Your resentment toward others comes out of those feelings. Please be responsible for those feelings inside yourself. This isn’t just about being more civil. It’s about being a lot smarter and more aware. We’re starting up a new Ownership Society, which means you damn well take ownership of those negative feelings inside of you. Keep them to yourself or, better yet, get rid of them!”


He slipped his cane under his arm and took a slug of something from a brown bottle labeled Human Growth Tonic that he’d extracted from his back pocket. After wiping his mouth with his sleeve, he went on, “If we fail at this, our own negativity will overthrow us, and the country will revert to the backwardness of the other side.


“Take ownership of your own nastiness and you will liberate that natural power that’s attuned to your sense of value and goodness. Know who you are. We’ve each got to acquire a robust belief in ourselves in order to be powerful in a personal way so that we’re powerful as a social force.”

 The young man strode up to the edge of the stage, twirling his cane again. “No need to sermonize too long. I’ve said enough. Thank you for being here and thank you for listening. Yes, democracy’s coming—but not today. Step right up because in its place, here today, is the representative of our current state of democracy, the beautiful . . . the one and only . . . the bearded Lady of Liberty. Only ten dollars to see her. Get her autograph here. Only ten dollars. Step right up!”

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Peter Michaelson is an author, blogger, and psychotherapist in Plymouth, MI. He believes that better understanding of depth psychology reduces the fear, passivity, and denial of citizens, making us more capable of maintaining and growing our (more...)
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