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Balancing Optimism and Realism

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Over the last year, I've been writing columns that aim to create an evolutionary path forward that brings the higher expression of both ends of our political spectrum together in a more sacred whole. Now, with 11 days to the midterm elections, I find myself at a crossroads: the time is now for specific, short-term recommendations for how to engage politics in a more conscious way in the following days, but I'm still unclear on what to recommend.

The simple answer is to rally for Democratic candidates: taking one or both Houses back from the Republicans can reinstall the checks and balances that are at the foundation of our democracy. Scandal after scandal has racked Capitol Hill. Our political situation has degraded to such an extent that last week's Rolling Stone's headline declared it the "Worst Congress Ever," and showcased ten of the worst offenders who are shamelessly lining their pockets, their family's pockets, and those of lobbyist friends. And many may well be reelected.

While the "take back Congress" refrain may be invigorating, from what I've seen documented of the scale of voter disenfranchisement and computer manipulation in 2000 and on an even grander scale in 2004, I suspect that the amount of vote manipulation in this election will only grow. Democrats have rolled over and accepted this disenfranchisement with barely a whimper. If it happens again this cycle, the hundreds of millions sunk into winning elections may well prove to be a bad investment, like betting on a shell game in which the ball has long since vanished from the table.

If elections are not fundamentally clean, all of the electoral fanfare will be for naught. We will sit on election eve watching results come in with the same surreal feeling of the last election, with a gullible media declaring their surprise as contested state after contested state miraculously rolls over to the red column.

One of my most politically-savvy mentors has said the only thing worth spending effort on in this election is to radically reform our corrupted election process. Without voting integrity, we do not have a democracy. To maintain the charade serves no one. Unfortunately, the awareness and safeguarding of our voting process has not reached a critical mass yet such that we can feel confident in the results of Nov. 7th. Will we reach that critical mass in 11 days? Likely not.

If we understand the depth of corruption of our voting process, we may choose to focus less on candidates and more on the voting process itself, making whatever progress is possible in the next 11 days. The trouble with this approach is that it tends to take the wind out of people's sails - we like to feel optimistic, enthused, and excited by the prospect of advancement. Focusing mainly on vote suppression, theft, and manipulation tends to reduce our passion for politics and our hope for the future. Many begin to write it off as a dirty game that soils us when we play it.

When I assess strategies for this election, what I see is that the first strategy of merely rallying for Democrat victory may prove to be naïve. And the second strategy of focusing mainly on voting manipulation may reduce our passion and vision.

As I reflect more deeply on what would be an enlightened approach to this election, what comes to me is to encourage people to vote sincerely with heart and conscience, to truly express their highest aspirations for America and the world. Voting in this way is an affirmation of goodness, a compact between us and the universe regarding what we would like to see in the world. In this way, our votes are logged in our minds and hearts, no matter what happens in the polling places. Sitting out the election does nothing but undermine hope.

While making the positive affirmation of voting for what we want to see, though, I believe it is imperative that we not shield our eyes from shadowy truths. We need to understand the depth of corruption now happening in our government and in our election process or we become unwitting accomplices. As we cultivate visionary optimism then, we must also cross-train with a dose of more sobering truths. For example, after studying the measures on a ballot and choosing those we feel will truly help us evolve, we might spend fifteen minutes reading Robert F. Kennedy's brilliant Rolling Stone expose of the last election's voting fraud.

As another example, we might first make a donation to the DCCC to ensure that Democratic messages are not drowned out by Republican attack ads, but then we could make a parallel "donation" to expose more shadowy truths in the form of buying Mark Crispin Miller's brilliant 2004 expose Fooled Again for ten of our friends. When we keep a foot in both camps, we balance our optimism with realism while also retaining enough hope to move forward.

Election day is not the final goal but another step in the process of waking up from a long cultural trance in which we've become a corrupted democracy. The real imperative is to reclaim our right to be fairly represented in our government, just as our Founding Fathers once had to do. Even a landslide victory for Democrats would result in only one step towards that goal, while another rigged election could prove an equally valuable step if we approach it in the right spirit.

Keeping the long-haul perspective better prepares us to take the next steps if the election results turn out to not be truthful or desirable. Will we follow the lead of the Mexicans and Ukrainians when it seemed their elections were tainted? A lot depends on the balance between our optimism and our realism. Without optimism, our realism can turn into apathy and cynicism. And without a dose of realism, our optimism may naively undermine our actual goals.

So let us all fully engage the political process in the coming days, optimistically voting our conscience while realistically watching with a skeptical eye.

Sacred America Series #31
If you'd like to read these weekly articles exploring a sacred vision for America, you can visit www.stephendinan.com or sign up on the distribution list by sending an email to stephendinan-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.
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Stephen Dinan is the author of Radical Spirit and the founder of the Radical Spirit community, as well as the Director of Membership and Marketing for the Institute of Noetic Sciences. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in human (more...)

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