By Marguerite Jill Dye
However the mid-term elections play out, we still must consider how deeply divisions in the United States are affecting our wellbeing, as a nation, as world citizens, and as individuals. Many of us find our families divided, and have difficulty relating to friends whose political viewpoints seem opposite to our own deep beliefs. It is difficult to understand, and a source of much anxiety.
If we truly believe in our democracy, then we must elect leaders who speak the truth and whose words and deeds demonstrate our nation’s founding values, to protect “liberty and justice for all.” If we want a future that’s filled with peace, our children need to learn peaceful resolution, and the importance of treating others with respect. If we don’t want our children to lie, be bullied, or become bullies, we must elect leaders who set a positive example. What’s in people’s hearts, and the way they behave, is what matters, not their birth origin, religion, gender, or skin color. We all originate from the same source. We must search within to know which qualities truly matter: they are the compass that guides us to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.
How often have we heard someone say they climbed the ladder of success seeking wealth and power? But once they arrived, at or near the top, they realized their “success” lacked inner meaning. In spite of their outer image, they felt empty inside, discovering that wealth doesn’t equal joy in life. Such an experience, or a significant illness, or a brush with death often wakes people up to living life with a higher purpose and finding joy in everyday life.
The kind of leader I desire is someone who’s searched his or her soul for life’s meaning and who understands the power of human kindness and compassion. I choose leaders who speak of love, not hate, and who don’t belittle others, but lift them up. I choose leaders who represent all people, not only the rich and influential. I choose leaders who look ahead to see how our actions affect our planet and do everything in their earthy power to protect it for future generations. Responsible leaders don’t utter words to incite fear. Responsible leaders have the moral fiber to take a strong stand against hatred and violence.
“Inequality makes people hate,” David Leonhardt wrote in his opinion piece in the New York Times, as he introduced Steven Pearlstein’s book, “Can American Capitalism Survive: Why Greed is Not Good, Opportunity is Not Equal, and Fairness Won’t Make Us Poor.”
Congress have risen in unison at similar rates, according to Pearlstein’s research. The ultra-rich have pressured politicians to provide them with tax cuts and deregulation, and to weaken labor unions.
“Rising income inequality has also changed the attitudes and behavior of American voters, sowing resentment, fanning prejudice and eroding the sense of shared values, shared purpose and shared destiny that once held the country together,” Pearlstein writes.
The frustration of stagnant wages, diminishing industry, and an increase in opportunities for non-whites has fed bigotry, openly racist leadership, and the ugly rise of white nationalism.
The working and middle classes and the poor once held a vision of “shared values, shared purpose and shared destiny.” But our political and social climate today is one of division and separation.
Mobilizing thousands of troops on the Mexican border to fight the threat of a caravan of refugees is an obvious move to stoke fear and further authoritarianism. It reminds me of the diversion tactics of Argentina’s and Chile’s military dictators in the late 1970s. To distract from their own unpopularity, economic instability, and human rights abuses (where any possible critic or dissident became among the “disappeared”), generals Videla and Pinochet mobilized troops on their borders and declared war.
We don’t need to declare war on refugees and migrants fleeing violence and no future, seeking a safe haven where they and their children can survive. They are not the enemy. Panic, hatred, and prejudice are.
It’s time each of us delved deeply into our souls to identify and resolve any prejudice we feel from pre-judging, misunderstanding, and ignorance of others’ life circumstances and experiences.
It’s time we honestly reflected upon our own shortcomings, and underwent a major self-examination, as citizens, individuals, and as a nation.
It’s time we began an open dialogue to understand one another’s fears, hopes, and dreams.
Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between the Green Mountains of Vermont and Florida’s Gulf Coast.