Vote Down Groupthink

rules“[I]t is essential—now more than at any other time in the history of humanity—that we master the art of making good, healthy, and wise choices, based strongly upon an inherent esteem of ourselves and of others. As society is no longer making our choices for us, we recognize that our destiny is now in our own hands.”

–Katherine Woodward Thomas

This quote, from a book about finding love in the 21st century, was written a good decade before the current election season got underway. But its applicability to the current climate within our country now is pretty obvious.

For much of the history of human society there have been rigid guidelines by which the majority of people lived. There really were not a lot of choices to be made. Whether you were a man or a woman, your life-track was pretty clear. Your family’s religious legacy determined how you worshiped. People lived near where they were raised. You married the person chosen for you. Until the mid-20th century a woman would most likely not attend college or have a career except in a few “accepted” fields, and would have no choice about marriage (to a man) or childbirth—they were simply in the cards. A man would not be able to choose homemaking while his wife pursued a career. Although sexual orientation and gender are not choices, people do have the choice now to live openly as gay or trans, though they are still vulnerable to bias and hate.

But aside from our personal lives, we face moral choices now that perhaps people always faced, but it is harder and harder to excuse racist or sexist choices by saying someone is a “man of his times.” The times we live in remove the easy comfort of groupthink. Until recently….

Whereas boundaries were once rigid, now there is choice. There are not as many rules to follow—aside from moral precepts such as “do the right thing” and “act from love.”

Yet certain people seem to crave that rigidity. The monochromatic whitewashed “Pleasantville” of old where someone like Mrs. Cleaver still baked cookies for someone like Beaver and the Mr. Cleavers had all the power.

There are people who don’t want to be asked to help form policy, foresee a better future, or contribute to a society of equals, but rather prefer to be told how it is—and how it will be. They want all the inconvenient and anxiety-producing grays turned to black and white for them. They want this so badly that they’ll overlook almost anything in their desperate quest for non-choice.

Their desire to avoid thinking, making choices, opening their minds, and facing growth and change causes them to overlook blatant and repeated misogyny and disrespect for women including an admission of sexually predatory behavior, unmitigated racism and the welcomed support of openly neo-Nazi groups, numerous facts about cheating at business, being in bed with foreign dictators, the inability to NOT take everything personally, full-out, scary ignorance of the constitution of the United States, full-out scary ignorance of foreign policy, and promises to uninsure the insured, remove protections from the vulnerable, roll back the already paltry efforts to steward the planet safely. To name a few.

In fact, they want to dictate patriotism to our democracy and what it should look like. They are less offended by a swastika than by peaceful protest. They don’t seek to be governed, but ruled, even if it means being belittled and disrespected or belittling and disrespecting others.

To vote is to choose. It is a choice many have fought and suffered and died for.

Vote so that we continue to have choices and will be able to say, “We did the right thing.”

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The Privilege of Self-Improvement

privilege

Not that I’m the poster child for personal evolution and self-discovery, but I sure do feel privileged. Why? Because at  every point in my life when I had the urge to take a step into my unknown mysterious calling – whatever it was at the time – I could take it.

This rather obvious fact hit me over the head the other day. With privilege comes both time and money – both of which are quite helpful when we want to self-improve. Whether it is the Reiki training I suddenly felt called to, or the shamanic training I’ve received over the last ten years, or the hours spent across a table from a dear soul sister sorting through the latest spiritual bushwhacking we’ve participated in – I’ve been blessed.

Sure I work hard and sure I strive and toil – a fact which unites us all on some level. But a still, sun drenched winter morning spent with one of two Tarot decks at my disposal is within my realm of possibility. If I hear about a book that I know will kick my butt, or amuse me, or guide me to a door that needs opening, I buy it. If I have to head up to the mountain top that is my journeying spot, I head there (either in reality or otherwise).

Sure I’d like to travel to Greece and do a goddess tour, or to Italy to seek details of a past life – not every privilege is “easy” for everyone who is privileged, but I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to make these trips happen, as well as a week or two among the Celtic mysteries in Scotland and Ireland. Something to aspire to. And I can.

  • Because I don’t have to aspire to get my GED because I didn’t have to drop out of high school. I got a kick-ass education because I grew up assuming that was important and that I could. Even though I put myself through college and grad school, I consider that a privilege too. I knew how to support myself and had done so for 10 years by the time I was done with my education. And that is a kind of empowerment many uber-privileged children are denied. Things can come too easily, it turns out.
  • Because I was empowered enough to know I had choices. I did not have to bear a child when I could not do justice to one. I was able to choose when to bring my babies into the world – and they waited for me to be ready.
  • Because I was born white and middle class, to an ambitious, upwardly mobile (if mentally unstable – can’t have everything) mother. Not only was I clad and shod, fed and taught, there were books on the shelves and records on the stereo and paintings on the wall. And trips to the Met and MoMA, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall.
  • Because I don’t have to work a minimum wage job, or depend on food stamps to survive, and if I work a second job it is not so I can pay the heating bill, it’s so I can send my own kids to college, or maybe save up for that trip to Greece. Feel me?
  • Because I have health insurance.
  • Because I have the luxury of thoughtful opinions, know that my vote matters, and have time to speak up, opine, march, fight for my rights and those of others (with words, anyway). Single moms living in tenements have no such luxury, though voting is power and everyone has that privilege…. At least for now.

When privileged politicians use their positions to look with contempt on those less fortunate, I realize they are not using their privilege to self-improve, but to self-aggrandize, and worse. Their karma is entirely besmirched, of course, but I won’t gloat about that. Everyone else pays the price of their comfortable hetero-patriarchal ability to look down on people who are not like them.

I’ll try hard to use my privilege not only to improve upon my small soul, but to grow my large soul. Oh, and love everyone. Even that, it seems, is a privilege.