When This Is, That Is

Exploring the world of conditionality

Two Post-election Scenarios—Neither One Bright

grover norquist quoteTwo weeks ago, a friend of mine shared this photo-quote on Facebook. I started to write a snarky comment but deleted it. I realized I had much more to say about the quote than I could cover in the two or three sentences that would quickly get lost within Facebook’s short attention span. Instead, I came here and spent the rest of the day researching and exploring some ideas around the topic. When finished, though, I couldn’t bring myself to push the Publish button. I hadn’t expected to come to such a gloomy conclusion. I tried to brighten things up a bit—put a more positive spin on things—but I just couldn’t write my way out of the Orwellian box canyon I’d created for myself. 

But after a few days it began to feel as though I’d left something undone. I have other topics I want to write about, but it seems a landslide has blocked my path. I got the idea that writing this preamble may help with some of the backhoe work. We’ll see. Meanwhile, what follows are the thoughts triggered by what Grover Norquist said about the coming presidential election.

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The history of the United States offers several examples of internal threats that had the potential to destroy or do massive harm to the country through the power of hatred and divisiveness. The Civil War is at the top of the list. More recent examples include the labor movement, Civil Rights movement, and Vietnam War.

So, I want to be careful about saying we’re in the darkest of times and on the brink of a mighty disaster. Yet maybe we are.

We’re approaching the election of a president. It’s something we’ve done every four years, more or less, since George Washington was reelected in 1792. Presidential elections are contentious events, with all candidates insisting they know what’s best for the country and that they have the right qualities and skills to lead the country into the future.

But it seems that strong leadership in the Executive branch is not all that important to those who would back one of today’s contenders. The Republican/Tea Party does not care who is elected, as long as it’s not Obama. This news is a few months old now, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it. For those of you who think Obama is a fascist, take a look at this story by David Frum. David Frum, if you don’t know, is a conservative Republican, so this can’t be construed as liberal propaganda. Grover Norquist, if you don’t know, is the political activist who got most Republicans in the 112th Congress to sign a pledge affirming they would not raise taxes. Read the pledge and see who signed it here

This is what Grover Norquist said in February at the 2012 CPAC convention, before Mitt Romney looked like the sure winner of the Republican nomination:

All we have to do is replace Obama. …  We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate.

In other words, all the Republican/Tea Party needs is a paper-signing puppet who will do what he is told. It appears Mitt Romney may be that puppet. Meanwhile, Norquist—through his pledge—has a firm hand on the controls of the Legislative branch. A Romney presidency will lock it in, unless the Democrats make significant gains in Congress.

And what would a Romney presidency look like? I’m no political analyst, but the word “austerity” comes to mind. The rich will get richer, and the poor (from the middle class down), well, poverty is just another word for nothing left to lose. The same policies that supported Enron’s fleecing of thousands of pension funds and savings accounts, and that brought down the economy in 2008, will prevail. The economy—and the environment—will be pillaged for corporate gain. Then what? Will the masses rise up against the plutocracy with weapons more powerful than placards?

Yet many hold out for Barack Obama’s reelection. What are the consequences if Obama does win? I fear it will different from the usual acceptance of “four more years” of any recently reelected incumbent, notwithstanding the impeachment hearings of Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

The Tea Party came into power in 2010 as a direct response to Obama’s presidency. Never mind that it has done everything possible within the law (forget ethics) to thwart Obama. Since the rise of the Tea Party, there has been lots talk of armed revolution. Armed revolution! Examples are herehereherehere, and here. Isn’t that enough? These are not conspiracy theories from the fringe. These are real people advocating real events. They are angry and afraid, and they do love their guns. We very well could have an armed insurrection on our hands if Obama is reelected. All it takes is someone to fire the first shot in the right place and at the right time. See the first example above.

I don’t like being so cynical and pessimistic about the future of the United States, but this is the way it seems to me. This feels like it’s more than just another election where after it’s over, we’ll all go back to the mall for a nice day of retail therapy. It feels more like war brewing. And regardless of which side wins, the losers will be all of us within the middle and lower classes. But isn’t that the way it is in all wars?

Thoughts on the Relationship between Discomfort and Fear

To sit in meditation means to sit still and be with what arises—both physically and mentally. The idea, or one of them, is to resist the urge to move the body when discomfort arises. We’re always moving away from what is unpleasant toward what is pleasant. It’s an unconscious response that occurs all day, and all night, long. Shifting, fidgeting, scratching. Meditation is a time to resist the natural instincts to move away from the unpleasant and notice instead how and when it arises and our reactions to it. These are the moments when insights arise.

When I sit long enough, I’m sometimes able to notice a threshold where discomfort gives rise to pain. I noticed it the other day with the pain in my right hip. When I had stuck with it long enough I had two simultaneous responses to the increasing pain. My responses were subtle but vivid. They were panic and fear. Panic said I had get out of this situation fast. Fear said this pain will last forever. Both were untrue, of course. This was my mind talking. I know how my mind can talk a good story. I also know how some of those stories are not at all rooted in fact. They are unreal and groundless.

Often, when I experience a moment of insight, it feels so profound and big. Yet moments later I can’t remember what it was. Not so with the insight that came to me after noting this panic and fear. It occurred to me, as I sat there examining the mounting pain and the sensations that surrounded it, that behind all discomfort there is a wisp of fear.

What are your thoughts on the origins of fear?

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