“Lincoln”, the movie produced by Steven Spielberg, is a story for our time. It portrays how a relatively small group of people, known as the House of Representatives, who held the public trust during Lincoln’s administration, were consigned the task of deliberating a very large question. The situation that they contemplated manifested as the largest storm that has ever enveloped the land and the consciousness of the people of the United States, the War Between the States. They deliberated whether to abolish slavery. Lincoln’s vision of governance was simple. He stated in perhaps his most famous speech that his prayer and firm intention was “…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”. Under Lincoln’s leadership they resolved that the Constitution was to be amended to abolish slavery for all time, the Thirteenth Amendment. That legislation has had profound and far reaching social, political and economic consequences to this day.
It’s not too big of a stretch to compare this scenario with what we are facing today in the United States. We have witnessed one of the largest political storms in memory that was the election held last week. The hurricane Sandy physically devastated a region of the country. Record numbers of people are living in poverty, in the richest country on the planet. The list of such factors contributing to our situation is long. Exacerbating the problem is that there has been a growing pressure on the nation’s psyche to continue to produce these conditions using instruments of fear, intimidation, and subjugation. And the collective psyche has permitted and accommodated this pressure. Why?
It’s easy to point to two obvious motivators, greed and fear. Greed is a dominant quality of oppressors and fear tends to keep the oppressed where they are. Underlying these, however, is ignorance. It isn’t just that there is no sense of fairness or justice. These are principles that an enlightened people will employ in their governance, but they are still relative. The declaration “…that all men are created equal” is really preceded by “we are all the same”.
The lack of that realization was a root cause of the Civil War. The assumption that there is some fundamental defining difference between individuals produced contempt. It produced a perception of superior and inferior. It produced slavery. It produced economies that were based on slavery. When those closely held perceptions and economies were challenged, it produced hatred. The challenge also produced some form of that realization in those people who were consigned the task of deciding the slavery issue. There were intense forces that resisted any change in the status quo. The political battle that ensued reflected the war that was being waged on the battlefield. As in the war, courage prevailed and the law became an embodiment of that realization. Still, after 150 years, some hatred has persisted.
We have come to the point where that battle is being litigated again. The same contempt born of the same assumption of difference has produced the same perceptions of superior and inferior. This time, instead of just race, it is based also on the status resulting from one’s relative accumulation of material wealth. A new economic subjugation has been evolving where wage earners do not make a living wage, even if they are fully employed. The social “safety net” is under attack, leaving a majority of people more vulnerable to financial ruin, and some, even death in the face of catastrophic events. Shared participation has given way to purchased representation. A new civil war has broken out that is being waged in the channels of communication. It is a war whose major weapon is chaos. The very language used to describe this war has been a casualty. The so-called makers are becoming the new takers.
Fortunately, the structure that saved the nation from the first Civil War still exists in some fashion. We have the same governing body whose members will be consigned the task to deliberate pretty much the same question. And, again, we have a President who understands the big question, even if he personally does not have the definitive answer. In his own words, President Obama has distilled the words of Lincoln to their essence: “We are all in this together”.
What can we do about any of this? This Saturday, we will research how to heal this situation at the Healing Workshop at the Healing Heart Center. To heal something of this magnitude, or anything, for that matter, it is important not to take a position. Politics is sometimes useful as a social tool to describe a situation or to litigate it as a participant in the process. We have already voted, so our political role has been fulfilled. What can we do as healers?