Is a More Perfect Union a More Mindful One?
I used to spend the predawn hours drinking black tea in low light while reading the morning paper with my husband. It was my favorite time of day. Our morning routine changed recently, though, when I stopped reading the newspaper. I’ve also stopped watching the evening news.
My once steady news diet had become toxic. Instead of feeling like a proud, well-informed citizen, regular news consumption was making me feel queasy as if I were participating in the care and feeding of a media beast that thrived on conflict. Partisan columns and op-ed pieces peppered the morning paper. Empathy, compassion, and open-mindedness? Not so much. The daily blasts of divisive rhetoric emanating from media outlets from across the political spectrum was undermining my faith in people's essential goodness. I began to wonder if I had become mildly depressed. Then, I realized that I wasn’t sad, I was mad. “I was mad as hell, and I didn't want to take it anymore.” (That’s a reference to Paddy Chayefsky's classic screenplay for the movie Network. If you’re not familiar with it, treat yourself and watch the clip below of news anchor Howard Beale’s famous rant, one that seems remarkably prescient today.)
It’s tough not to become overwhelmed by the scale of America’s problems; tough to avoid the trap of believing that we’re powerless to make meaningful change. It’s tempting to conclude that we’ve traveled so far down a chaotic political rabbit hole that there’s no turning back, that the more perfect union envisioned by the framers in the preamble of the US Constitution is nothing more than a pipedream. Feelings of frustration and anger are not the whole picture, though. The truth is more straightforward and direct.
A more perfect union, in a fundamental way, requires us to become a more mindful one. “Democracy dies in darkness” is more than a slogan, it reflects a foundational principle of both Democracy and mindfulness/meditation. A more perfect union hinges on awareness, and that means we must elevate the national conversation to create one. We need to steer the conversation away from fearmongering and back to what matters – to economic growth, to taking care of one another, and to helping those who need help.
I’m reluctant to wade into political conversations on my blog and newsletter but am making an exception today. We’re at an inflection point in this election cycle where the determination of who will be invited to participate in the Democratic debates is being crowdsourced. This is important because those on stage will determine the issues raised in the discussion. The road to the debate stage is through many small donations — 65,000 of them. I'd like to see Congressman Tim Ryan in that debate. Together we can make it happen.
Tim is a former high-school quarterback from a working-class family in Ohio. Far from a fringe candidate, he’s a moderate Democrat who has served in Congress since 2002 and is framing his message around values that strengthen healthy societies. If you're intrigued and want to learn more, here are some video links where you can hear Tim talk about issues that might be important to you.
I guess that Tim, who my husband and I have known for over seven years, would be the first to say that his presidential candidacy is a longshot.
But, whether he wins the election isn't what matters to me today nor is it why I'm writing to you. What matters is that we remind ourselves that we don't need to be overwhelmed, we don't need to disengage, and that there are small things each one of us can do right now to help elevate the conversation. You might identify as a Republican, Democrat, Independent, member of the Green Party or member of no party at all, but if you're reading my blog, or on my mailing list, I bet you'd like to see issues like health care, food safety, education, support for veterans, support for the working class, and similar matters debated on the national stage framed in a way that brings us together rather than rips us apart.
I've read that there are more yogis and meditators out there then there are steelworkers. As a self-proclaimed Rust Belt Yogi, Tim represents the diverse interests of both sectors along with everyone in between. He says there’s a “quiet revolution” going on in America and I agree with him. Teaching and speaking across the country, I’ve seen it myself. Let’s make sure other people hear about that quiet revolution too by getting Tim on the national debate stage and elevating the political conversation.
It only takes a contribution of $1.00 to do your part.