November 2016: What Comes Next?


By the time the last votes are counted in November, I suspect that well more than half of us will be left wondering just how the next President – whether Trump or Clinton – will be able to muster any moral authority to lead.

Indeed, we may well question whether he or she will even have a recognizable country left to govern.

The bitter political warfare to which we are being relentlessly exposed – warfare that will only accelerate over the final coming weeks – has ended friendships, strained marriages, and all but destroyed civil discourse.

The internet has become a cesspool of pettiness, verbal violence, and outright hatred. Come to think of it, I may have just insulted all things septic. At least cesspools are periodically purged.

And we smugly blame the top of the two respective tickets. But – I am convinced – we have yet again let ourselves off much too easily.

We need to focus our attention inwardly.

Until, that is, we come to recognize and appreciate one simple fact: both Clinton and Trump have simply tapped into our own brokenness and our own self-destructive, self-deceptive, natures.

To give credit to that very wise and very learned scholar, Pogo, from some years ago:

We have met the enemy and he is us.

I’m certain that Pogo has a pretty good handle on us right about now.

So what’s the answer to the question posed above – What Comes Next?

Well, it’s obvious that nothing will ever change for the better, or change for good, until we finally reject any notion that politics alone are enough to move us forward.

We’ve been engaged in a shell game. And we’ve been losing – badly.

We have confused the art of politics itself for what it was, ultimately, meant to accomplish.

The clash has become the objective. The fights among us have become the endgame. We take odd and undue comfort in the battle.

But we’ve gotten it all backwards.

As Thomas Merton observed long ago, politics is but a means to an end. And, unless these political battles are built upon a solid “foundation of something better and higher,” they are doomed to fail:

It is true, political problems are not solved by love and mercy.

But the world of politics is not the only world, and unless political decisions rest on a foundation of something better and higher than politics, they can never do any real good for men.

When a country has to be rebuilt after war, the passions and energies of war are no longer enough.

There must be a new force, the power of love, the power of understanding and human compassion, the strength of selflessness and cooperation, and the creative dynamism of the will to live and build, and the will to forgive. The will for reconciliation

Thomas Merton, Introductions East and West

We aren’t exactly engaged in a physically violent war (I hesitate to add, yet). But there have been many moral and noble casualties. And many more are coming.

Merton’s ideals are worthy of consideration, even if not fully achievable or even very much practical as such.

But that doesn’t make them any less true.

So let’s at least try to keep them in mind during the coming clashes just ahead.


Image Credit: Pixabay

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