spirits and elections

today is election day in the united states.

in 2004, i spent this day at a phone communicating with organizers all over the country. we were pouring everything we had into stopping george w. bush while deepening the strategic partnership between electoral and community organizing. that election took tons out of me, out of many of us who were involved. i learned that it is absolutely necessary to engage in the electoral process, AND it is absolutely necessary to engage in local long-term organizing or else the electoral process is meaningless.

perhaps more clearly: it is a losing strategy to organize only based on what we want to stop, or what we are scared of. if the approach of the political left in this country is to focus on the ignorance, insanity, ineffectiveness, “evil” or otherwise negative traits of our opposition, we lose.

if we cannot begin to find ourselves in the perceived “other”, to realize there is no potential future down these partisan pathways we have been walking, we lose.

and perhaps, if we can let the electoral process become a cycle by which we measure the leadership of communities in the governance of their lives, and we are living the policies we want in our families, schools, relationships, local politics, we win, regardless of polling patterns and outcomes of races between and decided by a concerned elite minority of this multitude.

if we can engage in the personal transformation it will take to be worthy of a democracy, worthy of sustaining the species, we win.

my sister’s post today inspired me deeply, especially the end of it:

“Today is election day. It is also All Souls Day, the Day of the Dead. In Irish tradition, this time of year is the thin time, the time when the ancestors come near. Today I will take some time in silence to reflect on the fact that this country was built on the backs and from the blood of children, mothers, grandmothers, fathers, and grandfathers who were massacred and enslaved by occupiers that could not see the value of their living, and could not truly see the value of the land.”

…it seems like no coincidence to me that this is a time that many cultures in different ways see as “thin time”, a time when the spirit world is closer to us – and that it aligns with the time when we determine the political leadership for our future in this country.

i am sure at some point in my brief, dizzying waltz with electoral organizing i once said to vote because our ancestors died for it, but that’s not what i actually believe…

i believe our ancestors lived through much harder times, physically, tangibly, than we are living through now. they knew less of what was happening elsewhere in the world and struggled more with what was right there around them. and yet those struggles made their lives worth living. they had to be present for it, paying attention to the tasks at hand.

the hardship we face now is that we are spiritually bereft, we have somehow managed to perfect fighting for, getting and giving access while decreasing actual awareness and/or power…for many people, forgetting what it would mean to do meaningful work and play a meaningful role in your community.

i believe that it is work and community participation that can bring spiritual depth and meaning into our lives. the spirit of resistance and struggle and belief in something better is not buried in the soil somewhere.

i believe that that spirit of fundamental good, of cooperation and sustainability and creativity – i believe that is the most divine essence of humanity, and that is what gets reincarnated in people over and over again. our lives are our executions of that divine possibility. if we let it flow out of us in love, we win…and if we let it manifest out of fear (on the right this looks like the tea party, on the left this often manifests as oppositional, reactionary, constantly urgent work which is also dangerous and ineffective), we lose. continuously.

i love that a ritual of this thin time is to open the windows and welcome the spirits in. we need to reconnect with something deeper than ourselves to maintain hope and a willingness to live and create and keep fighting in the period that is surely coming.

today’s election has some results that will slow any type of progress towards sustainability and sanity for humans and the earth…some results will actively work against our collective survival. but this isn’t the first time we have faced such devastation in the patterns of power, and it’s not the last.

what wisdom do we need to hear, what historical context do we need to open ourselves up to, what wisdom do our ancestors have now that let’s us honor them and their work and their sacrifices?

i meditated today, i’m doing the 28 sits practice. the only thing that came to me is a line ibrahim‘s mom says – ‘we are ancestors in training’. we must recommit to our long-term community practices and leave a new legacy of human evolution during our time on this earth. we must see each of our days in the context of history – tiny and meaningful.

this is only another day that will change everything. but it is done. now get to work.