I’m feeling uncertain about this transition taking place in America. But I wanted to give you an update from my vantage point in rural New Mexico.
First and foremost, I do not want to disparage President Trump. He is a perfect product of contemporary capitalism which appears to be on steroids, a culture that endorses shame and blame as a way to live, spiritual hobbyists, the superficiality of social media and television that encourages emotional vulgarity, and the stern father archetype. Unless I’m mistaken, this was the role model Trump had for a father. These are men, like many, who fear leading a self-examined life.
Democracy has been and was meant to be an evolving form of governance, a living organism. We are still trying to discover who we really are. The positive side of this is a possibility of creating a situation where old and new ideas can ignite, bringing about innovation and the hope of a genuine freedom. The problem is that we have perhaps grown a little too enamored of ourselves. Despite laws and treaties, we are barely coming to grips with our own history of abuse and disenfranchisement of anyone of color as well as women. Perhaps we need an annual symbolic “Day of Amends” where white males, myself included, say “I’m sorry” to anyone of color and to women even if it’s just a gesture?
We live in an era where time itself feels compressed. You may have noticed how the values of technology are weakening a moral sense and overtaking the values we need to be fully human. Speed and efficiency clearly outpace the patience required for caring and understanding.
Add to that the enormity of changes taking place as a result of this accelerated time frame. Marriage and gender identity were rarely questioned 30 years ago. Those days are over along with the possibility of working hard so one can afford to buy their own home. That dream has yet to be reconfigured. We are the land of technological innovation but we haven’t kept current with similar strides in terms of emotional intelligence and psychological adaptation. Our bodies and souls have been left behind.
I recall a story about someone asking Carl Jung if there was any hope for Western civilization. Jung replied, “Yes, but only if enough people do their inner work.” One area where America has surpassed the rest of the world is through the sheer volume of information and entertainment now available. But has that volume become too noisy and just a distraction? The focus is almost always outward. Even with our relative abundance, we would rather dwell on reading and math scores as priorities in education, for instance, rather than allowing children to remain curious. And our news is dominated by politics, economics, violence and natural catastrophe. I’d like to suggest a news story on the casualties of curiosity and wonder in our culture.
Yes, I’m grieving here. America has always been at its best when we’re helping others regardless of borders. Imagine if participating in the Peace Corps or some other volunteer enterprise would be required of everyone as part of being a citizen of the United States? We seem to be at our worst when we lose sight of that kind of caring. Oh world, I think that capitalism has gotten the best of us. But I could also give you numerous examples of everyday kindness and compassion which you rarely see in the news.
Underneath our system, capitalism relies on production and consumption. Democracy, based on the power of the individual, implies the possibility of freedom and the “pursuit of happiness.” But the latter isn’t working out for everyone. What if love as found through compassion, kindness, patience, humility, gratitude, praise, forgiveness and service governed our lives through the lens of a fresh democracy? We made it to the moon. Maybe we can all reach this far star.
I know it looks like we are withdrawing from the world somewhat. Perhaps we’ve spread ourselves too thin? Maybe the reality of an already interconnected, yet polarized, country is too much for someone who doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from or how to pay their rent? And maybe America just needs some time to consider and hopefully grow out of that polarization if we are all going to continue moving together?
Please bear with us. It’s really a very exciting time to be alive, even with the challenges at hand. Take care and be well.
Haltermann lives in El Prado.