Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Apologies to the Right - Written May 2010 and Jan 2011

The following are two apologies written to the right after becoming angered by the early days of the Tea Party, particularly their attacks on Civil Liberties, and my reaction to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. It is an attempt to reconcile my political and spiritual beliefs:

My name is Richard Ball, and I am a political junkie: This week, I thought it might be fun to watch the results of the Super Tuesday primaries from a handful of states. I once again drank from that powerful, political nectar that I have been avoiding because of the emotional exhaustion I felt after participating in placing into office of president the greatest political mind since FDR. My blood pressure slowly rose, and I could feel a heavy pulsing in my veins and a redness in my face as I engaged in political debate on facebook and beyond, defending my views on Civil Liberties in this country. Even as I got away from the news, and was on a delightful ‘spa-weekend’ with my beloved, our conversations were peppered with inflammatory statements against the right.

Now I am left wondering what has created this toxicity that permeates our country? I can only come up with an idea that is is us, We The People, that have allowed such disease to take over our world.

There is a nature of cognition that what people fight against, they naturally create more of: The war against terror created more terror. The war against drugs created more drug use, and so on. We are responsible, in some way, for the drill baby drill consciousness that left us with our greatest ecological disaster. We are responsible for divisions that have us debating many of the very foundations of our democracy.

When James Madison puked his beautiful words onto parchment 225 years ago, he left us all with the responsibility of engaging in compromise in order to create an ever-changing government that would always serve the needs of its people. We have failed. But not because of the political system, which is only reflective of what we create. We have failed by allowing ourselves as a culture to become deeply pathological in the way we accept responsibility and work together to solve problems. We are a culture that has retreated to blaming, legal loopholes, manipulation and lying in order to be “right.” We, as a people, don’t accept our own responsibilities, own up to and correct our mistakes, and forgive people for being human. And the result is the decomposition of our governing process, which rests soley on our shoulders.

The answer is not political activism, but is in creating community with those with whom we agree, as well as those with whom we disagree. It lies with forgiving ourselves and each other and moving on; with looking out for the welfare of individuals. It lies in service. Political activism is not service because it divides. Service is care-taking. We lack that in our world.

It was pointed out to me that the news tends to be a series of blood-pressure raising stories interrupted at intervals with commercials that are often for anti-depressants, blood pressure, and other stress-related drugs, such as erectile dysfunction (Thank you, Bob Dole!) I certainly fell into this trap in only a few short days.

There are so many wonders and miracles that happen around us every moment! It is really a crime to allow anger about how people interpret a few pages of writing from the 1700s to interfere with our recognition of this. The ratio of miracles to unhappy events that matter a little has to be astronomical! What a mistake to allow frustrations with an eye doctor I haven’t even met to creep into my head while soaking in hot springs with my beautiful wife-to be! But in the spirit of ‘forgive yourself and move on.....’

I can help a bit: I work daily with children who are angry and have distorted thinking (that’s not just to say teen-agers, that is actually the population I serve...) and I try to make beauty come alive through my art and music. We can all help. All of us have our ways of providing service.

I remember reading Ram Dass. He states that the greatest moments of his life were those in service to his dying father... putting him on the toilet, feeding him, etc... little things that meant everything.

I forgive Rand Paul, I forgive George Bush, I forgive Ronald Reagan, I forgive all those people I have demonized over the years. I hope they can forgive people like me for demonizing them. I forgive BP. They are a result of what we have held high as Americans - work hard, make it rich, do what it takes to be the best, all that... And I forgive myself for the piece I have have played in this.

We can use everything that happens to us a a learning experience. That is why I believe we are here in this great experiment. We can all learn from what we have created in the political world, and fix it by being positive rather than by infighting.

There was once a representative of the Navajo Nation who spoke before congress. He started by stating all the positive things about the issue. Then he listed his concerns about the negatives. but what he did next took everyone aback. (paraphrasing) I am here today before you to work on a resolution to our problem. I regret to say that I can offer only three creative solutions...”

I AM Richard Ball. I AM a recovering political junkie. I AM in service to my world.

Letter #2 -

Another Apology to the Right... Sort of

The last couple weeks have caused me to do a great deal of inner-searching after the shooting in Tucson, which claimed the life of six, and injured a number of others. This shooting was an attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, a Congresswoman who I have long considered one of the most focused voices in the country.

This incident caused the debate about violent political rhetoric, which has become commonplace in the last two years, to come to a head. Many, especially on the left, have tempered their vitriol. They have been joined by many on the right, and especially the moderate right. The extreme right has taken the opportunity to "reload."

This is concerning, and, as the incident in Tucson bears out, words hurt and kill.

While it is certain that the shooter was unbalanced, and not representative of typical conservatives, to be sure, the connection between his actions and the rhetoric is worth noting: People have, after all, put targets on people, and called for people to be killed. The shooter's web-postings paint a picture of an insane individual, who, none-the-less, has radical, right-wing leaning. The message is, clearly, that while people generally can discern that militant symbolism in politics is simply that, that there are unbalanced individuals who take it too far. Even one person is too many.

This being said, there is responsibility on the left, too: satirists have had segments titled such things as "The Worst Person in the World," and people like me have laughed. In typical democratic fashion, these commentators have discontinued such segments, and people like me have stopped laughing. Moreover, we have a tendency to become indignant over the rhetoric, and our indignation fuels more hate-speech. I find it akin to the school-bully idea that if everyone ignores the school-bully, the bully stops. This is only partially true, of course, and everyone knows that the bully steps up his aggression when ignored, and then focuses his aggression elsewhere, like the 7-11 down the street.

So, the violent rhetoric must be watched and exposed. And there are great groups, like The Southern Poverty Law Center, that do just that. They monitor the rhetoric, infiltrate the organizations, and prosecute hate crimes.

I believe this is the stance to take: observe, note and use non-emotional, non-judgmental, legal means to silence those who go too far.

Then, to my sort of apology:

I have been guilty of indignant out-crying. I have been quick to point out aggressive rhetoric and respond like a wounded animal. I have blogged about this incessantly over the past few months, and have not contained my alarm over things that have been said. I therefore apologize to Conservatives for my sarcasm, satire and outright insults which have appeared on blogs and editorials.

As I do at least yearly, I am turning off the MSNBC, I am not reading EVERY article in "The Nation" and "The Progressive," and I am focusing on all the wonderful and positive things in my life, of which there are many.  I am toning down my part of the political debate, and, perhaps, even avoiding it. I am going to remain aware of the fact that my words, even though I have never called for anyone to be hurt or killed, still add to the field of vitriol out there. This I am doing, and many with my political affiliation are doing. It is sad that something so tragic had to happen before we came to realize this. We should have never responded to your aggressive words.

I will respond to your debate via the ballot box.

Everyone is entitled to their singular point-of-view. This I have never questioned. However, I do ask of you, please do so with civility. Disagree with people through logical counter-argument. Please refrain from using militant language and symbolism. Please don't call people Nazis to stir up furor when you know someone is really not. Please don't bring God into it in a negative way, because God would never ask anyone to hurt another. Please seek psychiatric help if you truly believe God is telling you to hurt people. Please don't use racism as a political platform. This is all I ask.

Let's talk about issues, and best of all, let's try to get back to the age of compromise. Our country was established on this principal. The Constitution you frequently carry like a bible was largely a document set to establish the idea that from two opposing views can emerge a third idea better than those thought of before.

I will do my part to do this. I can't control what you do, and I'm sure the things I listed above are idealistic, but maybe my doing it will influence another to do it, and so on. The whole journey of 1000 miles thing...

But for today, I consider the slate clean. I hold no grudge. There is no place in the world for grudges. Perhaps the tragedy in Tucson can be the beginning of the end. Maybe enough of us will learn from this that the violent voices will one day lose favoritism in the country, and the voices of compassion will win out.

Compassion is a world-view devoid of political leaning, and is the place we always need to be.

Richard Ball, former viol leftist. (Now peaceful leftist...)

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