Maybe it's because I've become a practicing Buddhist. Maybe it's that I've always felt a strong personal connection with those realms that are beyond reason. Maybe it's 50 years of experiencing the repetitious futility of conventional politics.
This evening I attended another rally at our state capitol, this one a 'vigil' organized by the Interfaith Alliance on behalf of the residents of New Mexico being threatened with the repeal of their rights to a drivers license. Our new Republican governor proceeds in lock-step with the rest of her party, demonizing selective portions of the population. Last week it was teachers and labor, this week it's immigrants. The strategy appears to be to divide and conquer the opposition by escalating the level of fear, even in situations where fear isn't warranted.
This week it's driver's licenses. Most public officials agree that allowing undocumented immigrants who can pass a driving test the right to a driver's license facilitates the work of keeping the peace and administering justice and public services. However, the need for demagogic politicians to create scapegoats leads our state Republicans to fantasize about all of the problems and threats this allowance poses to our American Way of Life. So, the people who clean our houses and cook our food and pick our produce will have to risk arrest and deportation whenever they try to go to work. I true Republican fashion, when things get rough we decide to make life even more difficult for the poorest and the weakest among us. Many of us are convinced that this is the American Way.
The rally last week was larger and more boisterous. It was in the afternoon on a weekend and the weather was springlike and there was a wide spectrum of political activism represented. Still, it felt to me like a weak and somewhat chaotic response to issues that many people didn't really understand. There was a lot of shouting and cheering, but the underlying feeling was of frustrated anger, not very well focused, that was likely to flare for a moment and then fade away. I came away actually feeling more depressed and alienated from any process of positive change.
Tonight's rally, in cold and overcast weather and in darkness featured candles passed out by priests and speakers who were mostly religious leaders from a spectrum of races and faiths; Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, Tewa, Unitarian, white, native american, hispanic, south african. The 600 or so people in front of the capitol doors were relatively quiet as they listened to the words in spanish and english and Tewa, quoting from scriptures and addressing universal themes with a mixture of passion and serenity, transcending politics and yet circumscribing the politics of our time.
I was inspired to witness the eternal principles of human aspiration and human freedom that every religion attempts to address. Principles that include peace and tolerance and the love of neighbor. These were words spoken from a depth of faith in basic human values into a circle of faces that were all colors, shapes and ages. After the laws are passed or repealed and political empires rise and fall, these are the values that endure. I came away from this rally/vigil with a feeling that in the long run we actually have a chance as a species and as a nation.
We witnessed the eruption of these same feelings when we watched the people demonstrating and then celebrating in Cairo. We are seeing the same feelings ravaged by fear and horror on the streets of Libya. People all over are struggling to arrive at a new relationship with each other and with the world. In the faces lit by candlelight and singing "We Shall Not Be Moved" I saw for once the possibility that fear can be left behind.
Something is going on all over the world and it's beyond our control. We are witnesses and participants in something that is remaking us all. My prayer, Oh Lord, is that I be allowed to witness much more of this!