I am offering here a serious proposal to our nation's Republicans
and Democrats in how to bridge our political and cultural divide:
Let's start by welcoming a little honesty into the conversation: we are not at the point where anyone, neither Republican nor Democrat, can effectively compromise on a gun control bill in Congress. So let's drop the charade and hyperbole. Just drop it.
Instead of anything at all about gun control, how about we simply shred the box that we are all in? Yep, shred it, and when there's only pieces strewn about on the ground, let's think of something totally different...
I mean, since we are out of the box, why not be creatively daring? Why not unite behind a ten year plan, but not just any ol' ten year plan, but something really audacious... How about, say, a ten year plan of maybe ten billion dollars to teach every kid in every public school in America, from 4K through high school a musical instrument? And after ten years, as many kids as possible will come to the National Mall in DC for a grand concert that concludes with Beethoven's "Ode to Joy"!
The kids who can't go to DC can meet in their state Capitals for a similar concert... and the kids who can't get to their state Capital meet in their local communities, again, for the same concert. Why not?
Seriously, instead of wasting our breath in yelling at each other, and both sides refusing to yield any ground to the other, why not do something entirely different and creative? Besides, if our children -- all children -- learn a musical instrument (and every child can!) -- several things will happen: music factually opens new neural pathways in the brain: these new pathways lead to an elevated ability to effectively channel emotions into constructive experiences: the experience of community relationships will deepen: and families will learn the benefits of musical calm and delight...
Shortly before leaving Chinatown-Salinas Soup Kitchen for my sabbatical, I dug out of our trash bin a cardboard sign previously used by a homeless person for panhandling. What did it say? Well, first you've got to picture a big cardboard box with a cut-out space for handholds... The poor dude who tried to make his sign wrote: "HOMELESS VET IN NEED OF..." Exactly where the cut-out was, the Vet started to write "HELP".. but he didn't plan it well, so the "P" turned out to be a "D". So it read, "HOMELESS VET IN NEED OF HELD".
Let's be utterly honest, that homeless vet stumbled upon a golden weave, an absolute truth, and the solution to all of our gun violence: we are in need of "held". Someone has got to hold us. We've got to hold each other. But right now we are so divided that we need a bridge to reach across: why not construct a bridge of music? Why not agree to teach every kid a musical instrument? Why not agree to one humongous concert in which we all either play or sing the "Ode to Joy"? Right now, we are a homeless country, all huddled in the outhouses of our opinions. Right now, we can decide to let music open the locked doors of our hearts: if we enter there, everything will change, and we'll be able to figure things out, and we'll be able to find all the ones who are in need of "held"...
In utter seriousness, why should I care?
Why should I care about the water in Flint? I'll not be drinking it...
Why should I care if hundreds of thousands of Dreamers are rounded up and sent back to wherever their parents came from? What's the likelihood I'll ever even meet one of them? Why should I care about the poverty and heroin use in West Virginia? I'll not be planning a visit there any time soon. Why should I care about the struggles of folks in Puerto Rico? It isn't like they are real Americans anyway. Why should I care about cuts in Food Stamps, Social Security, or Medicare? I'm doing pretty good. Why should I care about police killing blacks? I obey the law, and besides, I'm not black. Why should I care about the sexual harassment or of women or of domestic violence? Hollywood women make too much money and I haven't hit anyone since seventh grade. Why should I care about Muslims? They ain't Christian so they don't matter to me. Why should I care about climate change? I mean, seriously, when Jesus returns he's gonna burn this whole planet anyway. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. All you folks with your danged political correctness can just go and jump in a lake -- and don't bother coming back.
Is this too simplistic?
Of course it is. But it also articulates a fundamental opportunity: in our every attitude, opinion, choice, and belief we are confronted with challenges and connections. Whether we like it or not, the opportunity we have is that of recognizing that whatever we do to one another, we are in "spiritual fact", doing to ourselves. Anyone who is telling you otherwise is simply profiting from pulling the wool over your eyes. The opportunity that we have, right here and right now, is to snuggle-up with the possibility that "love one another" actually means something!
I'm betting that it does!
I'm betting with the mystics -- and the far-out quantum physicists -- that everything is connected! Everything: from star shine to green algae, from clean water to health care for all: everything is an opportunity to live by a vision! Seriously! If we were to so decide: in five years we could eliminate hunger and poverty on this entire Planet! In five years we could eliminate our dependence upon fossil fuels, employ all those who currently work in oil and coal, and tens of thousands more, in new energy developments! In five years we could eliminate drug abuse and homelessness through an awakening of our capacity for greatness! In five years we could eliminate the threats of terrorism and war by vigorous policies and practices of international respect, dialogue, cooperation, and the construction of justice for all as the foundation of all relations! In five years we could eliminate the fears that facilitate greed and the abuses of power by giving men a hundred-year vacation from economic and political decision-making!
Seriously: mystically-speaking, we could accept the opportunity of this moment in human history, and be and do what we became human for: to serve, to adore, and to love one another as the Door to the Divine: seriously, everything could change in just one hour, if we would but start loving others as our very self... Nothing else would be necessary: we would immediately know how to make miracles happen everywhere...
Seriously! I'm not kidding at all! Why should I care? I should care because I am human, I am alive, and I have the power to live as an agent of compassion! Besides, living like this would be a hell-of-a lot of fun!
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.