These days, it seems to be impossible to escape politics. The incessant noise is making people feel either continually jubilant or completely exhausted. As a result, people who have stayed out of politics for a long time are now returning to the fight.
Except for one group.
People who call themselves spiritual.
People who have made peace of mind their highest ideal.
And I am guilty as charged. Although I am naturally interested in politics as a way to construct the inner workings of society, I have been reluctant to lend my voice to one political force over another.
Why Stay Out of Politics?
The reason why so many self-described spiritual people stay away from politics goes back to the title of my column. It is impossible to wrestle a pig without getting dirty.
As a spiritual seeker, I practice detachment and my overall goal is peace of mind. If I enter the pit of politics and start wrestling, there is no way to avoid the mud bath that entails.
Plus, I am not a good wrestler. My focus has been on cultivating peace of mind and finding the middle ground, not on learning how to argue and landing hard blows on my opponent.
It’s a dirty business, politics, and with the advent of social media, it seems only to have gotten dirtier.
That’s why I’ve stayed out.
And so have many of you.
But, here’s the thing.
The pigsty can no longer be contained. It is expanding and reaching into our lives more and more every day. We are facing major changes in regards to the environment, education policy, diversity, religious liberty, women’s rights, civil discourse, lethal force, threat of war, wage disparity, union busting, voting rights, access to health care, stagnant incomes, job redundancies due to technology, opium addiction, and a number of other issues that will affect all of us for years or even decades to come.
We may not want to wrestle the pig but the pig sure as hell wants to wrestle us.
Battle Between Ideas or Feces-Throwing
At its best, politics is a battle between ideas about how to run society for the benefit of as many citizens as possible.
At its worst, politics is a feces-throwing contest between individuals designed to entrench tribal divisions with the use of simple slogans and dog whistles.
Unfortunately, the latter seems to be the reigning approach in our current divisive environment.
From a spiritual standpoint, I have no interest in personal attacks, but I do feel obliged to do what I can about policy.
What to Do?
A spiritual person can write, conduct dialogues with friends and family, listen to people’s concerns (even those who voted for the opposite party), actively participate in political campaigns, register voters, join organizations that are working for the common good, give money to worthy causes, or something that feels appropriate to them.
Pretty much anything is better than nothing, although, if we are to remain true to our spiritual ideals, the nonviolent principles espoused by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. seem like great guidelines for all interactions (yes, also on social media).
The minimum we can do is stay informed and vote in every election, including off year, primaries, midterms, local, and presidential.
The sacrifice is obvious, because no matter our good intentions, we will get dirt on us as soon as we enter the realm of politics, even if we only watch the news or have a discussion with a friend or family member.
However, as I have pointed out, the pigsty is becoming larger and we are already getting dirty. Whether we like to admit it or not, political actions are affecting our lives and immediate surroundings. If we’re not willing to participate in molding a more just, tolerant, and loving society, people with other agendas will influence or even control our lives with their ideas.
It seems that we will get dirty no matter what we do.
The difference is that if we choose to participate we will at least be getting dirty on our own terms.
Author & Interfaith Minister
p.s. I am not going to change this into a political blog but I will address policy and moral issues from time to time. However, I will not engage in personal attacks under any circumstances. I say yes to vigorous policy debates, but no to mudslinging. I know that stance won’t prevent people from throwing at me. All I can do is to refrain from throwing back.
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