The Tao of Presidential Politics
November 05, 2008
Politics and martial arts don't mix. I usually try not to bring it up. But there are philosophical lessons in the presidential campaign of 2008 that I'd like to explore.
I have been studying political races since 1968, when I was 15 and would make sure I was in front of the TV each night to watch Walter Cronkite. I wanted to see what Bobby Kennedy, George Wallace, Richard Nixon, and other candidates were doing. Two months before he died, I received a letter from Bobby Kennedy with his signature on it. I had written to him as part of a civics class. I remember telling him not to be so mean to President Johnson. I was a huge Kennedy fan, and was devastated when he was assassinated.
I began studying Taoism a few years later.
The campaign that just ended was a clear example of the more "centered" candidate winning the presidency, defeating a team of candidates that saw themselves as separate from any American who would disagree with them.
I was a Republican for decades. I voted for Nixon, Ford, Reagan (twice) and the first Bush once. Then the party became something that didn't match my philosophy or my values. When someone disagrees with me, that doesn't make them anti-America. I don't consider myself a "real American" because of my beliefs. If they disagree with me, it doesn't make them terrorists or Muslims (not that there's anything wrong with being a Muslim), and it doesn't make them socialists, athiests or communists (I mean really, are we still lowering ourselves to the level in this country when we have to accuse people of being communists? Isn't Joseph McCarthy dead?). I never thought I would see a Christian being accused by other Christians of being Muslim.
And yet look at the campaign run by the losing team. It was hateful and divisive. In the end, they lost to a man who preached inclusion and who said "there is not a blue America or a red America but there is only the United States of America."
From a Taoist philosophy perspective, that's the only message that makes sense.
I'm old enough that I remember "colored only" drinking fountains. I remember when black kids had to sit in the balcony at the movie theater. They weren't allowed to sit on the main floor with us white kids. At the time, our parents saw themselves as separate and better than them. It rubbed off on some of us. For a while. We were not in harmony with nature. And my parents certainly didn't follow their own "Christian" values.
Last night's vote was historic and I watched Obama's victory speech with tears in my eyes. One commentator said that many people who don't personally know people who are different tend to have negative views of those people. But he said now that the nation is soon going to see a black family living in the White House, those images will perhaps cause more Americans to understand better, feel more empathy, and lose the sense of separation. We may move a step closer to becoming one.
I've been in many tournament matches when my opponent has become angry. When someone scores on me, I usually tell them "nice shot" immediately, or "good kick." I don't see them as someone I need to hate or feel anger towards. I simply want to score more points and if I don't, I try to figure out what I can do better.
Will the Republicans do the same? The politics of hate and division have to end. Karl Rove, Rick Davis, and Sarah Palin need to be told to go home until they can heal their own minds and realize that we are, as Obama says, one people. I might vote for a Republican one of these days, but not until the people at the top of the party and the ones who guide the campaigns decide that it isn't enough to claim to be Christians. I've always said that it's much easier to claim to be a Christian than to act like one. They need to walk the walk, and if they don't, I hope the American people continue to make clear statements as they did last night.
Hallelujah! Testify Brother Ken!!!
Great post, and I agree with every word. But it's going to take some time for the divisiveness to end. There's a lot of sore losers out there.
In my experience, martial artists as a group tend to be more conservative politically. I've gotten so many of those viral emails repeating Rush Limbaugh's and Sean Hannity's talking points about Obama from fellow students and instructors.
I've also dealt with a lot of my Christian brothers and sisters who repeat that garbage. So many times I've had to remind them against "bearing false witness" and that we, as Christians, should set an example by being more careful about what we repeat.
Sadly, though, I find too many who subscribe to the notion that the end justifies the means. This idea, though, goes against what my Bible teaches (Check out Proverbs 1:19 and 28:16).
We have become more divisive. Since I was 21, I haven't laid a hand on anyone outside the context of a martial art class, practice session or tournament. But with the current political atmosphere, things have come pretty close to blows between myself and others.
I guess I'm just an old-fashioned kind of guy. When someone questions my patriotism because I don't like where our country is going, that comes pretty close to fighting words for me.
Posted by: Sean C. Ledig | November 05, 2008 at 10:33 AM
Posted by: jesse | November 05, 2008 at 01:42 PM
Hmph...I think Black Belt holder and Huckabee supporter Chuck Norris would want to kick your butt...
Seriously... it's a great post. I've read colummnists who have written that five years ago, they would not have even considered it a possibility that an African-American man would be our President Elect. One black columnist actually said that he had to confront his own assumptions about America, that perhaps his deeply held viewpoints on racial relations needed to be changed...
We are seeing history in the making... and it is a beautiful thing.
Posted by: Evan | November 05, 2008 at 06:25 PM