Sunday, November 6, 2016

Let’s expand our prayers for our nation’s future beyond election day

Regardless of our duty to speak the truth and challenge threats to the unity of the human race, there are always going to be people whom we can’t change. With such people, there comes a point when we must recognize and accept that if we continue to bombard them with all the evidence and justifications for why they are wrong, our efforts may have the opposite effect and sink them even more into their defensiveness and erroneous beliefs. 

So, what is the alternative? Rather than continue “beating the dead horse,” a more productive approach may be to focus our energies on teaching and dialoguing with their potential successors before they have the chance to, to help assure the next generation is on the right path by the time it’s their turn to take over. 

It’s like the difference between an antibiotic that functions by killing off bacteria instead of stopping them from reproducing. If the focus is only on killing something, two negative consequences that can result are the breeding by the few remaining bacteria into a stronger version of the same germ, and the systemic imbalance by the sudden killing off of something without replacing it. A medication that stops microorganisms from reproducing, on the other hand, doesn’t kill the live microorganisms; they die naturally, and that’s it—There are no successors to take over and continue the damage, and the whole system isn’t as shocked by the sudden elimination of a whole bunch of something at once. 

Our prayer needs to be much deeper than simply praying to vanquish this person or that group that is misleading and hurting people. We can devote some of our prayer energy to praying that there will be no more like them, praying that their power and influence will atrophy and die off. Then, their threat will be rendered sterile and unable to reproduce the same bigotry, belligerent patriotism, fear-based decision-making, greed, and ignorance. 

Tyrants and bigots weren’t created overnight; there’s a long history leading up to them, so it’s not likely that more than an exceptional few will simply be inspired by our words and our petitions to spontaneously convert to more humane and inclusive ways of leading people. 

Even the appearance of suddenness in such conversions is more likely an illusion, masking the long, difficult, and dedicated struggles of reformers who may never get any credit for having had a hand in the changes of heart of such leaders. 

“Anything that is accomplished quickly and easily will not long endure,” SGI President Daisaku Ikeda says. “Now is the time to concentrate on the construction of a solid foundation. I hope you will complete this work slowly but surely, filled with hope and joy.” (For Today and Tomorrow, October 15) 

The American Revolution, the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and the Civil Rights Movement didn’t all happen just from one event, in one year; thus, the outcome of one election, major and cataclysmic though it may be, will not alone save or destroy our nation.

Just think, as hard as it may be to imagine now, that whatever candidate we don’t want to win in this Tuesdays’ election could someday have such a conversion. Instead of basing our decisions—our votes—on our prejudices and condemnations of them for their prejudices and condemnations, we need to vote with what we do want in mind. Instead of drawing more attention—and thus influence—to what we believe would not be in our nation’s best interests by shouting “NO [candidate’s name]!,” we need to take action for the best outcome, not simply preach about avoiding the worst outcome. 

Also remember that, regardless of who wins Tuesday, there’s bound to be bitter backlash for weeks, months, maybe even years to come, from all the people who didn’t get what they want. We need to be prepared for that. 

So, instead of narrowly focusing our hopes and our actions on the victory and influence of one particular person in one particular election, let’s expand our prayer to include what is best for our nation, for our people—both our blood citizens and our adopted citizens—well beyond November 8, 2016. 

Image: Detail from “Inner World of the Heart” by Karla Joy Huber, 2016; Prismacolor marker, Sharpie marker, Sharpie pen, gold gel pen 

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