What I Want to Hear from a Presidential Candidate

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I just finished reading the New York Times this morning (that was a big mistake!) and learned even more gruesome tales of the suffering on this planet. I read of people fleeing their homes and countries because of war and the trials and tribulations along the way. A 7 year-old child is running along in the muddy forests near the Macedonian-Serbian border, his boots caked in mud making it hard for him to lift his feet when he suddenly realizes his family is no longer behind him. He sits down beside a tree to wait. A man asks him what he’s doing and when he explains he tells him there are police all over the forest and he needs to keep going. So this 7 year-old boy runs on in a strange land in the hopes of reaching a safe haven without his family. Young girls fleeing sexual and physical violence in their home countries are subjected (on the road) to multiple rapes and sexual violence so sadistic that their youth caseworkers choose not to detail them in their reports.
In South Sudan a bloody civil war has led to countless deaths from torture too grim to repeat here. In Nigeria girls continue to be stolen from their schools and families by Boko Harem and sold into sex slavery. And in Saudia Arabia (an ally of the U.S.) a 17 year-old boy is awaiting a beheading and then crucifixion for joining in anti-government demonstrations.
This is all some of the news from one morning.
And what are the Republicans debating? How to cut more money from government services. How to decrease taxes on the rich and corporations. How to squeeze the poor and working classes so the elites have more riches for themselves while the masses suffer.
I am angry and horrified. We are living in a time in history when we have the resources for all human beings to live lives of sufficiency – sufficient food, sufficient shelter, sufficient healthcare, sufficient education. And yet we choose to produce and distribute our resources in ways that ensure wars, violence and suffering.
I want a presidential candidate with a backbone who has the audacity and insight to put forth a vision of a different world. Not a world divided by borders – physical, spiritual, religious, racial, gender, or other. But a world joined by our similarities and our unity where our differences are celebrated and honored. We live on one planet. We share the same water, the same air and the same genetics. I want a candidate who will speak to our shared humanity – not just of Americans, but of all of us. If the President is the leader of the free world, then she or he should stand for policies and values that actually promote a free world – a world where everyone is healthy, safe, cared for, fed, clothed, provided shelter, education, healthcare and an opportunity to have a meaningful life.
This is what I want my presidential candidate to say:
“As I see the violence and hatred sweeping our globe, and the devastation and destruction of our planet, I stand in horror and in tears. I see the parallels between the way we treat the planet with the way we treat each other. As we continue to rape and destroy the planet, we likewise continue to mistreat one another. Our global capitalist system and the political and economic powers that drive it are the cause of these problems. We have chosen to create a world where we value money and stuff more than we value each other or the planet. We are taught that this is just the way things are and each of us has no choice but to maximize our own self-interest to ensure our short and long-term safety and security. But that is not true. We can choose to create a different world one where we see that each person’s, each neighborhood’s, each state’s and each country’s security and well-being is inextricably bound up with the well-being of every other person, neighborhood, state and country. Where we see that destroying the life-support system of the planet through fracking, coal mining, deforestation, etc. in one part of the world (however close or far away from each of us that is) impacts our own well-being and survival and that of every other person on the planet. We need to begin to see that we are all one, floating on one ball in a vast universe and that caring for that ball and each other will ultimately not only help us all survive but will also ensure our happiness.
This kind of transformation of consciousness is not easy however because we are so deeply steeped in the current story that the way the world is, is the way it has to be. But we know that’s not true because we have seen (and read about) many changes in the world during our lifetimes: the abolition of slavery, the end of Jim Crow laws, the rights of women expanding, the end of apartheid, the end of colonial rule in India, the rights of same-sex couples to marry. In fact, the current neo-liberal economic policies touted as the way things “have” to be were not always in vogue. When Milton Friedman began pushing these policies back in the 50s and 60s, he was dismissed and told that people would never buy into the idea of trickle-down economics and the like.
Don’t believe the world, including the systems and structures we humans have created in it, cannot change. They have before and they can again. In fact, they must or at some point in the not too distant future, the human suffering will only increase and the life-support system of the planet will no longer support human or animal life on this planet. And the journey from here to there, if we continue on our current trajectory, will not be pretty.
But we have a choice. Choice A: Continue as we are going, telling ourselves there’s nothing we can do. We all know where choice A will lead us. Or, choice B: Forging a new path and a new future.
On this path, we co-create a world where all human beings are treated as the embodiment of the sacred with deep respect and dignity. Where we value caring for each other and the planet more than we value our money, our stuff, our profit and our power. In this world, we see the government as a collection of ourselves, created to serve the well-being of everyone. Imagine extending the care you have for those in your immediate family to everyone in your neighborhood, your state, your country and the world. Don’t tell me it’s not possible because I know it is.
In this world, our government is here to serve all of us and to ensure that we have the resources we need to be adequately fed, have adequate shelter, education and healthcare.
In this world, instead of children fleeing war-torn areas to avoid either being forced to be child soldiers or child sex slaves, they are playing in the fields, laughing, sitting in classrooms with compassionate teachers who are well paid and who have the skills and the resources (books, papers, pens, support, etc.) they need to provide a supportive, loving, safe and nurturing environment for kids to explore their world, learn new skills, and have an opportunity to play and grow into adults free from daily traumas.
In this world, you are greeted at your doctor’s office or hospital, an integrative healing and wellness center, with a warm greeting. Your integrative health care team spends plenty of time with you and gets to know you well, hears your story, listens to your struggles and supports you to be healthy and whole (spiritually, physically, intellectually, and emotionally).
Your food is grown in healthy soil without pesticides or chemicals that are dangerous to your health and the health of the planet. Because you receive a living wage (either through your work or from the government) you know that your basic needs will be met.
You are able to obtain an education without paying for it for the rest of your life and you are valued simply for who you are rather than what you can do for someone else or how much money you can make or save some company. All jobs are valued because without street cleaners, janitors, doctors, teachers, nurses, cab drivers, bus drivers, farmers, repairmen/women, etc. the world would not work.
In this new world you would not be pulled to buy the next gadget, because instead you enjoy slowing down, enjoying the beauty of the universe and spending more time playing, laughing, singing, dancing, and just being with the people you most love. Your spirit and soul are nourished. Because you feel so supported and held by your community, you feel a deep desire to contribute back to your community and the world.
How do we get there? We take steps. Here are some steps, that if I am elected President, I would put forth on my agenda:
An amendment to the U.S. Constitution that makes all elections publicly funded so that the corporations that are causing suffering here and abroad cannot buy political votes. Money would no longer be considered speech and corporations no longer people. The amendment would also require that corporations be environmentally and socially responsible first and foremost (rather than be aligned to moneyed interests). Finally, we would transform our education system so that students at all grade levels would receive education in environmental sustainability, civic engagement, peace and nonviolence, and the history of slavery, colonialism, and patriarchy.
I would hold working groups of people in various professions and workplaces to come together and create a strategy for how to transform their profession or workplace so they prioritize the values of love, care, kindness, generosity, compassion and empathy rather than money and power.
Police officers would receive training in internalized racism as well as in mindfulness and compassionate communication and police forces would prioritize building healthy, friendly relationships with the people in the communities in which they work.
I would begin a massive building of our infrastructures, our roads, bridges, etc. as well as invest in renewable energies so that we can stop drilling for oil or mining coal. We know that these natural resources need to stay in the ground if the planet is going to be able to sustain life. We cannot wait any longer. The time is now. Instead of the resources of the planet being owned by corporations, the resources of the planet should be shared equally among the inhabitants of the planet – we are all stewards of the earth and its resources and we all need to benefit equally from and share equally in caring for the planet.
Instead of a foreign policy grounded in domination and control, I would promote a foreign policy of generosity. Rather than spend our money and resources on bombs, drones, weapons of mass destruction and military bases around the globe to terrify people into submission, I would redirect that money into helping local communities both here and abroad build sustainable lives. We would welcome the undocumented workers who live here and contribute to our country.
I am tired of living in a world where children do not get to be children. Where instead they are thrown onto boats in turbulent seas, in the backs of unventilated trucks, running through wet, muddy forests in the night to flee more horrific harms and risks at home. Where girls and women are sold as sex slaves and raped and abused on a daily basis. Where 8000 children die every day from the effects of malnutrition and where 1-1.5 billion people live on less than a $1.00 a day. Where corporations and governments make money through the suffering of people around the globe and where too many people struggle just to get through a day. This madness needs to stop.
This election is about whether we want to build a country and world that nourishes the best and most loving parts of ourselves, or whether we want to build a country that continues to pit us against one another. We can turn to love or we can continue to live in fear and hatred. We know where the latter will lead us. We have no idea of the possibilities that lie ahead for us if we choose the former. I hope you will join me in choosing love.”
That is what I want to hear from my presidential candidate. How about you?