Enemies, Saviors, and Reconciliation

Enemies, Saviors, and Reconciliation
By Wade Lee Hudson

Our winner-take-all society demonizes “enemies,” elevates “saviors,” and promotes hyper-partisanship. Alternatively, King’s Philosophy of nonviolent struggle recommends that activists pursue reconciliation.

Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step closer to the Beloved Community.

I’d love to see Democrats control Congress and the White House. Too often, however, Democrats dismiss Trump supporters as “irredeemable deplorables,” express amazement about how anyone could vote for Trump, and don’t try to understand his supporters. This approach is counterproductive.

To clarify my understanding, I asked ChatGPT, “Why does Trump’s base support him?” Its response included:

  • Populist Messaging: Trump’s populist approach appeals to many voters who feel disenfranchised or ignored by the political establishment…. 
  • He is promising to prioritize the interests of the United States.
  • Anti-Establishment Sentiment: Trump’s non-politician background and tendency to challenge political norms and the status quo appeal to those disillusioned with traditional politicians and the political establishment.
  • His supporters often accuse the mainstream media of being biased.
  • For some, Trump’s positions on social and cultural issues, including his opposition to political correctness and his support for law enforcement, align with their values and concerns.
  • Their support is as much about belonging to a community or movement as it is about policy or ideology.

David Brooks wrote:

We’re in the middle of the global surge in populism. Populism is belief that there’s a conflict, a class conflict. And the conflict is between the real Americans and the globalized elites. And in America, it’s mostly measured by levels of education. So it’s people with a high school degree who tend to be working class and feel they are being oppressed, looked down upon, condescended to, and morally scorned by members of the highly educated elites who live along the coasts.

Fareed Zakaria summarizes the issues as “class, culture, and tribalism.”

Compassion-minded people must address these concerns by building a united grassroots movement that promotes pragmatic populism and meets the need for deep community. The Democratic Party can support this effort with this message:

Many Americans feel powerless, disrespected, resentful, insecure, and neglected — for good reason. Our society primarily serves the interests of the wealthy elite, the highly educated, and those who hold positions of power. 

The Democratic Party has not adequately addressed these realities. We must do better. We must change how we organize our society and treat each other. 

We need a moral America. We must honor the Golden Rule and treat others as we would want them to treat us if we were in their shoes. We must talk less, listen more, and fight for compassionate policies most Americans support.

Wealthy and powerful elites are selfish. They want more money and power to tell others what to do. They don’t worry about how they hurt others and the environment. Too many Americans admire them and do the same. We can do better. 

We, the American people, can stand together and care for others, knowing we depend on each other. We can help each other and our society become kinder and fairer. We can set up ways to help people better understand each other, including ways for citizens to engage in dialogue with elected officials. 

We can guarantee everyone a dignified life rooted in economic security. We can break up monopolies that keep prices too high. We can limit Big Money in politics and lobbyists going back and forth through “the revolving door” between corporations and Congress. We can stop elected officials from investing in the stock market and using their office to enrich themselves. We can stop the government from violating individual liberties and ensure the government is no larger than needed to promote the general welfare. We can strengthen family farms and rural economies. We can enforce laws against discrimination, prevent cruel and unusual punishment, and ensure everyone can vote in free and fair elections. 

These are some of the steps we can take to move forward. Congress must determine how to do this through debate and compromise. 

The starting point, however, must be a moral foundation that sets aside the materialistic “what’s in it for me” mindset and the belief “it’s the economy, stupid,” and focus instead on the common good, trusting that the more you benefit, the more I will benefit. 

Paradoxically, the best way for Democrats to win a decisive victory is to focus less on defeating Republicans and more on serving humanity, cultivating compassion, and promoting justice. The “us-versus-them” mentality limits progress. Instead, Democrats should promote a positive-sum mindset centered on respect and dignity for every individual and a strong sense of morality — simply doing the right thing.

Unfortunately, however, the Democratic and Republican parties reinforce moral corruption. Once elected, officials face powerful, corrupting influences. They focus on winning the next election by any means necessary. 

Whether any one politician is morally corrupt or virtuous is impossible to day. We can only judge them by their actions, not their character. We can judge without being judgmental. 

However, if they say nothing about whether their behavior is morally right or wrong, if they don’t discuss morality, we can justifiably say they’re being amoral, by definition.

I don’t know why Joe Biden decided to run for re-election even though numerous other Democrats would be stronger candidates, and his determination to run makes it more likely that Trump will be elected. However, in “Democrats Have a Better Option than Biden,” Ezra Klein envisions that there’s still time for Biden to step aside, open the Convention, and let the delegates select the candidate. 

Unless the poll numbers improve quickly, I hope he does — and says he’s doing it because it’s moral. Then I’ll say he acted ethically without saying anything about his moral character.

We can’t count on any President or the Democratic Party to save us. We need a mass movement that forces them to do the right thing.

Readers’ Comments

Kathy Labriola:
I appreciate your explanation of your essay, and in calling Biden amoral, although I do disagree very strongly and do not think he is amoral. I believe he has a strong moral compass and that he has proven that over the decades in his work as a Senator and his votes in the Senate, and as VP under Obama and as President over the past 4 years. I believe his position so far on Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians is very very wrong, and that this is an aberration from his usual clear sense of right and wrong, and that he has been deluded by nearly 80 years of of US foreign policy in supporting Israel no matter what. I believe he felt he had no choice but to continue this completely immoral policy of military aid to Israel because it had so much history behind it and it is extremely hard to force the nation to change course on something that is so entrenched. I believe that in the past few weeks, he has shifted to trying to force Israel’s government into a cease fire and has threatened to with hold aid. So I believe that, finally, his moral sense that supporting this mass slaughter is wrong, has come to the forefront and he will act to stop Israel from invading Rafah.

This may not really be what you were addressing, but I feel that it is very unfair to call Joe Biden amoral, when he is running against Trump who is such a psychopath and has no conscience whatsoever and who rapes women, commits fraud, and caused an insurrection that killed people and tried to overturn a democratic election.

Roger Marsden:
Yes, good points – very hard to know precisely what motivates Biden, i.e., he could care less about Palestinians; he prioritizes our toe hold in the Middle East via Israel; he’s not in control of these geopolitical issues; he thinks this is “working.” ??  and what we do know is that US funding and arming an ugly genocide. If one criticizes that are we increasing the chance of getting trump elected?     Overall I think it’s best to tell the truth as best we know it (and maybe that creates pressure for our lead politicians to act in a moral manner).

NOTE: After watching Rhonda Magee’s presentation to the Upaya Zen Center (the video is here), I emailed them:

Dear Rhonda and Joan:

Following are my notes from the session with Rhonda. I plan to post it on the Compassionate Humanity Community website. If you see the need for corrections or additions, please let me know.

I wonder, What institutional or structural changes do you recommend? 

And, do we need to provide mutual support for unlearning or controlling the desire to dominate and submit for personal gain, which our society inflames, so we can better relieve others’ suffering and promote justice?

With love,

Joan replied, “thank you. this is wonderful.” Rhonda replied, “Wonderful, indeed. Thank you, dear brother Wade. I will review and respond to your questions within the coming few days. With appreciation, hope and love.”

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