Obama’s (Com)Passion and Romney’s Myth-Making Machine
There is a particular brand of thought that allows Americans to believe that again electing the Republican party into power will ‘save our country,’ instead of forcing us to return to the economic and social spiral that defined the Bush presidency. The thinking that causes people to behave so foolishly as to not recognize the blatant lies and daily hypocrisy that is trademark Mitt Romney is called faith, and the insanity it spreads has gone viral.
The world of modern conservative politics will be remembered as another episode in the sordid history of religion. Religious thinking shapes the political tactics of the American Right, which has become nothing more than a myth-making machine. The wars it wages against science and evolution are fraught with lies, superstition and fear. Utilizing scare tactics, the Right simply invents its own reality, repeating false maxims to an ‘uneducated public,’ and invents a new religious conviction packaged and sold with almost every issue. In the same way the Right denies scientific evidence to frame their own lives, it muddles the truths about issues that serve to regulate the lives of others.
The same willingness to abandon truth also allows them to deny everyone affordable healthcare, reproductive rights for women, regulations to protect the environment, and equal rights for lesbians and gays. Like religion, conservative ideology manufactures lies which then become so embedded in the psyche of this country’s citizens that they are rarely questioned.
Take economics, for one, a domain where most—even liberals—believe conservatives are more successful. This is another myth that has been perpetuated over many generations. Common thinking has it that conservatives love money so much more than liberals they therefore know what it takes to bring everyone wealth. The trickle down story of salvation by allowing the rich to acquire more wealth contains as much truth as most fairy tales in the bible. Like with religion, when actual science is applied to right wing economic policies, a different reality is revealed.
The history of the political right in America is littered with the debris of backward policies that have constantly disenfranchised those with less power. They accomplish this in the same way that religious leaders deceive followers into buying the unbelievable. In a 2010 poll, a stunning 64% of republicans believed Obama was not born in the United States; in 2012, many Americans still believe Obama is secretly Muslim.
While Mr Romney and his cohorts appear to be framing much of their agenda in non-religious terms, their ideas are in fact limos for religious myths. They tell lie after lie even when confronted with contrary evidence. This is troubling as it enables liars to win elections; it’s even worse when apocalyptic myths are used to begin wars, a la the US invasion of Iraq.
All this said, I am not implying that liberals always get it right. Obama has not exactly been a liberal president. His very first appointment of right wing Democrat and rancher Ken Salazar was a despicable slap in the face of anyone who cares about diminishing wilderness and the fate of non-humans. Obama has made many dreadful mistakes by leaning right to appease conservative white male America. But his wrongness has not been in lying, a certifiable character trait of ultra-conservatives, the Religious Right and Tea Party crazies.
There is a difference between liberals and conservatives not just in their willingness to tell the truth, but also in their psychological and personality traits. The new science behind this is rather telling. Liberals are driven by being open to diversity; conservatives shut down when faced with new ideas and progress. This explanation explains why you wont find many right wingers trying out the new hipster ethnic fusion restaurant or the Eastern-influenced, contemplative meditation yoga studio.
Political divisiveness is a natural phenomenon, part of the real world with real differences in opinions and personalities. That there are differences in opinions, and those differences can become passionate, does not mean that politics is toxic. Why do many yogis feel it’s OK to intensely debate alignment techniques but find political arguments aunenlightened?
The common belief that partisan politics is unhealthy or injurious to a yogi is incorrect. Yoga is simply a practice; part of what makes it beautiful is that yoga enables one to stay immersed in life’s difficulties without losing focus on remaining calm. Yoga provides tools for finding compassion for oneself and empathy for others. This is exactly why yoga and politics work well together.
The democracy we live in depends on politics for its existence, as we shape the actual world we all live in through this process. Democracy also depends on the people involved in it to care about each other. Democracy is empathy in action. Liberal politics reflects this empathy better than any other form of political ideology. Liberals see government as a vehicle not for myth-making, but for expressing compassion through democratic means. Our democracy helps us build roads, educate children, provide healthcare, fund our judicial system, police and fire departments, and protect the environment out of a sense of caring for others. This is the entire motivation for living in a liberal democracy.
People in this democracy are now faced with two very different moral views of the world. With Obama, you get a man who equates individual responsibility with social responsibility. (Because of this view, right wingers call him a socialist.) Obama understands that government has moral obligations to empower everyone equally. He is a politician who comprehends that wealth and welfare for everyone are connected. Romney’s worldview, by contrast, emphasizes self-interest and profit without consideration for everyone’s best interest.
A vote for Obama is a vote to protect the safety nets that citizens need and value most. Those safety nets are simple and include public education, healthcare and foreign policies that will foster peace, not aggression.
Keeping Obama in the White House reminds us that personal success depends on public support—the more money one makes from that public, the more responsibility one has in helping others find their own.
We in this loose-knit yoga community need to move beyond the tired idea that politics is ‘toxic’ and only promote ‘negative energy.’ It’s easy to reflect on one’s own values, to look at facts honestly and tie those facts into political choices. These are quite obvious though sometimes overlooked insights. This coming election is an opportunity for yoga practitioners to reflect on personal values and yoke them to policies and candidates. Politics completely changes the way we live our lives and must be taken seriously. I’m hoping those in this community contemplate why politics matters, and why in the end Obama reflects yoga-based values more than they may realize.
President Barack Obama is not just deserving the yoga community’s vote because he is a better alternative to an unacceptable candidate of the 1%. The man is by far the greater leader for a real democracy based on empathy rather than myth-making.