Yogis Stand Up And Endorse Obama
Here at YogaBrains we’ve been actively endorsing Obama, launching our own controversial critiques of the failure of both Western yoga culture and New Age leaders to accurately represent the reality of the political landscape of America, let alone inspire their constituents to actively participate in the political process. It was heartening for us to see Matthew Remski further this important dialogue in his most recent Elephant Journal post. In no uncertain terms, he called yoga leadership out on their pervasive apathy and general vagueness, often leaning towards the dissociative, in this important political moment. Matthew named “two political stances within the yoga demographic” that are detrimental to yogis actively engaging in effective ways in the political process: “One is etheric to the point of dissociation: ‘Whatever change we desire will only come through a change in consciousness.’ The other is flaccid and polite to the point of meaninglessness: ‘Yogis can use the political process to express their values, off the mat.’” The ramifications of this are enormous, as everyone in this post points out. (You can also read Matthew’s response on this site here, as well as YogaBrainer Philip Steir’s endorsement here.)
The clarion call (and well-honed critique) Remski unleashed on Thursday was to inspire and motivate leaders in the yoga world to courageously stand up and endorse Barack Obama for reelection. The following are some of our best and brightest offering their reasons for endorsing Barack Obama in 2012.
There is a lot of sentimentalism about democracy and expressing one’s personal voice through the act of voting. There is a time for sentimentalism, but this ain’t it. Because just as much as these ideas make us feel part of something meaningful, they also keep us conveniently out of the way of the machinery of power.
“What really matters is my personal vote, my expressing my voice in the sacred space of the ballot box.” aka “Voting is deeply personal.” No it doesn’t, and no it’s not. Your vote for president doesn’t matter, except in your head. Political scientists know this; operatives know this. When it comes to the statistics, the only way YOU can effect an electoral outcome is to express your voice beyond the voting booth. Multiply your vote by (1) mobilizing others to match it, or (2) speak clearly and loudly and often enough that the real power players recognize you as part of a voting bloc and thus take your interests into account when they wield power.
“What really matters is that everyone should vote their conscience. If we just mobilize everyone to vote their conscience, democracy will prevail. “ Naiveté in the extreme. Every time you say it, please feel Karl Rove giving you a big, wet kiss on the lips. And have you SEEN Karl Rove lately? He’s been busy deep-throating YogaVotes all season.
The GOP’s best strategy is to block Dems from voting. This strategy is explicit, systematic and genius. Playing by other rules because you are nicer than them just will not help right now. In the meantime, consider: the expansion of civil rights to women, people of color, gay people, and those without citizenship has never proceeded by majority vote. You want democracy in process, or democracy in substantive effect? Sorry, but huge portions of this country are still (often unconsciously) racist, sexist and so on. If they’re not that into voting, let it be.
“I will only vote for the candidate who REALLY expresses my political values.” This is the biggest demobilizer of all, and when I hear it from yoga people I can only conclude that their yoga practice is stuck in the “big ideas” stage. Over time, yoga—even just a daily asana practice—teaches us all this beautiful thing: PRACTICE IN THE BODY YOU HAVE TODAY. The physical body, the emotional body, the social body.
Buck up already. Charles Eisenstein and Marianne Williamson and Eckhart Tolle are politicians. They suck your life force into some ethereal someday-universe. When the time is ripe like it is now, drop the theories and conjectures and come back to the breath of our body politic.
There are two sides to this election. This “us/them” or “two sides” metaphor is deep in the mind-structure for all of us. We need to clear it out. And replace it with the metaphor of a linear or spiral progression. We are evolving politically. The expansion of the rights of citizenship is inevitable; the expansion of the definition of the human scope of responsibility (from tribe, to nation, to species, to planet) is inevitable. Unless we stall, take too many steps backwards, and thus all kill ourselves first. Obama is about 50 years ahead of Romney when it comes to the political enlightenment process. So you are another 50 years ahead of Obama. Duh. We need you to be. Don’t hate him for not expressing your exact values. If he did, he would never have gotten this far.
Obama 2012, my friends. Get in already.
How can social action be separated from personal development? The environment you grow up in defines who you are. That’s where our stories originate, and why we have ocean mythologies, forest mythologies, desert mythologies, and so on. You cannot fake the mythology you were brought up in—community and the individual are inseparably entwined. You can fight against your nation, you can help change it, but you must understand it has defined who you are your entire life.
In the past few weeks there’s been a lot of chatter over yoga’s role in politics. I’ll just say this: Running from your culture and pretending to reach some ‘higher state’ is no way to be an active participant in it. In this community I hear so much talk about selflessness, yet what could be more selfish than removing yourself from your surroundings and pretending you’ve reached some special plane that only a few are privy to? Trickle-down economics does not work in society; why do we think trickle-down spirituality will?
The idea that this inherited or ‘granted’ lineage of knowledge has been passed down through guru worship or the weird cult of shaktipat represents an outdated model for spiritual growth. And you can’t grow beyond the thing that birthed you—the community, the culture you live within. Running away from the world’s problems because you don’t agree with how it’s being run is no way to strengthen your yoga practice. Your practice has to be put to use in the world around you, and this involves working inside of your society. It involves, at the very least, knowing how your society operates and making informed decisions of how to participate.
American politics is not pretty. What do we do, close our eyes to the sufferings and injustices done to fellow citizens by filling our minds with vapid entertainment? Or by buying into the faux-ascetic lore of ‘being in this world but not of it?’ Is my ability to handstand really what’s going to define my contribution to this country? Whether or not we agree with current policies, we must engage them. The idea that they detract from our spiritual progress is proof of our not recognizing what spirituality is.
Before the 2008 election I wrote of the dangers of mythologizing Obama as a to-be-savior. Such a mindset could only lead to disappointment. True, he has not done everything I wish he would have. But he’s done a lot, and I fear what would happen to this country if we do not vote him into office again.
We’re living in an exceptionally high-stakes, and in many ways frightening, political time. Just a few days ago the world watched (and millions experienced) the ocean waters flooding the heart of the East Coast like some apocalyptic disaster movie come to life. And unless you’re committed to rejecting science and rationality, you know that the cause was man-made climate change.
Yet our political leaders won’t discuss global warming. It’s maddening and horrifying—particularly considering that, like so many other crises facing us, this is not a problem we can address as individuals. We must work together.
It’s understandable that many people want to escape today’s disheartening political realities. Consequently, they turn to counter-productive strategies of denial, distraction, scapegoating, and magical thinking. Unfortunately, this is a big social trend—and one that, to a dismaying extent, the North American yoga community has been very much caught up in.
Yet an effective yoga practice can connect us to that inner source of strength, courage, and discernment we need to face what’s happening in our world and deal with it as best we can. And if there was ever a time to practice in a way that engages with the world rather than retreats from it, the time is now.
In the U.S., we have an extremely important election coming up. And while it’s true that our political system is corrupted by money and our two major parties don’t offer sufficient choice, it’s also true that whether Obama or Romney wins this election matters. A lot.
The Republican Party has aligned itself with two very powerful and very dangerous forces: right-wing populist reaction and cutthroat finance capitalism. Moderate Republicans have been silenced or driven out of the party. If Romney wins, we risk turning an enormous amount of power over to those hold hard-right positions on every important social, economic, environmental, political, and cultural issue imaginable.
While the Democrats are far from ideal, they are much, much better. Unlike the GOP, they include strong constituencies that support reproductive freedom, gay rights, environmental protection, financial regulation, progressive taxation, collective bargaining, international diplomacy, civil liberties, universal health care, and equal pay—not to mention basic values of science, rationality, and the separation of church and state.
No matter how unhappy we are with the political choices we have, the bottom line is that we have the freedom to influence the outcome of this election through voting. It’s critical to take full advantage of this opportunity, and encourage others to do so as well.
Right now, we must focus our energies on getting Obama re-elected. Not only is he the better candidate, but also, more importantly, he leads a party that, despite its enormous problems, provides the most effective barrier we currently have against a rising tide of right-wing reaction, elitist capitalism and unfettered Social Darwinism.
This election matters. Let’s focus on the swing states and get out the vote. The priority of the next few days is re-electing Obama, and those of us with the resources to help have a responsibility to do so.
I’m driving to Wisconsin (the closest swing state to where I live) to canvass with several friends (including two yoga teachers) this weekend. I hope that you’ll join me, if not in Kenosha, then in whatever way makes sense for you. It’s easy to get involved. The stakes are high. And the time is now.
We stand on the precipice of electing a blue-blood, swashbuckling, venture capitalist Mormon who flip-flops on every position he takes, depending on who he is talking to, as the leader of the free world.
This is a man who uses classic conservative doublespeak for a number of political moves that would damage the existence of many Americans. His real agenda would include outlawing abortion, reducing benefits and entitlements, giving tax breaks to the wealthy, disowning the poor, reversing health care legislation, refusing gay equality, pushing science out of the political and moral conversation, and re-establishing a state in which he and his silver spoon cronies get to recover from the economic collapse they engineered, while everyone else languishes in its aftermath.
Did I mention he’s a Mormon? Ah yes, we are not supposed to talk about that, because in some paroxysm of political correctness we overcompensated in a way that makes us ironically prey to the very same religious oppression we were trying to prevent. But it matters what people believe about reality! Look up the tenets of the Church of Latter Day Saints and get ready for a president in magic underwear that believes in divine golden plates (found by his prophet who used a magic hat to translate their prophecies) and Jesus coming again in Missouri.
Yea, I know ordinary Christianity is not much less nutty, and you straight up have to claim you believe in that in order to be a decent person worthy of running for president, right? Of course, religious believers have turned out to be the most peace-loving, honest, sane folks on the planet.
But the importance of spiritual delusions aside: Romney is a liar, leading a party in thrall to Tea Party madness. Draw a Hitler mustache on Obama, call him a birther, claim health care is oppression, or any of the other gun-toting, mouth-foaming Tea Party madness. He will serve the triplet masters of the foaming ones, his corporate friends and the agenda of the religious right to once again invade women’s uteruses, gay people’s rights, whether or not schools can teach critical thinking and evolution, and whether or not global warming is addressed in the way it desperately needs to be. I also shudder at the thought of a Romney/Ryan hawkish reign with the Middle East in such turmoil and their patently thin grasp on the realities of foreign policy and diplomacy and longing for a return to “unapologetic” American strength.
Drop the pretense, stop the faux spiritual madness, stop pretending it doesn’t matter and that a metaphysical “shift in consciousness” is the only solution, as if this is somehow distinct from political process, and get your hands dirty disagreeing with some people, taking a stand and making a difference in this crucial moment.
FRANK JUDE BOCCIO
Being pragmatically oriented, I voted for Hillary Clinton in the Arizona primary. I thought—and still think—she’d have done a hell of a better job than Obama. I feel she has more grit and fire than Obama, and would have given Congress the hell it deserved and not been as pandering in “negotiations,” rather than bending over backwards and forwards as Obama did repeatedly. Plus, we’d have had Bill as “First Bubba,” and he’s still one of the most popular politicians in the world.
But, we got Obama. And now we should do all we can to keep him, because I’m pretty damn certain Romney and Ryan are a bit sociopathic. Yeah, it sucks not to be in the position to vote for someone I’d actually like to see President, one with whom I agree politically (fat chance in America). For all his many weaknesses, Obama is the lesser of two evils by far! And that’s the bottom line.
Look at the respective platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties and tell me with a straight face there’s truly no difference! To take that position you’d have to be as much a bald-faced liar as Romney or as ignorant as John Koster, Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin, Michelle Bachman, Joe Walsh…Do I have to go on?!
So don’t give in to whatever cynicism you may be feeling; pinch your nose if you have to, and vote for Barack Obama. Voting for Jill Stein, if you live in a ‘swing state,’ may make you feel good about yourself, but it’s a wasted vote and it’s most likely the immigrant farmer or nanny, the gay couple that would like to marry, the pregnant young girl, and the lower middle-class worker who cannot afford health insurance who will suffer if a Republican administration, in ass-licking subservience to the radical “Christian right” is elected.
And then, don’t just stop your political activity at the ballot box; do all you can do to hold Obama and your Congressional representatives feet to the fire. And work for a really viable third party if that’s what you think the US needs. Just don’t let Romney be foisted upon us!
I feel a responsibility to step up and name what I feel is the right choice. Obviously, since I’m Canadian and can’t even vote in this crucial election, my endorsement is symbolic. I’m also interpreting Matthew’s challenge as a call for courageous and respectful conversation about what’s at stake in this election and how yoga practitioners can respond to it. I see it as a challenge for yoga practitioners to speak up, without concern about being polite or fear of being divisive.
In the past few months, I have seen too much vague language and pleas to “vote with your heart.” But since Matthew posted his call to action, I’ve seen more honest and critical dialogue than ever before. I love seeing responses like “Don’t tell me who to vote for/endorse” and “Obama isn’t progressive or radical enough to represent my viewpoint.” I love seeing yoga practitioners disagree; if the yoga community can’t be a model for respectful disagreement and open dialogue, what good is it?
My American friends, I hope you vote with your head on November 6, using discrimination and critical thinking, and not with your heart. I hope you vote for Obama, whether it’s because you agree with his policies or because he represents the lesser of two evils. It doesn’t matter.
I’m looking forward to seeing yogis get involved in the political process, before and after this election. This is not the time to be nonpartisan and hide behind talk of “unity.” This is not the time to tell people to listen to their hearts. It is the time to connect practice with politics, to encourage people to wake up and name the truth.
Photo: Obama DNC Nomination