A New America

In Australia, if you do not vote, you are fined $200. In Tennessee, if you walk into a Krispy Kreme Donuts, Starbucks, or Ben and Jerry's wearing your "I voted" sticker, you get free donuts, coffee, or ice cream. Needless to say, there were some very amped up Tennesseans today, myself included.

I am an American. I love my country and I am grateful for all the opportunities she has given me. As I walked into the voting booth this morning I reflected on what it means to be an American. I considered how growing up in America has shaped my consciousness and whether I have given my country as much as my country has given me. And, of course, I thought of my son and what kind of direction I hope to see this nation move in for him and all other young Americans.

It has been a long, embittered road to this moment of choosing a president. The question begs to be asked whether we can now unite ourselves as a strong compassionate nation after a campaign so deeply entrenched in negativity and anger, no matter who wins. Can we heal the wounds of the last eight years and the kind of leadership that has instilled in us a sense of mistrust in our political leaders? This will be one of our defining moments. Let's hope the answer is, "yes, we can!"

It is my belief that in life there are only two motivating emotions: love and fear; love being compassion based on reason and which springs forth from the better part of all of us; and, fear being panic, not necessarily based in reality. We have seen our nation move in directions we would never have believed we would go had it not been for the extremely successful campaign of fear and deception that our nation has been subjected to by the Bush Administration. We find ourselves in some very challenging situations now but let us not take our responsibility in the matter lightly. We are now finally waking up and realizing the damage that was done while we were in a asleep at the wheel. As evident in this election time, we are now a nation impassioned with possibility. We are a nation emotionally invested like we have not been since the time of the Vietnam War. The most unlikely of characters have been out knocking on doors and working phone banks. It has been the most encouraging display of patriotism I have seen in so long.

However, I am ashamed to say that like so many people I know, during this campaign, I have taken part in hypothetical debates about moving to another country if America looked as though it might continue on in the same direction we have just endured over these past eight years. The rallies of "hate," where words like "kill him," "terrorist," "Muslim," (as if "Muslim" is synonymous with killer), clearly illustrated the kind of leadership that evokes fear and panic has become something I have felt I could no longer stomach. The heinous, terrorizing robo-calls, the letters, "U-S-A" being chanted as if to intimate that one party had the corner on patriotism has made me shudder. That saying, "we are born of love but fear we learn here," seemed truer than ever. The tone of those rallies has made me reflect on what true leadership is and on the words of those who have defined those ideals throughout our history. Leaders and heroes like Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, who have lead by example of what is acceptable and Mahatma Ghandi's words, "Be the change you want to see in the world," so beautifully illustrated in his own fast for peace the kind of human act associated with change made people expand their definitions of what was possible. Leaders like Martin Luther King empowered us by speaking of the divinity in all of us when saying, "Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality."

As the election results roll in, we are being asked to put aside the venom and reunite as a country in full. I am reminded of the night of Martin Luther King's assassination. Robert Kennedy was campaigning for the presidency. It was April 4, 1968 and Kennedy was expected to speak to a rally in Indianapolis. Instead of canceling amidst high tensions, he spoke briefly, saying, "...In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it's perhaps well to ask what kind of nation we are and what direction we want to move in....We have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times." He later went on to say, "What we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice for those who still suffer within our country."

It is my deepest belief that greatness exists in all of us and that true leadership is based on the ability of challenging the best parts of our nature, which is why Barack Obama has had such a mighty impact on us all. His words have not been delivered with a tone of sarcasm or condescension but instead with strength. His words of "hope" packed a powerful punch...so powerful that early on he was written off as, God forbid, "eloquent." I believe we deserve a leader who will speak to us of higher ideals and who will inspire us to move forward as one nation. I cling to the idea of hope. I rejoice in its possibility. It is what America was founded on and it is why, no matter what happens, I will stand by her side and fight for all that she promises.

John McCain is a great man. There should never be a debate challenging that notion. He is an American hero and will be remembered as someone who has served this country selflessly. I believe he is also, at the core, a good man, who quite possibly became panicked, when his numbers dropped, into running the kind of campaign he vowed he would never run in 2004. I don't believe history will judge him less than the hero he is. Perhaps, there will be lessons to be learned from this campaign that will shape the future of the run for the presidency. We'll see.

In the end, our greatest decision-making does not come from fear propagating panic and uncertainty. It comes from the soundness of compassion. If it is anger and fear that resonates in the spirit when making decisions, one must take a step back and listen to the heart for the heart knows the truth if the ego can quiet itself long enough to listen.

As we watch the 70,000 euphoric Obama supporters in Grant Park in Chicago waiting for the appearance of our future president, our first black president, but more importantly, our deeply inspired and conscious leader, it is my hope that we will heed his call to find forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion for each other and that we will bless this nation and ourselves by putting the divisiveness that has been nurtured throughout this campaign and the past eight years to once again become a nation of one people under God indivisible. Time to celebrate America at her very best.