I got the news when we returned from a beautiful cruise to Wineglass Bay that showed us magnificent wilderness, and a fair portion of tranquility amidst the hospitality of the crew and mingling with some of the guests. I spoke to a couple from Sydney who were informed about politics in both the U.S. and Australia. They gave me some reflections (as in what comes in the mirror) I'm not used to being exposed to.
I realized on board how I felt as if given a tranquilizer of sorts, becoming less fatigued and depleted by my fears of what has been happening in the Republican Party, in particular. Australians -- those I've met mostly in Melbourne but also some in Tasmania -- see our football-like rallies and screams as bizarre, that is when it comes to elections as well as campaigns. They don't do that here; it's more serious and contained, and what's more they are compelled by law to vote (pretty radical, yeah?)
The people I've met who are aware of American politics, and of course of the influence of said politics on them and the rest of the world, seemed nothing less than flabbergasted by the rising tide of evangelical influences in the U.S. The couple -- let me call them Ned and Brenda -- were both at a loss to understand what is going on in the US, which probably cannot be understood in any linear or easy way. Progress, they both said, has been so astounding and dramatic: how could people be thinking so regressively or not at all?
We didn't have the time for what might have been an hours long discussion filled with wondering and wandering, and perhaps comparisons between our two countries. Though I have found myself wondering on this kind of family vacation if we in America were really "ready for freedom" or if we would have done better still in the British Commonwealth. I meandered in my own mind as to the complexities of autonomy and how that involves the capacity to think independently and act cooperatively. I thought about the differences between rebellion and independence, and the anger that rebellion has within it, as opposed to the vastness of responsibility involved in being more mature.
I realize that being distracted by the Australian Tennis Open, on television and one day in the stadium, had been a welcome relief from my worries about the primaries. In addition I'd let myself dip into online news media without feeling hammered by each headline. I let the Aussie tendency to take politics with less drama and certainly hysteria, become somewhat contagious.
That is, until I came home (to a vacation apartment) to find that Ted Cruz had won Iowa. The Bernie-Hillary contest was close and wasn't on my mind as something alarming in quite the same way. After that new information hit, the ease and the casualness I'd felt before seemed to speed off into the blue.
At the same time, I want to keep a perspective that is not necessarily Tasmanian or Australian, but something less prone to pushing my buttons of depression and acute anxiety. I want to be curious about what is making voters see Jesus as part of the election process, or even as part of the decision making process as to basic tenets of law.
Perhaps this is also really about a discussion more about the role religion plays in our lives and in many governments in the world today. There was a point where in much of the world secular nation states were the order of the day, and where humanistic (one could almost say "Christian" here) values prevailed. And in diverse populations that would have an added benefit of attempting to unite people and facilitate cooperation.
When Ted Cruz says in his victory speech, "God bless the great state of Iowa. To God be the Glory", he does pretty much negate the role of human beings responsible enough to make complicated decisions. It's as if we can rely instead on a power larger than us, and take away the obligations of growing up enough to cope with democracy.
We have had lots of talk about with wisdom of exporting democracy to dictatorships abroad. But then: what about at home? Elections are really not football games (they're not, right?) and they aren't tented meetings of masses of people quasi-levitating in prayer. It praying can make people's decisions, then democracy is pretty much cancelled, it seems to me.
I realize there are no easy answers and it doesn't feel right to want to "start another conversation". However, there has to be a way to avoid being trampled on by psychological (and political) defeat, or by complete detachment.
I'm looking here in Tasmania, and one idea is to keep talking to people about their political system and history and their views of us in the U.S. Meanwhile I'd like to take some strength from the mood of Gloria Steinem's book My Life on the Road (Random House, 2015), where she validates the ongoing search for community values, and where she underlines just how much she has found out about others and about herself on the road. She, unlike myself, has been a tireless and fearless campaigner, and that has added to her intensity and vibrancy of passion and of spirit. Some of us will have to look for another way.
While I'm here, even in the few days I have left here in Tasmania, I want to talk more to other people about their take, while I try to come closer to my own. Mood-swings generated by temporary victories, doesn't seem to me to be a good answer.
I'd love to hear your take, from any country really.