Who’s the Enemy?

Deeply anxious and afraid Republican primary voters express their deep outrage with their political leaders: maybe hatred best describes their generalized feelings towards the “establishment.”

They wrongly seek leaders who will take them back to a black and white world—to quote NY Times Columnist Thomas Friedman, “To the certainties and prosperity of the Cold War or post-Cold War eras—by sacking the traditional elites who got us here and by building walls against change…” (NY Times October 21, 2015).

Rigid black and white world views shatter in times of chaos and uncertainty. Stressed people and groups tend to regress in their maturity and goodness—see the Benghazi Committee. Fear and anxiety will do that. The inflexible want “parents” to take care of them, heroes to rescue them from dangers real and imagined and magicians to do the impossible. Judgement suffers and the either/or folks fall prey to false prophets: those who prey on their hopes and fears to advance themselves. Why do they listen over and over again to those who lie and use them?

The angrier they get the more demanding and inflexible they become. Poor leadership is not divorced from themselves: Republican extremists co-created the state of the Republican Party. Their leaders reflect them: the people who put the leaders in place (see the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives).

How do the majority of us who are not today’s Republican extremists avoid falling victim to regression?

Robert Greenleaf, author of Servant Leadership wrote:

Who is the enemy? Who holds back faster movement to a better world? Who is responsible for the mediocre performance of so many of our institutions?” It’s not the evil, stupid, ignorant, or apathetic people. If the world is transformed there will still be evil, stupid, ignorant, and apathetic people. The enemy is indifference.

The Republican extremists are not indifferent. Fear driven and victims of a mechanistic world view, they are just wrong about so many things.

We cannot go back to an earlier time: life is complex, changes always and moves steadily into an unknown potential-filled future. Resistance to the need for change only causes more fear, pain and danger for all. We avoid regression when we step boldly into our unknown futures and adapt as we go.

Democrats are angry too: enraged with Republicans. Their anger should be redirected to getting people who support their causes out to vote.

Will the election of 2016 move America to a positive future? A renewed future for America and her citizens depends on the poor, the young, students, immigrants, minorities and the middle class: on those who want to heal our planet, educate our citizens, reform immigration, have a robust middle class, and evolve human rights for all people.

The tired migrants, the cynical students, the disillusioned minorities, the anxious middle-class and the desperate must awaken and vote for the future they want for themselves. So simple—go vote for your self-interest.

God will not save us. False prophets will fail to be great, heroic leaders cannot endure, parents cannot take care of us and the tricks of the magicians are illusions. We are responsible.

This is not a time for indifference.

Reflections at 70

I’ll be 70 years old soon. It feels like a big deal: scary as the awareness of time passing pushes into consciousness. I’m no longer in the second half of life: I’m in the last 20% of my life. My brother’s death this past summer—quick and unexpected–made the uncertainty of life palpable. For a while now I’ve reflected on my life from the edge of old age.

I’ve had successes and disappointments and many peak experiences. I’ve sought to live creatively and to feel alive. I’ve pondered my values and purpose in life often and have mostly lived true to them. When forced to choose, I’ve taken values and quality experiences over money. I’ve learned how to renew myself and my life intentionally. My biggest work success was leading organizational transformation and experiencing a grand awakening of my own.

Marrying Melanie was the best decision of my life. We live in sync with one another and I learn so much from her. We support one anther’s journey in life and sacrifice for each other. We learned long ago that love is a verb and we are active in our love for one another. I’ve had a few true friends and understand that family extends beyond blood.

My darkest time was a fall into the abyss of alcoholism as a young man—a place of despair where alcohol took my soul. My greatest personal triumph is my continued sobriety (managing a chronic illness) that now exceeds 41 years (knock on wood). I would say I am resilient, always move toward greater growth and learned long ago to stand alone when my values conflict with the crowd, which they did often in the corporate environment. I can also be cranky, impatient, obsessive and spend too much time fretting about stuff.

The older I get and the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know and how insignificant I and we are in the vast cosmos. I don’t know if God is real or if there is consciousness after death. I may find out when death arrives for me. The best preparation for whatever lies beyond death is to live a life of passion and creativity.

Sorrow accompanies me and grows as I age. Endings and losses increase. Tears come quicker. I’ve kept the awareness of death close since my 40’s. The consciousness of my mortality has helped me cut through the superfluous when I make difficult decisions. The awareness of death makes life more passionate. Now, as time grows shorter, my desire to experience life and feel the love that surrounds me grow even more intense.

Thinking about the past is often a bummer. Thinking about the distant future has diminished value. I find it best to live in the here and now (hard to do) and find the most meaning I can each day. More and more the natural world is my source of peace.

I feel grateful for being alive and for living in a nation where I am free to engage with my destiny.

The reflections will shift my inner landscape a bit but won’t change much externally. I am healthy and fit. I plan to live in the future as I’ve lived in the past. As my brother did, I will leap into the future and live fully. As my father did, I hope I will then die a noble and courageous death.

These are my intentions.