Hillary Clinton –
When America is in Crisis,
When our Planet is in Danger,
“Understanding NATO” is Not the Point
News reports this week said that Ms. Clinton is assessing vice-presidential candidates with two litmus test: that they must be able on a moment's notice to become President; and therefore that they must be experts on foreign policy. And the two potential VP's she seems to be most attracted to are a colorless senator from Virginia and a retired general who knows and understands NATO inside out.
The first litmus test is correct. The second betokens a profound misunderstanding of both the national crisis American society is now facing, and the planetary crisis that all life on Earth is now facing.
Understanding NATO -- a top-down military organization -- is far less important than understanding the bottom-up paroxysms of our tormented planet, spawning rebellions against the CO2 poured down its throat. Rebellions of droughts and famines, floods and diseases.
From that perspective, there is no “foreign” policy -- California is as vulnerable as France, Miami and New Orleans are as endangered as the Philippines. The collapse of elite-managed Europe before floods of refugees ignores the truth that those refugees came from the drought that ruined Syria and thrust it into civil war.
And understanding NATO is far less important than understanding the British voters who decided to quit the European Union, and their cousins in other EU countries who are furious at its failings and many of whom are resorting to hate and hypernationalism as an answer.
Moreover, understanding NATO is far less important than understanding the millions of Americans who voted to make a fascist the Presidential candidate of one of our two great political parties. Their grievances are real, though the solution that in blind rage and frustration they voted for would annihilate the American future.
How can all of us empower ourselves to meet our own decent needs without enacting rage into a policy of violence and contempt? If we fail to do that, the rage and the contempt will remain a burning ulcer in our body politic, no matter who wins the next election. For an American president, that – not NATO – is the burning question.
So -- what to do? The first job is to make sure that someone who is a bully in his own persona and who espouses policies that would turn our government with all its power into a racist, sexist, repressive bully must be defeated. Even a mostly (not entirely) conventional politician in extremely unconventional times is far better than that -- because the possibilities for nurturing democracy would grow instead of being choked to death. Voting for the presidential candidate of a third, “purer,” party is a dangerous distraction if it allows a fascist and a bully to take power.
AND – we must keep growing from the grass roots a more democratic, more communal, more varied, more sustainable, more joyful society:
More co-ops, especially including wind or solar-energy co-ops, with investment money to get such co-ops going.
More neighborhood cultural festivals to give new life and dignity to ALL the American subcultures.
Credit unions and public banks able and willing to invest in grass-roots enterprises.
Far more jobs renewing and transforming our railroads, our water systems, our renewable-energy transmission systems, our public schools.
Public health efforts focused on preventing illness by making sure air, water, and food are healthy. For those who fall sick anyway, universal health care focused on community health centers.
Shorter work hours at no reduction in pay, with much more free time for family, neighborliness, the arts, grass-roots civic and political action, and the Spirit. As automation and robotization spread into ordinary life and jobs increasingly disappear, a life-sustaining income for everyone.
These aspects of flourishing democracy -- what Martin Luther King called the Beloved Community -- will not all appear overnight. As the ancient Psalm says, If we sow seeds of light and justice in the midst of darkness, joy will flower in the morning light.
If we sow the seeds of new communities with firm commitment and caring nurture, they will grow. If they -- we! -- remain conscious of each other, out of them will grow political movements able to attract the angry into creative action, able to connect our diverse creative energies to resist and dissolve the top-down power of the modern pharaohs. Bullies.
As Gloria Steinem wisely said at The Shalom Center ’s “This is What 80 Looks Like” celebration three years ago, our entire country is at a point like that when an abused woman walks out of the house. Both great danger and great promise arise at that moment. If the rebellious woman has a community to welcome and nurture her, she can flourish. If she has no protection from a furious husband, she might be killed.
As a nation and a people, we are certainly at that point now. Many communities have walked out of their repressive houses. Not surprising that frightened and enraged voters who thought of themselves as the true Americans, in charge of our society, have in reaction to these challenges nominated a fascist for President. Pointing the next Administration toward conventional elite foreign policy will not nurture those who are trying to become free, nor those who are seeking to reaffirm their own dignity.
What will nurture us all is Truth and Transformation -- true hope that is no mere wistful emotion but rather is committed grass-roots action.