Election Anxiety & The Enemy Within

Purely a personal post without judgement on your political view. This election has upset my spiritual grounding more than most. Understanding how and why is important to alleviating an emotion that is counterproductive to being present and open to others with different opinions. My own angst is tangible. Beneath it lies anger, sadness, pride, righteousness, fear, and other emotive experiences. The election is not happening in a vacuum, it is on top of life’s routine stressors and the unusual 2020 stressors (COVID, economy, and life changing threats).

Unlike prior elections the Republican Party and current President are ignoring reality and long honored traditions. This is no surprise. The President elect could not thank the current president for graciously conceding his historic win – because it did not happen.

President Trump is not conceding yet. He may never concede verbally. No one needs him to at all. He successfully bought many voters off the bench as did Joe Biden. Both candidates broke historic records – but Biden won the most votes ever. The two camps could not be more polarized. In this regard, it would be helpful if the current President finds an honorable message.

Both the president and the president elect are blip of sound in political history. That little sound however resonates for generations. Their supporters are responsible for the consequences, both good and bad. At the end of the day though, this political drama will pass. We will still be left with COVID epidemic, huge deficit, health care crisis, and a divided nation.

Biblical scholars can point you to references that depict this human tragedy (Brother against brother). Biden took the first step tonight in attempting to address the whole nation.

An unspoken question remains. President Trump has several pending legal investigations in different states that are currently paused or hung up on his immunity status as president. Biden will have no influence on those moving forward. Biden may also find once in office illegal activities. What will he do?

One blogger noted Biden will do what Obama did and announce that he will not prosecute the preceding administration. Is this right? I think so if the motive for prosecution is politically motivated for revenge or for future positioning. But what if things done were truly illegal that harmed American people?

Many suspect Trump is aware of the legal peril awaiting him post election. Some believe his clinging to power is because he has no choice. It is literally all or nothing. That makes him a very dangerous man. Desperate people can do desperate things. This trickles down as well. A portion of his party is in desperate straights. They need his support or at least his base support in the future. The huge turnout this election is a threat to the white majority as well. This vote was a repudiation of what Trump peddled to – a base of selected people and states versus “others” as defined by Trump despite huge success getting out nearly half the vote for their core beliefs. Getting that much turn out and losing is crushing. A desperate president supported by a desperate base driven by existential fear that includes a mixture of truth and falsities is really dangerous.

This mixture makes me the enemy even though I by definition (white, male, middle class) appear to fit the stereotype (minus carrying arms and waiving a flag). By supporting the democratic challenger in their eyes I am threatening their freedom, their identity, their entitled share of economic resources, and their faith. I am either misinformed or a traitor to the tribe.

With that mindset, how can I engage? How can Joe Biden engage? With President Trump it is clear you cannot engage, you can only change his view by having shear force and power. Their is no negotiation. If his base follows the same principle, I have no option to embrace. I am left with avoiding where possible, participating in false information, gossip, or frivolous rhetoric. But I cannot be quiet if injustice is at my door step, down the street, in the next town, or anywhere where my voice and the voice of others can make a difference. This not only applies to the current administration, but to the next one as well as to Religious institutions like the my beloved Catholic Church. No manmade institution is without error. My voice is a very tiny blip, but when joined with many other blips, like this election, becomes a sonic boom.

This raises real ethical questions and affects relationships. It tears apart families, communities, and the nation. Add in Religious beliefs and now we have a vastly religiously immature public wielding religous clubs to support politically held beliefs that leave no room for dialogue. Sit down with many religous believers and you may find many whose spiritual development stopped at the level of what they were told to believe and do, not at the level that goes deeper into a contemplative and enriched spiritual responsibility that accepts the presence of competing truths, nondualist ideas, and the infinitively small amount of knowledge that we each possess. This is why the truly great mystics almost always are presented in history as humble individuals.

Religion and Politics is messy. If it does not challenge your spiritual conscience – your spiritual conscious is likely asleep. And if you wholly adopt your parties positions without doubt you are probably intellectually asleep as well. Perhaps the only time this type of attitude is acceptable, and even this is questionable, is when you are a trained marine. Precision and carrying out orders is counted on for the good of the whole in split second decision making.

However, spiritual beliefs and political choices are not presenting you with a life threatening decision that most be made in the moment. Your decisions though will affect your life and the life’s of others down the road. You have a civic, moral, ethical, and spiritual obligation to struggle with the dual truths presented by both parties. Most of the time both parties believe what they say. However, you have an obligation to weed out falsehoods of your own party and belief system and be intellectually honest. Without that you cannot judge or hear the other side.

This writing has led me to a condemnation of the American Public for being intellectually dishonest, spiritually shallow, and dangerously selfish. I myself am guilty of all three at times though I strive to be open to honest dialogue (receiving and giving), spiritually mediated decision making, and selfless actions for the good of the whole. I can claim as some self-help groups espouse “spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”

What does that mean when it comes to this election? The election has exposed our vulnerability of the enemy within our nation. A spiritual malaise or spiritual rigidity has permeated the culture. The vacuum has been filled with pursuit of temporal things: entitled wealth, preserving social status, extreme nationalism, egotistical thinking, tribalism, adrenaline seeking behaviors, expression of rage (social media rage, political rage, extremist groups rage), and actual harmful acts and laws.

Is their an enemy lurking within you? Do you put your political party over intellectual honesty, over personal relationships, over your spiritual beliefs? Does your political view have spiritual maturity? Is it well informed of all available information or is it just a vestibule of rigid political ideology and superficial nods to a scent of religous truth (enough to comfort while not necessarily being spiritually honest).

I love and recognize within the republican base friends, family, and acquaintances who have God in their hearts and I pray for them as I pray for myself to be spiritually and politically pure and motivated to seek spiritual perfection by right actions.

I pray for the next administration to use its political power for the same. Mostly I pray for those who are victims of social, economic, and political forces that deprive massive segments of the worlds population of housing, food, healthcare, and basic human rights and dignity. And when I say and write prayer, I am advocating that what follows that is action. It is a call to God’s grace and mercy, but also a call to you to act as well. Pick one thing that you can do better and explore it well.

I am challenged spiritually by the unknown of Trumps legal issues and actions post election. I should take no pleasure in his demise as an individual or as a former representative of ideals that I believe were harmful to many people. There is not a simple answer if I had the power to pursue criminal charges against him post his presidency. The weighing of human justice for others versus empathy and forgiveness factor into the equation. What should not factor in is any sense of self-righteous anger, revenge, political drama, or other affective emotions that come into play with these highly politicalized issues. Our nation must do what is right by the law, right by justice, and not what is politically expedient or desirable! This is an example of precontemplation and engagement of an issue that may grab the news in the future. It will interfere with our nation bonding and healing.

What can I do to reach a mature and spiritual understanding of this issue and reduce its negative impact on relationships and society as a whole? Is it a non-issue not worthy of my time as I have virtually no influence over its trajectory? Or should I be cleaning my spiritual closet, at least internally, of the toxicity this issue presents?

Whatever you do, cross the line to someone on the other side, embrace them, for they are you on the opposite side of the mirror.

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