broYour Own Side of the Street
Professor David Blight writing in this morning’s New York Times quotes Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”
“I speak the password primeval . . . . I give the sign of democracy. By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms.”
There’s that little word again. All.
We like to think we mean All when we say it, but this morning I’m asking, Do we?
Talk about binaries. All means all, not a select All or a set-aside All, or an elite All. It means All, no exceptions.
Read those words again.
All. No exceptions.
Professor Blight continues, “With the victory of Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris, they — and the rest of the citizenry — face a historic task of national rebirth.”
No matter our own personal politics, I think we can all probably agree on the task itself. What Americans, nay, humans, will never, ever agree on is how to get there.
Mostly, that’s because there are a million ways to accomplish anything.
Think of something as simple as ironing a shirt. I have seen myriad humans iron shirts in my lifetime. Each one has a system. Each one does it differently. Each one is convinced their system is the correct one.
Still, at the end of the process, the shirt, bless it, is unwrinkled. Which was the goal in the first place.
Ironing shirts is a relatively simple task. Reclaiming and reconstructing a piecemeal healthcare plan for an entire nation in the face of a corrupt insurance industry is far more complex. Complex in this case means there are even more ways to get to where the task wants to go.
Again, I return to Professor Blight, “First, this task [national rebirth] requires an awareness of how long the Trump disaster was in the making and how many people and forces enabled it. And second, it requires a forthright confrontation with the fact that to rebuild a society and a political system, we must admit that they are broken. Institutionally, America is broken.”
And, like it or not, Beloved, if America the collective is broken, then it follows inexorably that Americans — those who make up the collective called America — are broken, too.
And yes, I know you don’t like that. I don’t either. But it’s very, very hard to fix things that are broken when we assure ourselves they aren’t broken. In fact, it’s impossible.
We all gotta start where we are, with what we have, and what is so.
Here’s Dr. Blight’s list: “A shortlist of our broken institutions can seem painful and overwhelming: the presidency; the Senate; the Supreme Court; government agencies that run everything from law enforcement to criminal justice to the environment to public health; the election system, including the Electoral College; the news media; our global partnerships like NATO; and finally, our public schools and universities — places that are supposed to reimagine lives.”
To paraphrase Winston Churchill’s famous phrase, “That’s a list.”
Look carefully at that list, Beloved, because it reflects the populace of all of America. Instead of wondering where President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris will start, I am asking: where will you start?
A beloved friend taught me the expression about your own side of the street. Like it. Don’t like it. Your own side of the street is the only place you can start your part of our national rebirth.
Where is your heart broken, Beloved?
Which of all those institutional things that are broken do you have the passion, drive, and courage to reimagine?
Unless we take the huge tasks before us, and make them small, local, and personal, we will be unable to clean up our own side of the street, and that is all that is really ever asked of each one of us.
You see, if I clean up my side of the street, and you clean up your side of the street, and your friends, families, neighbors clean up their sides of their streets, we will live ourselves right into the reimagined lives, and reimagined fortunes, and reimagined world that will mean we have experienced a national rebirth.
Phil Klay, writing about how data is not information in this morning’s Times says, “Data alone is not knowledge, and it is certainly not wisdom. It rarely says as much as we think it does.”
This is why we must not be distracted by data, Beloved. X% or Y% doesn’t care about what you care about … blah, blah, blah. Data doesn’t reflect the human condition in any real or lasting way, despite how seriously we tend to take it as prediction. It isn’t.
That’s why you’re not asked to clean up my side of the street, only your own.
Walk right past all that negatively-interpreted data, Beloved, [thumb your nose at it, if you want] and today, right now, turn toward and enter into the future you want for you, for us, for the country, for the world.
Take it personally.
I dare you.
Dr. Susan Corso is a spiritual teacher, the founder of iAmpersand, and the author of The Mex Mysteries, the Boots & Boas Books, and spiritual nonfiction. Her website is susancorso.com.