Capital Uprising (guest post by Bill Kelly)
I imagine there are Americans with a spiritual outlook who are wondering how to feel and think about the events of January 6, 2021 at the Capitol Building in Washington DC. For me, it is definitely challenging to come up with a response that is true to my own spiritual worldview and does not simply reflect my clear dislike of the protesters and what they stand for.
Practicing sacred inclusion means to oppose the action, not dehumanize the person; to not feel superior to those with whom we disagree; to see those who upset us as people struggling to evolve just like us; to educate people by example; to not blame others but take action to make things better for all. It also means to understand what so upsets us about our “enemies” and to work on ourselves so that we can treat them with respect. In fact, when Trump supporters make us angry, that is a good reason for finding ways to bridge the gap with them by learning more about their lives, situation, and grievances.
In my case, self-inquiry reveals that Trump supporters stand for everything I have rejected from my 1950s childhood: materialism, nationalism, racism, and sexism. I feel so much contempt for them so much because they represent what I dislike about myself and have not let go of. Such negative feelings also prevent me from recognizing the good qualities of working and lower middle class people: loyalty to family, friends, and place, work ethic, frugality, simplicity, straight talk.
Respect for the humanity of the Washington protesters does not imply forgiving their violations of just laws and ethical standards. Protest must be nonviolent and the cause must be just. There must be evidence to back the claim that the presidential election was stolen. Blind loyalty to a racist demagogue who destroys democracy and causes great suffering violates the Golden Rule. There is no contradiction between treating such people with respect and firmly preventing them from realizing their aims that violate the basic spiritual teaching that all people have infinite value.
Most liberals celebrate the end of the Trump presidency without attempting to understand the grievances that led people to vote for him. They want to undo all the evils that have been perpetrated over the past four years which is a worthy goal but what is their strategy for uniting the country? In the last years of his life, Martin Luther King gave us the example to follow. Be willing to suffer for what is moral and affirms life. Racial and class equality are non-negotiable but we pursue them in a spirit of love toward those who deny them. Sacred inclusion is a high standard.
It is not easy for liberal professionals to acknowledge their role in maintaining the economic and political systems that exploit the white working class as well as the black working class. Nor do liberals want to admit that they have denied recognition and empathy to whites of lower social status that makes them feel unappreciated and not valued. The racial and class inequality that has harmed black Americans to a much greater extent is also making life difficult for many white people without college degrees. Liberal Democrats as well as Republicans in the business elite support these systems because of their economic interests. By keeping those below divided, no interracial class coalition can be formed that would challenge their leadership.
My suggestions for white spiritual liberals including myself are basically two. Truly see all black people and all Trump supporters as equal to ourselves. No longer use both groups to feel good about ourselves. Support for racial equality must lead to commitments to action rather than only serving to justify feeling morally superior to white racists. In relation to the 50% of the white working-class that identifies as Republicans, instead of taking comfort in moral superiority, let’s improve their economic situation. Then they could start to see through the Republican strategy that has them voting against their economic interests in return for qualified support of their social and cultural demands.
The second suggestion is that we focus on how to unify and heal the country without denying any of the bitter truths of long-standing racial and economic injustice. Spiritual uplift can never come about by denying people’s pain and our own responsibility for and complicity with the system that has caused so much pain.