Parts of four poems that have been read at presidential inaugurations (1):
Praise Song for the Day by Elizabeth Alexander
I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
On the Pulse of Morning by Maya Angelou
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
The Gift Outright by Robert Frost
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
Of History and Hope by Miller Williams
But how do we fashion the future? Who can say how
except in the minds of those who will call it Now?
Perhaps compassion in politics is an oxymoron (defined as a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction) but it does not have to be this way. We have just had two contrasting elections, one here in BC, and the other in our powerful neighbor to the south. Because of all the hate and negative energy flowing through politics these days, I have given up television and seldom read about negative news and events on social media. When it comes to BC politics, I see the political world through one issue – the environment – so I vote green. However, from my limited view of the news, the BC election seemed to be quite civil with parties sticking to the issues instead of engaging in personal attacks. Congratulations BC.
When we look at US politics, wow, what a circus. Both candidates, their political parties, and the media, have taken sides and are still hacking away. Nothing is sacred. They attack each other’s families and mess with each other’s personal lives. They have polarized their citizens into two opposing sides who are threatening national violence if their party is not elected. One side is willing to sacrifice the health of the most vulnerable by ignoring a disease that has claimed a quarter of a million lives and threatens to wipe out a population the size of greater Victoria, and all for the sake of making a few political points. They are willing to put people back to work so the corporations can continue to show profits to their shareholders. They are appealing to the workers themselves whom they are willing to put at risk under stressful and dangerous conditions, and the workers are responding right on cue. They will even go so far as to attack the doctors and others in the medical field who are risking their lives to keep the pandemic in check. And the other side is not much better. They position themselves as the saviors of America, not to save lives, but to make political points that can get them elected into power. They are spending billions of dollars in attack ads that go back into corporate America and the pockets of shareholders while unemployed workers do not know if they will be able to pay their mortgages. They make a mockery of justice, both trying to stack the Supreme Court for the purpose of advancing their own warped views, not for the protection of the rights of the individuals in society.
So where is the compassion? Politics is supposed to be by the people for the people. Laws are supposed to be enacted to guide the government to make life better for all citizens not just the middle and upper classes. The purpose is to create a society where all citizens have equal opportunity to share in the resources of the nation. The ruling party is to rule with compassion and guide government towards those aims. The role of the opposition is to observe what the ruling party is doing and to provide a system of checks and balances while proposing an alternate and sometimes better way of achieving those aims.
Can we please get back to the basics. This world is hurting. We need compassionate governments that are willing to do the right thing regardless of the political consequences. We need compassionate people in government who are dedicated to the people of their riding, especially those who are the most vulnerable and are in need of a helping hand.