By Vickie Wilcher
With just a few weeks before the DC Mayoral primary there is no clear, presumptive winner—it’s anybody’s game according to most pundits. Turnout threatens to be extremely low, because according to many, if not most voters, “nobody cares.” But be clear, this apathy among the mass is not your grandma’s indifference; it’s a passive activism of sorts. It’s the mass speaking quite loudly and clearly. And I suspect what they’re saying, among other things is, “What we need is a leader who is of a certain character; not necessarily perfect, but honest, caring and fair. We need someone who can and will put together an administration made up of others who are of a like character—people who are courageous enough to lead with a genuine concern and even an unequivocal love and compassion for the people they would be charged with serving.”
Some would suggest, that for at least, the last the 41 years (since Home Rule), District politics have been “run” by the elected mayor and the 13-member Council of the District of Columbia, from a kind of misinterpreted Machiavellian perspective. This is not to propose that other municipalities haven’t and don’t operate from the same skewed standpoint or mere misinterpretation of what philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli intended to articulate in his famed writing, The Prince. But we should clean- up/discuss what’s going on in our own back yard before we offer critiques on the politics of our neighbors and history.
When I came to DC’s local political arena, I was excited. I thought I’d be apart of the work that would lead to the eradication of the crack scourge that was pummeling our neighborhoods, bring services to everyone in public housing and renovate dilapidated properties. I believed that we could and would do whatever we had to do to save the city’s poor from falling victim to their own crimes and prey to the establishment’s greed and uncaring. I was sadly mistaken.
There were those who, like me, thought we could bring about meaningful change. But we weren’t the majority. And we certainly didn’t have the influence or money (please note that these commodities are often one in the same) to change anything that the “establishment” had already dubbed an appropriate self-serving status-quo setup.
The sad fact is that in those rare cases where bold new ideas rooted in love and caring did somehow make their way to the people, the people were often so overcome by the flash and trickery of their “leaders” that they themselves often rejected the change that at the very least would have improved the quality of their lives. Blinded by the fiery speeches of despots and demagogues, tricked by their slight-of-hand, far too many people suspended even the love and respect one should naturally have for oneself because they had been duped by the cunning of some of the very people/leaders who should have loved them in such a way that it would have gone against everything in their souls to cause their constituents, their brothers and sisters any manner of harm.
Clearly now, we can see that one of the things we are in most need of is love. But unfortunately we are taught that there is no place for emotion, never mind “love,” in politics or business or most other areas of our lives today for that matter. It seems the focus is on individual wealth and materialism. We’re all busy “getting ours” and if we don’t get what we set out for, we’re angry; even if we are among that fortunate few and we have all that we need, there is still a tendency to want more and then to get angry if we don’t “get” what we want. Driven by that anger, many will do and say whatever they feel they must to satisfy their insatiable want for more. That means, there is no limit to the hurt and pain some of us will exact upon others. And the only cure for such a collective illness has to be love. Love for ourselves and love for one another. The idea here is quite simple: if we can tap into an authentic love and caring for ourselves, we will find that place in our individual psyches that sees that same love when we approach one another. When we look upon one another with love and from a loving place, it is more likely that even as we see one another’s blemishes, scars and points of vehement disagreement, we will be better able to gentle ourselves, engage and work toward creating a space where we can build a more just, peaceful and fair society.
We must work from the premise that sad and angry people cannot build a peaceful and caring society. We must change our culture then from one in which love is a weak afterthought—something so far down the line in order of importance that it’s barely visible after such concepts as greed, individual power, oppression, political influence and so on. It’s true that many argue that there is no place for love in politics. But conversely, I submit that dialing up our maximum capacity to love will surely position us to more completely and successfully address those issues that consistently press us down into blame and animosity toward one another.
My point, for instance, is that after many, many years bad schools, lack of affordable housing, inadequate job readiness programs, and insufficient healthcare for the poor, political corruption are still the issues that damn us today. A possible and most likely a probable cause for this cycle of doom is that we spend way too much time fighting, lying to, cheating on and stealing from one another. It’s no wonder that we have no energy left to actually address and resolve the issues we face. If my hypothesis here is even partly right, then another thing we desperately need is a leader whose intent is to move us away from ego and greed based politics and toward a place in which our collective, open and free flowing desire is to transcend petty disagreement and to rise to a collective consciousness that allows for, and in fact demands, mutual socio-emotional, cultural and even material growth.
This leader will need to possess strength in character that will allow him or her to stand before us and talk sincerely with us about such important phenomena as forgiveness, honor, the importance of a strong work ethic and caring for one another. This leader will understand that until we have radically and quickly moved toward these things we will not be able to move in any way; hence our current stagnation in which we are mired in long-standing turmoil and excruciating grief. This leader will be intent upon moving us from pain to peace. He or she will understand that from that place, we will do the rest, because we will be fueled then by love’s energy and no longer weighted down by the agonies of indifference, hostility, fear, greed and hate.
In sum, what we need is a leader who will care enough about the whole of our community to help us to learn to love and care for one another, because he or she will understand that that will in fact be the only way we will be able to wholly and effectively correct the errors that have brought us to this place in time. He or she will incite and move us because he or she will understand that what we need is to be willing and active participants in the love and politics of our lives.