After the darkest day of the darkest of years, we can look ahead to the coming of light.
The laws of nature will take care of the daily increase in sunlight. But the movement from darkness to light spiritually, politically, and socially is not automatic. It’s not baked into the cosmic order of things.
It depends on us.
So, one New Year’s resolution we might all want to make is to do whatever we can to bring some light into the world by acting as wise, compassionate, strong, responsible citizens.
In the meantime, there is good reason to be optimistic, thanks to the coming of new leadership at the top of the chain. When the presidential election was settled, I found myself electrified by a surge of elation. When the surge wore off, I collapsed in an exhausted heap with tears in my eyes. I celebrated the result intensely and emotionally, not because a Democrat beat a Republican; not because liberal policies won out over conservative policies; not because Blue states outscored Red states. That’s the kind of scorekeeping we’d do in a normal election.
This was not a normal election.
Here’s how I score it:
Kindness beat cruelty.
Empathy beat indifference.
Compassion beat mendacity.
Knowledge beat ignorance.
Public service beat self-interest.
Humility beat arrogance.
Inclusivity beat supremacy.
Truth beat lies.
Facts beat fantasy.
Evidence beat fabrication.
Forgiveness beat vengeance.
Authenticity beat pretension.
Conciliatory beat incendiary.
Dignity beat crudeness.
Acceptance beat grievance.
Openness beat constriction.
Concern beat contempt.
Unity beat division.
Graciousness beat vindictiveness.
We beat I.
Love beat hate.
Whatever you may think about the new administration’s policies and goals, I hope we can agree that America’s soul is healthier already. It seems pretty obvious that followers of any path would equate the qualities on the left side of my list with spiritual maturity and those on the right as traits to overcome in ourselves and resist in others.
A verse in the Yoga Sutras advises us to “avert the danger that has not yet come.” We may have averted a moral crisis that would have been hard to overcome. We may have stopped ourselves from infecting the nation’s bloodstream with too much hate, cruelty, and indifference. Needless to say, such debilitating toxins remain very much with us in the hearts of too many of our fellow citizens. But they won’t be projected every day from the loudest podium in the land, and that in itself will be healing.
I’m aware that what I say here opens me up to charges of partisanship. My response is: Yes, I’m partisan. I’m biased. I’m one-sided and unequivocally in favor of human goodness. I’ve been a lifelong liberal, but I’d like to think that if a Democratic incumbent were to display the negative attributes I listed above and a Republican challenger were to exhibit the positive virtues, I would make the same argument. It’s possible that I’m deluding myself, but if any Democrat ever puts me to the test, I trust I’ll be true to my word.
If we’ve learned anything these past four ugly years, it’s that certain values should be considered sacred. They mean more to the soul of a nation than political philosophy or campaign promises or party affiliation.
At the very least, it’s comforting to know that parents, liberal and conservative alike, can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they won’t have to find ways to tell their kids that it’s not okay to insult, demean, threaten, or lie—to cut off the heads of others to make themselves look tall—when the Role Model in Chief gets away with it all the time.
Soon, we will go back to arguing over foreign and domestic policy, legislative proposals, budgets, taxation, regulations, and all the other issues of governance Americans have argued about since the nation was founded. I used to get tired of all that. Now, a return to business as usual will seem refreshing. It will be a relief when left-right debates get all the attention again, and I hope the arguments will be taken more seriously by a newly-awakened public.
But, all of that can wait.
For now, it feels good to know that 2021 will arrive less dark than I feared it would. Here comes the sun. We can make it shine all the brighter if we work at it.