Election Day 2012
There is a story I first heard way back when on Northern Exposure (told by the incomparable Marilyn Whirlwind), and later read in (I think) a book of Zen tales for kids, about a man and a horse. The horse showed up on his land one day, and his neighbors told him this was lucky. “Maybe,” he said. But then his son broke his leg while trying to ride the horse, and his neighbors said this was unlucky. “Maybe,” he said. Then a war arose and all the young men had to go fight, but his son couldn’t go because of his broken leg, and they said this was lucky. “Maybe,” he said. You get the idea.
This story is in my head today because it’s election day, and a lot of folks I know feel very strongly that what happens today is very important. If my guy wins, most of my friends and I will feel that it’s lucky; if the other guy wins, we will think it’s unlucky (and also that the election was stolen by private owners of voting machines in Ohio and elsewhere, but let’s ignore that for the moment). Never mind that in about five minutes we’ll be living in the midst of another horrible campaign and the whole cycle will repeat itself.
I think all of us could stand to inject a bit of “Maybe” into our thinking. A number of Christians I know are careful to remind us that all of this spectacle is just that – a distracting spectacle that takes our eyes off the bigger picture of whatever mystery God is working in human history. Since I don’t interact with any Buddhists on a daily basis other than those I read in books, I will imagine that a number of Buddhists would remind us that, whatever happens, it’s important to investigate – deeply – our own reactions. Elections do matter, because compassion and suffering are very real for us and our neighbors, but compassion and suffering exist under Republicans and Democrats (and tyrants and anarchists) alike.
It is even applicable to the feeling I often have that I am so lucky to live in the USA, where our democracy – for all its many flaws – kind of works, at least for white heterosexual women with money like me. But then I remember the folks for whom our democracy doesn’t work as well (unequal protection under the law, anyone?), and I also think of the harm Americans do to the health of the earth with our oversized democratic consumption, and I have to inject a little “Maybe” into my thinking.
When the results are in tonight or tomorrow (please, dear universe, let it be tonight or tomorrow and not via the Supreme Court in a few weeks!!!), I hope I will remember to say, “Maybe,” regardless of the outcome.