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The Patron Saint of Grief

It is so very hard for me to write about what is happening with the death of our democracy, to make sense of it in both specific and general terms. It was suggested that I give voice to my anger, that it would be therapeutic and healthy to do so, empowering even. The problem for me is that it’s not just anger I feel. Instead, I have become acutely aware of traversing the five stages of grief, traveling back and forth between each emotional state: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance and back again.

Consider This:

Mankind is inherently unable to distinguish Truth from Falsehood–Dr. David R. Hawkins, Psychiatrist, World-Renowned Author and Lecturer

Glamour has been likened to a mist or fog in which the aspirant wanders and which distorts all that he sees and contacts, preventing him from ever seeing life truly or clearly and the conditions surrounding him as they essentially are.  Glamour: A World Problem, Alice Bailey

My greatest challenge is to neither suppress nor get stuck in any of the grief stages above, which isn’t always easy given the state of the political and cultural malignancy in America today. While sometimes I indulge myself shamelessly, arrogantly, in anger, it serves me little other than to expel a bit of energy that facilitates at least some degree of movement into one of the other states. My ultimate goal is to get to acceptance since democracy is clearly in decline.

Circa 1977

Years ago my husband-at-the-time and I traveled to Iran, his country of origin, to visit his family. Upon arrival, he was arrested by SAVAK (the Shah’s secret police) and held as a political prisoner for 28 days. There’s a great big story around this but suffice it to say, for the first time in my life, I was introduced to an autocracy and the resultant condition and subsequent feelings of impotence it engendered. Upon his release, we spent another month in country before returning to America. Not only did I kiss the ground upon arrival at JFK, but felt “free” for the first time in two months. Transitioning from the traumatic event months after, returning to what I believed to be “safe space”, I also went through grief and all the stages that involves. I had lost something, a kind of naivete not tangible as form but real nonetheless.

Now, I don’t want to unduly focus on that experience at this time other than to point out a few key points gleaned from it. Why? Because it changed my life. No longer was I able to view the world and my place in it in the same way. A few broad brush perspectives are as follows:

  1. Mankind’s evolution includes a universal desire for growth, self-expression and ultimately freedom, both individually and as a group, however defined within the cultural context one is raised in. I witnessed ordinary Iranians appetite, eagerness and resolve to work, raise families, have respect, share companionship and affection like most people, albeit in a different context. I identified with them and that universal human impulse that connects us all.
  2. Americans who have not traveled to other countries and seen how people live and express themselves against the lack of freedom and constraints, or EVEN IN SPITE OF THEM, have a difficult time seeing the world in anything other than through their own class, ethnic and American-centric “fog”.
  3. Autocratic regimes have little to no moral authority and are typically ruled by an elite group comprised of a figurehead manipulating information, bending rules and norms, all to stay in power to meet their needs/goals not the populations’.

What I Remember

Once free, I remember being angry at Americans upon returning from Iran, as odd as that might sound, because they could not see what I had seen: how spoiled, how protected, how self-indulgent and myopic and ultimately, how privileged they were to live in a democracy. Most Americans had little to no awareness of other countries, systems, or individual’s lives when living without freedom. It was a deep disconnect. I remember feeling disgusted when someone would talk about some detail of life that seemed trivial, like the price of a shirt at Macy’s or Walmart, etc. It was minutiae in my mind, self-absorbed, narcissistic, as if through a fog.

I remember erroneously believing Americans as all one “thought group,” with a single capacity and sameness, incapable of understanding things I had just been introduced to: the violence of a dictatorship, the apparent capriciousness of elites imposing their will on others within a society–an error that prevented my being able to see other American’s innocence and naivete, which I had also suffered from before the trip. A solution? I felt that if America could institute a “draft” that would involve not just military conscription but mandatory two-year stints in third world countries, in Peace Corps type activities and the like, it would lead to greater understanding and compassion, not to mention a more mature perspective of others. I believed that seeing how others lived, loved, worked and struggled might offer a vehicle to see the common humanity in us all.

Do You Think You Know What Anything is For?

Circa 2018. The tensions between groups within America now, and certainly outside of it, are at a fever pitch as evidence in the “tower of babel” syndrome in our political, social and media-driven systems today. Add an exploitative Russian leader supported by an oligarchy capitalizing and manipulating our vulnerabilities and naivete and we are in a state of decline by distortion: assault from within as well as from without. We are afraid of “otherness”. What’s worse, too many in America are drawn to glamour, the gold and baubles of a fancy man, a dandy, a pied piper, a president who is an autocrat by nature, who represents what so many think they want yet don’t even know what it all means. It is emotional to be sure. He knows how to reach deep into certain resentments and pretend he’s your savior.

What’s more, those that feel they have lost something, a life they knew from the past, or fear they cannot keep up with in the future, are particularly vulnerable to such emotional manipulation, the fog of glamour, the wolf in sheep’s clothing. The perception and energy of glamour is not just about glittering gold; It is more importantly about the seduction of “I’ll give you what you want, say what you want to hear,” designed to intoxicate with the suggestion of “something else, something better.” You can almost feel the whisper of it. What’s more, he is abetted by a corrupt Congress that has been priming the pump for quite some time now, providing cover for the Autocrat-in-Waiting.

A Complex Ecosystem

The world is a complex place, and the layers of developmental understanding – mine and everyone else’s – are multidimensional, a rich tapestry to be sure. This is a painful, sometimes supremely promising, as well as absurdly comical, situation at times. Throw in mankind’s naivete, our inability to tell Truth from Falsehood and the path forward can be perilous indeed. All democracies fail, or certainly decline to a smaller, less impactful version of their original selves. In America this is happening right now, right in front of our eyes. If only more individuals could see through the fog of their own self-interest, it could possibly change. But alas, developmental differences, varying degrees of paradigm blindness and sub-cultural quirks inhibit the process.

Alas, it may not be in the cards to extricate ourselves from the organic and natural life cycle of democratic decline. For my part, if this is where we are at in America today, I just want to get to acceptance, to be at peace with it all. While hope springs eternal, there comes a time when “letting go”, of surrendering to the inevitable has to occur. It is the only real freedom we have within certain stages of grieving the perceived loss of what was, what could potentially be, but may no longer be possible within the evolutionary stage we find ourselves in.

Maybe it’s my age, the long journey I have already been on. I am not a pessimist although some will read this and think that’s the case. In the absence of a Gandhi, Mandela, Churchill, Lincoln, some of the great individuals of that caliber and galvanizing energy, it doesn’t seem to be on the horizon. I pray I’m wrong. You know, some things you just don’t want to be right about. Iran, and most of the Middle East along with it, has been autocratic for 2500 plus years. Sadly, it may just be America’s turn.

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