By any means necessary has become the philosophy of Republicans. They no longer care about how they win their policies only that they win. They are rejecting the values of non-violence. In non-violence the means is said to determine the ends. If you use violence, raw power, or deception to achieve your goals you can expect the same in return when you interact with that group. The means will determine how great the resentment the other feels toward you and the process. If you are willing to do anything regardless of the truth or the values of the other you have not made a friend but an opponent if not an enemy. The non-violent stance of the means effect the ends is tossed aside for winning. This leads to not winning hearts but showing that force is the way to achieve your beliefs.
The far right are sacrificing some values for the sake of other values. The thinking is ‘I do not like Trump’s misogyny but I do like his Supreme Court Nominees’. It is always problematic to pick and choose which values are more important. You fall into the trap of thinking your only choice is the lesser of two evils. But how can you grade which is more important: abortion or national security?
Picking and choosing the values you will promote justifies the claim that you are hypocritical on many issues. You espouse a certain morality but do not promote or guard it so that another value can be achieved. What happens if you do not achieve the goal you have forfeited? You have sacrificed all or most of your values and this would leave you morally bankrupt.
The problem with picking and choosing which values will take precedent is what if you choose a value that is wrong? You have forsaken your other values. This would lead you to a morally unmoored life. And if we are truthful we all have changed our views on issues during our lives. Furthermore, if you pick and choose how can you avoid being swayed by the latest hot issue. So instead of living out your values you have become an ethical faddist.
Another factor to consider is the political field is littered with false prophets. If you align yourself with someone no matter what you are open to their ethical limitations. And we all know the stereotype of the politician who promises the moon to be elected but delivers you a lemon instead. A true prophet once said, “What good does it do you to gain the whole world but lose your soul’ Another writer said, “Winning is such a small thing.” What he meant was if you sacrifice your soul and the relationships of those around you for ‘winning’ you have lost.
We have the potential to have two Supreme Court Justices who have committed or been accused of misogynist acts. They both will vote against Roe vs. Wade if it comes before the court. Is this the Republican idea of winning? This is probably the reason Republicans face losing the majority in Congress and the Presidency. They are not making friends but are creating stalwart enemies among the minority populations who are soon to be in the majority.
The right says they are concerned about the religious freedom of conservative evangelicals. To shore their position up they are appointing federal judges and Supreme Court Justice’s seat by any means necessary. But power is switching in our country and one wonders if their by any means necessary in the long run will not jeopardize their cherished religious freedom as they make unnecessary enemies.
The mythical Deep State is under attack by our President. If Deep State means people who have expertise and experience in running our government I guess he is correct. They are hopefully running our government. How odd that we are almost criminalizing them. But it is the age of Trump where expertise and experience do not count only his gut matters. He denies climate scientists have it right. He denies the official count of the deaths from the hurricane in Puerto Rico. He denies American intelligence on Russian activities. Experts’ study and knowledge is not comparable to his well established gut.
Take for instance his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un. He claimed at least to need no preparations to meet with this hard core nuclear threat dictator. Trump felt no need to master the complexities of North Korea’s nuclear and missile program. His negotiation skills and gut were enough. We are still not sure other than lifting Kim up to the world stage as a great leader what was accomplished by this meeting.
Trump claims the Deep State (boogey man) is causing all the confusion in the White House not his unvetted aides or family ineptness. It is not the greedy cabinet members or corrupt advisors he has brought with him. It is not his lack of preparedness. It is that thing we cannot see the Deep State. The Deep State is a faith thing because no one can really define it. But we know it is bad and exists.
But the truth is he is someone who does not read but listens to only voices that agree with him. He is not a deep thinker with well thought out beliefs. He is an opinionated man. He only respects himself. Everyone else is a tool for his use. His motivators throughout his life have been winning, power, and money. Not truth, justice, or concern for others.
So he attacks the most noble amongst us John McCain, Barack Obama, John Lewis, career intelligence officers, and others. He ascribes to them the motivations he would have if he were in their positions. He cannot believe that anyone would be motivated by patriotism, altruism, and love. He ascribes his evil to them so that he may be exonerated for his own misdeeds.
We cannot hold his government responsible because there is a Deep State that is holding him back. There is an ‘other’ that is the enemy. The problem is the Deep State is much like deep thought. It has spent its due diligence thinking and working out the issues over a long time giving them some authority on issues. But Trump is a shallow thinker motivated by less than redeemable thoughts. So Trump must throw his shade at their expertise and facts of others to assert his views. And this is not what the Deep State is used to. Therefore Trump wins because they do not understand him. He is willing to be meaner. He is willing to lie. He is willing to attack anyone. He does not let anything slide. He is willing to not forgive. Others will not or cannot go this far and he knows it. They are moored by principle and humanity. He is not. He depends on their having purer motives and knows this allows him to be the belligerent bully. So the question is will someone fight as hard and dirty as he will to win. Maybe not but maybe people will begin to give credence to patriotism, altruism, and love as motivators again.
I write the following because we are in a time in our country that has become divisive. My hope is that while we may no longer be able to do consensus as a nation we can practice a spirituality that may one day open the door to building consensus. Consensus is an impossible thing to do with people who do not know the process. There are people who will always have a knee jerk response of no or that cannot be done. They are the nay sayers. In consensus unless you have a strong conviction that something is wrong you are to allow people to move on if everyone else pretty much is for it. But there are those people for whom everything is of utmost importance so they have to disagree and refuse to stand aside. There are also those people who say it is okay and agree to let it go forward but they are working to sabotage the effort all the while it is being implemented. Nothing for them is ever decided because they do not agree but they did not want to be the recalcitrant vote.
Consensus is a spiritual discipline. Ask a Quaker. Here are just a few of the philosophies you have to develop if you want to do consensus:
*You have to see each person’s opinion as valuable. For many this is difficult. A well-educated person often has trouble listening to someone who is not educated especially on a subject that you may be an expert. But consensus demands everyone who wishes to speak on a subject be heard.
*This leads to another discipline. You have to change your concept of time. Spending time with community is a good use of time. Nothing has to be decided tonight. People, especially people in power, insist that decisions must be made now. In actuality very few decisions of a community have to be made rashly or in a hurry.
This is not to say that consensus has to take hours, days, months to make a decision. In fact if people are abiding by the consensus decisions can be made efficiently. But these are spiritual habits that are hard to nurture.
Take the idea you have to see your own opinion as possibly flawed. This involves a degree of humility most have not developed. We have as far as we can tell studied all the issues and have come to a logical conclusion but even though I have spent a lot of time dealing with this issue I must be open to being wrong. Yet if you do not hold this out as a possibility how can you truly be listening to others?
This flows into another discipline: you have to view things not as an us vs. them situation or zero sum solution but all of you as one group. If you view others as part of your team then you will be willing to listen to them. You want to hear and try to understand things from those in your community with whom you disagree. This not only brings you closer to others it can also have the side effect of making your own arguments better.
In consensus you need to have discernment of what matters to you at your core. Too often our egos make us think everything should be approved by us. Not everything needs to be run by us. And we do not have to have an opinion on everything. We need to leave room for others to disagree and express their own selves.
Consensus is to a large extent about letting go. If it is not a matter of conscience you should be able to let others do what they think is necessary. You have to let go when the choice did not go as you hoped. They call this stepping aside. Churches have split over the color of carpet in the sanctuary or even less important things. This is probably not a matter of conscience but of taste. Sometimes things such as taste must be put aside for the unity of community.
Then finally there is what is called in common nomenclature the gracious loser. This is the person who does not pout when things do not go their way. This is the person who does not attempt to sabotage when things do not go their way. This is the person who says and means I will support you in the ways that I can. This is the person who can let go when necessary.
You are able to do this because you trust the people with whom you are in community. You do this because you respect the people with whom you are in community. You do this because you see worth in the people with whom you are in community. You do this because you have developed a philosophy of life that is consensual.
AfroPunk the magazine recently posted an article that said the Chinese government had art thieves that were stealing Chinese items from European museums. I do not know if this is true but it makes perfect sense in the world of justice. There is no way that these countries are going to return any more than token pieces to assuage their guilt.
One wonders how we would feel here in Savannah if the hand carved Stations of the Cross in St. John’s Cathedral were taken and never returned. Years later we would still be angry at the gall of the Chinese for taking these items. Most Chinese museums until recent history only contain the prized treasures of China.
Why do we insist on the ownership of pilfered precious items from other countries? Let me offer you two competing reasons one good and one bad. To own the treasures of another country shows a certain power over the people of that country. It builds your countries prestige at the expense of the exploited countries. National museums are both to inform but also there is a certain bragging rights to the accumulation of wealth you have gathered from around the world.
What I want to ask does your city or country not have enough treasures to show the world without exploiting other places’ treasures? The Met and others are hopelessly addicted to others’ treasures.
We Americans and Europeans have ancient envy of older countries. Our things are not as old as most of the rest of the world. We want to have a piece of that ancient history. Although we have some ancient cultures of our own as a society we are not on good talking terms with them (here think Gullah, Native Americans, Hispanic). In fact when given a choice we destroyed our ancient cultures for the great cause of capitalism and land grabbing.
The Telfair Museums here in Savannah is a smaller art museum. The Telfair Academy is the oldest art museum in the South. They have several collections in their museum that have come to them through who: the citizens of the city. Mary Haskell Minis, a Savannahian, was the patron and lover of Kahlil Gibran so we have a large collection of his art. Kirk Varnedoe, a Savannahian, was the curator of the MOMA so we have a collection from some of our greatest contemporary artists in his memory. We have a strong collection of the great photographer Helen Levitt because her sister-in-law is a Savannahian. Gari Melchers, an American Impressionist, was married to a Savannah woman so he was given the chore to buy paintings from friends and acquaintances and thus we have a noted American Impressionist and Ash Can School collections. We also have several of his paintings. Then there are the local artist of Jack Leigh photographer of Bird Girl fame, Ulysses Davis noted folk artist, and a culture of female artists of note (Augusta Oeschlig, Emma Cheves Wilkins, and Hattie Saussy), who add to the collection. Another art museum in town the SCAD Museum of Art has a significant collection of African American art which they received from Savannahian Dr. Walter O. Evans who knew and collected most of the artists of the Harlem Renaissance.
Now you may ask why am I making note of all this. Savannah is a small city but has a decent art collection that involves its citizens. How much more could and do our larger cities in the West who have been part of the looting museums of yore must have in their collection must have than Savannah. Why do they need to abscond away with other countries’ art and for that matter other US cities art? Especially when one considers that the Met displays less than ten percent of their collection. Now some will say it is necessary to have what is called an inclusive collection. An inclusive collection is a collection that includes art from every culture around the world. The idea is you gain an appreciation of this art and the people and culture of the art. Of course this could in large part be done not through collections but exhibits from the different cultures of the world. This would also allow for the people of that culture to have a voice in how the art is seen and what it means. Otherwise you have Western curators as the voice of these cultures. In collection exhibits the voice of the people of other countries and cultures are absent.
Another more valid reason offered is that certain countries are so unstable that their treasures are under constant threat of war, terrorism, and the vagaries of different regimes. Or some countries are so poor they cannot conserve or protect their treasures from thieves. So ‘altruistic’ Western museums are assisting in the preservation and visibility of these country’s treasures. Of course China is quite stable and capable of caring for their treasures and no Western museums are rushing to give them their treasures back.
There seems to be simple solution for the Western culture vultures to their stealing. I say if you want to have cultures represented in your country maybe you should be more open to the immigration from all parts of the world. Make your country a mecca of citizens around the world and they will bring their culture with them. And maybe you can stop stealing culture from poorer countries.