[Paleopsych] last night's debate
Werbos, Dr. Paul J.
paul.werbos at verizon.net
Thu Oct 14 10:27:14 UTC 2004
Last night's debate crystallized some of what has been going on,
at a fundamental level, in US thinking. As did the first debate.
It was clear that some statements were made more for effect -- and some
were very serious
and honestly expressed.
For example, in the first debate, the point that Bush stressed most seriously
and most repetitively was the point that: "A leader cannot flip-flop.
He must always be steady. He must always stay the course. He cannot
say things that might be harmful to His Cause..." Whenever Kerry tweaked
him about the truthfulness of what he had been saying, he always came back
point, and dutifully -- almost religiously? -- repeated the current party line.
In the debate tonight, both candidates were asked about their faith. Bush
made similar comments, and
promised to Fight for the Cause. And at that moment, when Kerry replied...
at that moment, I might have responded very differently to the way he did.
Yet I could
fully understood how he did...
And I certainly do not claim that I would have won votes any better than Kerry!
In fact... I don't really know how I would have wordsmithed it. But I was
"Isn't there something there in our faith about telling the truth? In these
Bush has consistently promised to say what is steady and what is safe and
what advances his cause.
He and his people clearly have more faith in the power of being good used
than anyone we have seen in a long time, if ever, in the US. You can see it
in his face when
he grins a vast grin about how he things he has painted me into a
stereotype that he himself
knows is not really true. He lives for the challenge of winning -- not for
expressing the truth.
But folks -- didn't someone once say that you shouldn't give up trying to
tell the truth.
Didn't someone say that you should have some faith - that even if it SEEMS
in the short-term
as if you are paying a price... that those who are persecuted in my name
will be redeemed
in the end? Mr. Bush pays very active lip service to his faith, and he
talks about his faith
a lot when it is politically convenient to him-- but he is not really
trying so hard to LIVE
what Jesus said. I cannot promise to you that I will succeed at all times
in living up
to those standards... but I can promise you that I will try as hard as I
can. And it's clear that
this Administration hasn't really been trying, and that their faith is in
But what did Kerry say instead? It was very interesting, in my view.
At one level, what he said may have been more honest to the context.
He remembered what Jesus REALLY said -- the true main thrust of the New
He cited the 'Two Great Commandments." And he made a VERY similar point -- only
instead of stressing the issue of the spirit of truth, he stressed the
"love thy neighbor."
I do wonder. Perhaps Kerry is more of a True Christian than Bush OR myself.
perhaps be nice if we knew. It is not easy for a man to project his own deepest
beliefs and motivations, while creating true comfort and tolerance for
those of other beliefs.
It was important that he tried in this debate -- but maybe it is worth
working on more.
And maybe we might ask how he manages that projection in his own thinking.
But in the end... I have known some people I would tend to think of as true
In the end, I am not one of them. In local Quaker meetings, maybe about
half the people are true Christians or on the path to becoming such. Maybe
half are what some call "Quaker Universalists," and that's how I label
of the time here lately. (People need labels...). "Universalist" basically
fully accepting... the fact (as I would see it)... that there is
fundamental and valid
spiritual inspiration lying behind ALL the major cultures of humanity...
are not fundamentally divided up into Christian versus Heathen, or anything
and in the end, that Jesus was unique more in a quantitative sense than in
a qualitative sense...
that we all partake of the same fundamental nature.
In truth, I rebelled against modern Catholicism for good reason back when I
and in some sense the Spirit of Truth -- and rational foresight about the
fate of humanity --
has been far more real to me than the Christian version of the Spirit of Love.
And yet... with time... we learn and we mellow a bit. (As perhaps Kerry has
too, in his way --
while Bush remains truly steadfast to things I remember from teen-age
Bush's wife reminds me at times of the girl I might have married... and
surely I would be richer
today in monetary terms if I had... and she certainly had strong points I
might understand better
today than I did then...). I now understand that the Spirit of Love is
something to be approached
in a more active way... just as I have long understood that with the Spirit
And to me, I now see the two as more or less equal.
The Spirit of Truth does not mean acting like a certain type of clever lawyer,
for whom the definition of "truth" is "the out-of-bounds line, the most I
away with under present circumstances." And indeed, the spirit of winning
the baseball game
animates much of Bush's inner team. For some of us, truth is an active
forgive me if I remember the phrase "the jihad within the self" used by those
Moslems who are more sincere, and not like the baseball-playing Wahabis
and ersatz jihadis -- and not just a constraint. We seek the truth, we seek
understanding, both for ourselves and for others. We know that reality is
so complex and
our knowledge so constrained that we can never claim to have expressed the
whole truth as yet..
but we keep trying to do better, not in saying Everything (though some
would accuse us
of trying too hard to say everything..).. but at least to accurately
reflect Everything as it
really is. To a true Christian, love is the same way... and perhaps I am
to realize the importance of trying to infuse my behavior with a bit more
OK -- so I would argue for trying to give equal time to the Spirit of Truth
and the Spirit of Love,
and would NOT draw a line in the sand about the unique divinity of Christ
-- even though I
would try to give him a bit more sincere respect than the used car salesmen who
claim to speak in his name.
I would agree with Kerry in stressing that we need to work hard to be truly
(and even loving towards) those who do not share the same basic faith. But
on some faith in the Spirit of Truth, as much as the Spirit of Love... and
FAITH in the spiritual power of used car salesmen, when there is a car that
and badly needs a few valve replacements... well, with all due respect,
you can see how I personally will vote, even as I respect friends who will
How can I still respect them, after all this? Well, life is very complex,
and I have seen
sincere Nobel Prize Winners choke over points that are simple from a truly
objective point of view... and it has often taken me years to see what
should be obvious.
Why should they be different?
Yet still.. it does amuse me to look back and see how much I seem to have
I was a teenager utterly imbued in the Anglo-Saxon culture of wealthy
Pennsylvania Republicans, identifying with a German father who had more
than you could believe with Ronald Reagan (in fact, I believe there was a real
spiritual resonance there)... I remember going to the Goldwater Presidential
campaign office in central Philadelphia about then, and being led by a kind
very different from the ones we hear about these days... who frustrated and
all us overly enthusiastic and snide young teenagers and tried hard to teach us
a more honorable path... too bad young George did not have more of those kinds
As for young Bush's faith... it reminds me a whole lot of piece in the New
magazine form LONG AGO (about 1970.. I actually dug up the reference in one
of my papers, but don't have it handy right now)... "Are We a Nation of
by Greeley. That is an EXTREMELY important piece, that really ought to be
disseminated. (It was a report based on NSF-sponsored research, by the way.)
It talks about people who have one very strong authentic experience..
and essentially fill themselves with:"OK, God, I'll be a good boy. But please
don't let me see THAT ever again, I'm really not ready." Many of the worst
of organized religion (which Quakers do their best not to be) involve that sort
of emotional decision... that they will try to "appease the Gods"
by sacrificing young virgins or young unwed mothers ... so as to keep the
and avoid the discomfort of more authentic spiritual experience and commitment.
For which the Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Love are essential.
(Equal time for someone else: there are also the Qi Gong folks who would
add a third
principle, a Spirit of Ren, for which there is no good quick translation.)
My six-year-old empathizes with George Bush junior to a strange and
degree. I don't really believe in reincarnation in the usual way... but at
times I wonder
if he had a past life in those same parts of Philadelphia... it is so
strong and uncanny.
But maybe he is just responsive to his mother, who experienced Communism
in Russia and understandably took some of the (valid) lessons seriously.
So I am glad he is now getting deep into Star Wars (a very Zen-like set of
and books). It is time for us all to work harder to resist the dark side of
And of course, the real truth is not any one of these cultures, or a fuzzy
potpourri of them, but
a crystal-like unity that can be seen from many angles.
Best of luck to us all...
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