It's almost that time again, isn't it? That time when we get the opportunity to exercise the one definitive right we all have as Americans, the one personal action we can take to have some effect on the nature and direction of our government – namely, to vote...but it's difficult to know how to go about something so temporal in as spiritual a way as possible.
The exercise of our spiritual beliefs and goals when it comes to politics is already a tough enough nut to crack, especially given the myriad constraints of the system we're part of. One such constraint, for example, is that I live in New York, so it doesn't really matter whether I vote or not. The Electoral College system guarantees that the state I live in will send it's votes all in one direction (that's one reason I live here...).
Another constraint of great consequence is that all our votes go in more or less the same direction, being as we have a kind of "Good Cop, Bad Cop" single-party system at present. But as the votes go more or less towards the same pro-corporate (largely pro-military, pro-"capitalist") concerns, our spiritual practices can come to bear in those ways that they go less towards the same concerns.
Often, when bringing spirituality into play in what have now become largely pop culture contests between two faces on the same mask of Janus, one might hear a sort of twist on Taoism (probably the second verse of the Tao te Ching) – the idea that there is no "good" or "bad," there simply is what there is; and while it is true that there are no problems that absolute acceptance won't resolve, this painfully "realistic" axiom is actually suggesting more the point that both the good and the evil go down with the ship – not the idea that it's pointless differentiating between the two.
Here it's good to introduce what's probably the number one rule for maintaining one's spirituality all the time (not just with politics...). About the most troublesome thing a human mind tends to do by default, I believe, is to label everything it perceives (I know my "thought organ" always wants to). It's hard not to look at something and say: That's spoiled; that's pretty; that's unattractive; that's plastic; or whatever may (or may not) apply. This renders the subject into a diminished egoic category – usually a more comfortable, lesser-than entity, rather than allowing the truth about it to be the result of a rather complex personal process of discovery.
Using what the Hindu call sakshi – that is, becoming an open-hearted, objective (non-labeling) witness to people and events, we can observe characteristics like "good" and "evil" with the insight needed to deal with them with more understanding. We might see those same characteristics at their foundation, as "compassionate" and "angry," for example. Evil does exist always in some form of human egoism, as the deliberate or not-so-deliberate motivation for self-centered gratification of one kind or another – as a selfish entitlement, a righteous justification, or a response to simple fear.
By avoiding those motivations for our political actions (and the specifics of our present contest), and embracing the intention at the soul of our system, we should vote for what we truly believe in our hearts, regardless whether those principles are supported by a giant political party, a smaller one, or only by the write-in line on your ballot or the box marked "none of the above." For a person on a spiritual path, of course these principles include equality, integrity, ecology, compassion, tolerance, willingness, etc....in short, where there is Love. Let your unencumbered heart guide you.
In our specific system at present there's a peculiar conflation of misunderstandings at work beneath many of the policy justifications coming out of the "Bad Cop" side of our political system. One is that Darwinism is not really the survival of "the fittest," but instead the survival of the most cooperatively adaptable. The "winners" in that skewed system are limited in their ability to act responsibly by what defines them. Capitalism (especially in a corrupted form) works very well for the institutions of finance, but ultimately not so well for the heart of humanity. We can do better.
That could serve as a general guidepost for cast-ing your ballot – which candidate's policy benefits money, and which benefits people? Or put more simply in a spiritual sense, who's true intention is to benefit the health of the planet, to com-passionately address the needs of the greatest num-ber of people?
Another prevalent mis-understanding is that the underlying logic of philoso-phers like Adam Smith or Ayn Rand is at all sane, given their bases upon presumptions of the ego's self-interest – inarguably the cause of the most destructive insanity at work in our planet's past or present. A more likely possibility is that both of them were deeply spiritually damaged. Not sane.
For example, Ayn Rand's rejection of altruism in favor of "individual responsibility" simply makes spiritual evolution impossible. There are just too many people that can't cut that particular mustard, and (in my opinion) you simply can't find a spiritual solution while lacking as absolute a sense of compassion as you can possibly manage. Stand back from the planet with a little sakshi, and you can see we are clearly all responsible for one another. After all, we were all originally "communists" – our communal, tribal origins indicate that the whole takes care of everyone in a manner that doesn't reward any member so much that they feel separate from the rest.
When you observe Ms. Rand with sakshi, you see a deeply damaged person, not someone whose philosophy you should base your life decisions on. In a clip from Anthony Baxter's excellent new documentary, You've Been Trumped, Donald Trump's reply to the members of a local Scottish town board when they wanted to know where he got his facts about the ecological and cultural impact of his proposed development on their ancestor's unspoiled lands was: "I AM all the facts you need." That is the pathological disease of human ego, and a pretty decent definition of evil as well.
In answer to the question: Can things change in the direction of what is better for the planet, and the most people? The "fact" of our current president may actually be all "the facts you need." If you feel limited to picking either the "Good Cop" or the "Bad Cop," I hope that helps your decision.
"It's the metaphysical impulse to transcend the illusion of separateness..."