Wednesday, January 25, 2017

...And the Pursuit of Happiness.

When we are blindsided it usually comes from our assumptions. I assumed Hillary Clinton was going to win. So did she. So did most everyone. The morose among us and the exuberant are in response to this surprise. In the events that have followed, I have been picking my brain about the underlying fissure in our society. What was it that made some flock to Trump, while those in my face-to-face circles (urban, educated, middle-class) were unanimous in support of Clinton. I do know many in my virtual circles who did and do support Trump. If people in my face-to-face circles supported Trump, they did not tell me. But the emotional exuberance from many have been a surprise. And I have been listening closely, and so much of it has come down to economic and societal concerns/fears.

And so I have been thinking on what is the cause of these concerns. Many are easy to name. Downsizing or eliminating of industry, feelings of fear and distress since terrorism hit our shores, increased size of immigrant communities over many areas that have not been normal immigration points, and social distress over enlargement of rights and liberties that have come through the US over the last 15 years have all contributed to the overall unease. People have pointed to race, and I believe that is a huge part of this, but not a focus consciously of many of those holding these fears. So what was it?

In my mind, I hear a drastic distinction between the protesters since the inauguration and those celebrating our new President. As I started, our assumptions are where we are most easily blindsided, and for me it comes down to the "unalienable Rights" that we have held since the beginning of our original protest against a despot, King George III. The line comes in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, and we have, I believe drastically different understandings of what this means and was meant to mean.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. 
Now Life has a pretty consistent understanding across the board, I believe. Liberty is much the same. We want what we want. (While we might not want others to have what they want, but we know Liberty when we see it.) But here is the rub. We do not see the Right as Happiness, but rather the "pursuit of Happiness." And that is where I think that the chasm happening in our society is breaking out. We disagree on what creates our Happiness and how we can get there.

For me, my Happiness is my ability to give and receive Love and Care. I agree with Helen Keller.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.”
I do this through my vocation (Episcopal priest) and through my relationships. For me, that is what I want protected and what I want to be unimpeded.  But when I hear people arguing how good things will be now and how they have hope I hear very different things.

People were angry over their health insurance costs increasing, sometimes drastically. Many think a businessman will change the ability to make a better income, or an income in deeply impoverished areas. Many wanted anyone named a politician out. Many were angry, and rode on the wave of anger that Trump swelled. Through all of this, I heard a lot of fear. And that is where my disconnect happens. I hear them saying, and I could be wrong, that their understanding of "the pursuit of Happiness" is one of an absence of fear, whether physical, emotional or financial security. The courting of his voters of Donald Trump seems to be appealing to their need to have their fear alleviated. As I see it, their understanding of the "pursuit of Happiness" is freedom from concern.

I am not one that motivates well with fear. Fear is not what drives me. "Perfect love drives out all fear," says Scripture and I hold to that. In fact, I sit now in one of the worst financial situations I have ever been in personally, but I am well off with where I am with my family and friends, and people have shown me love and care in my hardship in ways that are deeply moving and appreciated. My family is as emotionally healthy as could be. When I hear this country being described as filled with "carnage" I cannot connect with that, and in my life, cannot see it. Are there bad situations? Of course. They can be addressed and receive appropriate responses.

So what do you see as our Pursuit of Happiness? What motivates you? What do you hold most dear? What do you see as this common Right that holds us together? How do you define it? How do you work to make it real for you and for all those in your life? Please let me know.

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Blessings, Rock