The American national myth is centered around stories of people like Daniel Boone and this idea that if he pulled himself up by his bootstraps so can you. We talk about self-made millionaires and feed this myth of rugged individualism.
I actually have no problem with this idea of individualism, but what bothers me is that people that subscribe to that idea, often take sides with folks that also subscribe to that idea and that right there, all these folks supporting each other and agreeing on the same thing, is a communal way of being. You need each other to keep strengthening what you believe in. That is one of the ways interdependence works.
And we can make interdependence work for good or for bad.
I just wish we were more intentional about recognizing our interdependence on each other in this country. We live under the myth that we are individuals and our actions do not impact the actions of those around us or even on the other side of the planet. But then we huddle together when we have similar ideologies.
This so-called independence is an unhealthy ideology that is fed by capitalism.
You see, capitalism feeds off of competition and that competition creates winners and losers and of course, everyone wants to be a winner.
But are there winners? True winners? Winners for the long haul?
I wonder if you are reading this on a phone. Ok, maybe even a desktop. Either way, I bet your phone, or your computer has a camera. You know what preceded computers and phones?
Pictures and cameras.
The biggest name in that industry, just a few years back? Kodak.
This company filed for bankruptcy in 2012 but for 100 years they reigned in one of the most cutting-edge technological industries. The company was formed in 1888 and 88 years later, in 1976, they were responsible for 85% of all film cameras and 90% of all film sold in the US. In 1987, they invented the first digital camera, and their executives decided that no one would ever want to look at their pictures on a television set. That was the precursor to how you are now reading this post.
Poof! Gone. Gone forever.
Probably because they so wanted to hold on to their legacy of being the best and the most successful that they did not see the need to create interdependent relationships with others in a changing world.
The negative by-product of winning the race is that you want to hold on to that “first position.” Then the ugly underbelly is that you want to get rid of the competition to ensure that you are the only one in the race.
I am not anti-capitalism, but I am anti-the-ugly-underbelly-of-unrestrained-capitalism.
We live in a world that cannot coddle the first. Or the “only.” We must recognize our need for interdependence as it is our reality.
I come from a world that says, “I cannot be me without you.” It is the Swahili concept of Ubuntu – The belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. It is the acknowledgment that observation is essential to life and that what you focus on is important because it becomes part of who you are. It is the philosophy that my life and your life are connected.
It is what makes kids know that they must take care of their parents in their old age. It is what makes folks know that they have an obligation to their communities. It is what makes folks know that no person is an island.
Going back to competition, there cannot be a competition if there is only one person in the race. The toxic way we often do competition and capitalism is to leave one person the winner and the only participant. That is what we are seeing in politics today: The toxic elimination of one’s opponent as a guaranteed way to win.
You don’t get to say you won the race when you are the only participant in it since you eliminated all the other participants. And you probably eliminated them unfairly, with lies and bullying.
Growing an awareness of interdependence helps us recognize that others contribute to our lives in positive ways that we cannot measure. Just imagine your morning cup of coffee, or tea, or water, or lemon water and the people that helped get it in your hands – the growers, the pickers, the suppliers, the transporters, the customs folks at the port, the manufacturers, the stores, the shelving folk, and on and on and on.
You see, you are not alone. You did not do it all by yourself. You need the Sumatran coffee bean grower to just make coherent sense when you get out of bed in the morning.
Why is all this important?
Because of your vote.
On Tuesday, I want you thinking, not about what is best for you, but about what is best for interdependence. Vote in a way that benefits “us” and not just “you.” This is how you actually get to vote for “you.” Our future is inextricably intertwined. Within “us” your future and your prosperity lie. Not within “just me.”
I want you to really question those feelings that tell you that voting for the establishment is voting for your best interests. You see, I guarantee you, one day, you will be on the other side of it all. If someone like me can be eliminated from the race, then you can as well. If your existence is based on the approval of the group, then you will one day be eliminated. If you live in fear of disrupting the group by speaking your mind, then it is not your group and you are not in the race.
The best analogy I can give you is this: If you are in a race and the race is rigged where somehow you know that you must never show up fully for the race and give it your all and win, because if you will, you will disrupt the status quo that says that “he” (always the winner) must be the one to win, then you are not really in a race and you have been rendered powerless already. Before the race even began. Beloved, don’t run in races where you are required to lose to stay in the game. It is the ultimate diminishment of the human spirit. You are worth so much more.
My invitation to you is to vote to be in a race where you can run, and I can run.
This week, we saw why this is important.
It was one thing then a white terrorist shooter goes into a Black church and kills everyone. After all, if you are white, you may never go into a Black church.
It was just awful when the gay folks were killed in a nightclub. After all, you stopped going to clubs years ago and none of your kids are gay.
It was also just ridiculous when those kids in public schools were shot and my goodness, those poor kids in public schools. Thank God my kids go to private schools, right?
Now even a synagogue, gets blown up? Those poor Jews. They have been through so much already.
But what about the yoga studio? That was this week. That was even closer to home, right?
How you vote on Tuesday directly impacts the rage white supremacists are feeling right now and impacts the access to guns, and even the freedom of speech that is under threat right now.
Your vote, to put the right person in office goes a long way in creating peace in the world so that you and I both can live with ease.
It is not just one vote. It is the vote of all the people with whom you share interdependence.
Vote wisely. Encourage others to vote and be bold. Make a choice that honors our interdependence.
Peace and Justice in our world!