In this presidential election year of 2008, the stakes regarding victory or defeat for each candidate are high; the competition for votes is fierce; and the strategies are abundant on both sides with which to win over the undecided.
We, the public, see things happening as part of political life and of campaigning that we do not approve of, that we feel we can do without. But can we? Is negative campaigning something that is being foisted on an unwilling public, or does it correspond to the state of mind and consciousness that we are in?
Democracy is not simple. It is complex. And it is not easy. It is hard. It demands from us all that we have to give, and asks us, at the very least, to become responsible citizens who maintain an involvement with both the principles and policies that govern us.
Democracy asks us to not abandon our individual or collective awareness and voice - not for ourselves, and not on behalf of those whose voices have become diminished or who no longer feel they have a voice. It asks us to use this voice and this awareness not to shout, but to speak for the truth as we see it, to reflect upon this truth, and to offer it up as we speak, and vote, and as we take a stand for what we believe in. In this way, we create and ensure a government that represents the best interests of the governed.
All this is the ideal that democracy strives for. And yet it is not what we see in practice. Not by a long shot. Instead of widespread citizen involvement of a judicious and thoughtful kind, we often see anger, fear, projection, and sometimes fanaticism. Instead of voting with conscientiousness, employing our capacity to reflect, compare, and analyze, we often vote with our emotions or the emotions that are being activated within us in the course of a campaign.
We cannot be manipulated by emotions, whether presented by candidates, campaign ads, news media, or television personalities if we do not allow ourselves to be. We cannot be reduced to less than what we are capable of unless we allow ourselves to be. And yet, this is often what we do. We take the easier way rather than the harder. We let an external shaping of opinion such as that of negative campaigning define our emotions and create our state of feeling. We begin to identify with the innuendo, accusation, and fear-currents that surround us, so that we lose sight of what is true in favor of what sounds true while not begin so. We come to believe that the feelings that we have are natural and inevitable, even when they come from portrayals and strategies that mix half-truths with truth. In many cases, we have difficulty maintaining the 'high ground' of forming our own opinions, when the 'low ground' of negative campaigning, advertising, and criticism is so prevalent.
No, democracy is not easy. It is much easier to feel and to operate out of instinct and unconscious emotion, than to think and evaluate with a consciousness of choice.
We, as a national consciousness, are offered negative advertising and campaigning because it feeds the lowest common denominator among us that forms the basis of our perceptions - that of unconscious reflex which seeks to avoid fear and danger and to seek safety and security. Such campaigning paints the world in terms of fearful outcomes that have to do with the 'other', and encourages us to choose between fear and not-fear when we determine who to vote for. We are reduced to a very basic, even primitive level of feeling - that of the desire for survival both physically and economically - and this fundamental level, because of its importance to our overall sense of wellbeing, drowns out other considerations that may paint the world in softer shades of gray.
To remedy this situation, we must become responsible citizens - responsible for the content of our own consciousness. And we must learn how to recognize information and perspective that comes to us riding on currents of fear, and information that comes to us in more objective terms. Our voice and our awareness are precious gifts that we hold with which to construct a life that supports us. We cannot afford to sacrifice these to the methods and modes of the time we are in, not if we wish to create a new kind of government that is truly accountable to each and every citizen.
The world is capable of changing if we are ready for change, and campaigns are ready to become something different in tone if we are ready for that as well. To achieve this end, we must wake up and learn to listen, to reflect, to become more confident in our ability to see what we see, and to know what we know. When each of us is able to make the choice for consciousness, becoming firmer in our own center of truth and judgment, then we shall finally be ready for a democracy that truly represents what America is meant to be, and we shall be able to share this gift with the rest of the world as well.
Julie Redstone is a teacher, writer, and founder of Light Omega, a center for spiritual teaching and healing in Western Massachusetts. The purpose of Light Omega is to create an understanding of the sacred transition into light that the Earth is presently going through and the changes this will bring to individual and collective consciousness. For additional information concerning the spiritual basis of American democracy, see http://www.lightamericaspirit.org.