When it comes to deciding the future of nations, thinking ought to be a heart and mind business, rather than a matter of gut feeling.
Gut feeling has nothing to do with the mind and little with what is true and honest in the human heart. Gut feeling is emotional short term reactivism. When it is pandered to as a means to acquiring power it yields toxic results. Gut feeling licenses duplicity and it is gut feeling which is driving the American election. It is also shaping the news, because in regard to this election, there is nothing else to shape it.
In terms of the two candidates left in the ring, one of them is prevented from saying anything for which a person could conceivably vote. The other majors on people’s ‘gut feeling’. Gut feeling, especially in this highly personalised electoral conflict, amounts to a celebration and further promotion of all that is least attractive, intelligent or desirable in human beings. At present, there seems to be no end to the dark tunnel it is taking us all into. The endless celebration of what is least honourable in human beings results, I think, in something like what we used to call Hell.
A collective ignorance of history leads, as we know, to its being repeated. Gut feeling is all we have left on which to base world changing decisions when we have not paused to make connections with the past. The most significant of these could be described as the political and religious extremes which feed on gut feeling and lead, often very quickly, to the worst kind of megalomaniac autocracy. Nero and Hitler spring to mind. Both, in their different ways, were popular with their people. Both owed much to gut feeling.
The question we are left with, then, is how can a nation be at its best when all it has to go on for its political decision making is gut feeling which leads to damaging and highly contentious short term decisions? I would suggest the revival of the idea of honour.
By honour I do not mean that which is associated with rank or prestige. I mean the kind of honour which, in the poetic tradition of courtly love, equates with courtesy. There is nothing shallow or short-lived about honour, or courtesy. In fact courtesy is one of the attributes of God. The 12th century mystic, Julian of Norwich, spoke of Christ as her ‘courteous Lord’. Honour as it pertains to courtesy has to do with principled love, love which is both of the mind and heart, love whose principle lies in a willingness to sacrifice itself for the good of those it loves. We are not seeing very much of this in the two Presidential candidates, but perhaps it is alot to ask of two people who are fighting each other to the death by fair means or foul – most often foul.
Courtesy pertains to self-sacrificial dying, as does the traditional notion of honour when honour is enacted in love. ‘Honour’ killing is therefore an evil distortion of the meaning of that word. Evil is always a distortion of the good and we are seeing quite a bit of distortion of the good in this election. Where lies and half lies masquerade as truth we have evil in the making. Where the worst in human nature is manipulated in a thinly disguised appeal for raw power, we have the raw material of corruption. But it is never too late for light to overcome even this particular darkness.
The sign of light overcoming darkness begins in what is known in scripture as ‘the scandal of the Cross’. The current US election has majored on scandal. Perhaps in the aftermath of this no-win situation, when the nation begins to heal from the damage it has done to itself, it will regret the passing of one who served it honourably in his leadership, and with unfailing courtesy.