Photo by NASA
I've spent the last two weeks trying to come up with something useful to say about the presidential election. It's been difficult. I want to honor everyone's perspective and experience, but I'm also very clear about who the right choice is.
I strongly endorse Hillary Clinton for president. I think she is capable, brilliant, and experienced. Whatever her flaws, and she has many, she's someone who has dedicated her life to public service. She wants to help others.
Her opponent, Donald Trump, is cruel, selfish, and deeply self-centered. I don't say this from a place of judgement—I share many of Mr. Trump’s defects of character. Indeed, most of us do. But he doesn't know how to be decent, kind, or recognize the humanity of other people, and has no business being our leader.
Mr. Trump’s appeal is his willingness to destroy the status quo. People know that he is dangerous, but they also know he would bring about a great deal of change. For many of us who are unhappy with our lives, that change is seductive in a way that Secretary Clinton’s promise of competent, stable leadership is not.
There’s a reason that burning it all down is attractive. In order to get free and find peace and happiness, that’s exactly what we need to do. People are right to want that. But what we need to burn away is inside ourselves, in our minds. What we need to burn away is everything that keeps us from seeing the truth about the universe and ourselves. We need a healing fire, not a hurtful one.
The fuel for that fire is practicing honesty, service and compassion.
So many of us get caught in the trap of thinking that if something outside of us changes, we will become happy. “If I get a new job, or a new car or a new president,” we think, “then I’ll be okay.” In fact, that very thinking is what keeps us suffering in the first place, because it means we’re always one change away from being where we want to be. What happiness we do reach from getting what we want never lasts, and we’re left wanting something new.
In other words, we ask too much of our presidential candidates when we expect them to really better our lives and our country and our earth. It’s not up to them—it’s up to each of us. Government and politicians can help improve society, of course, but relying on them to make us happy or even okay gives away the tremendous power we all have within ourselves.
Neither Secretary Clinton nor Mr. Trump can save us. Only we can. Each of us is responsible for our own awakening. Only we can make peace with ourselves, and in doing so, heal the world around us.
Rather than asking our politicians to make America great, we need to take responsibility and do it ourselves. We can each make America and the world greater through our own small actions. We do so every time we tell the truth, let go, serve others, and act with kindness and love.
We are so much more than we think we are.
On November 8th, I suggest voting for Secretary Clinton. If you have strong principles that keep you from doing so, Gary Johnson is a former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico who has a deep commitment to conservative ideas and individual liberties. Either of those candidates is a reasonable choice.
But whomever you vote for, remember this: it’s not up to them to change our lives and set us free. It’s up to each one of us.
Ian is a writer and the founder and editor of Open Heart Beginner's Mind.