essays on suffering and awakening

A little more faith in each other

Like many Americans, I think Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren would be a good choice to be the next president of the United States. When I talk with people about her, though, I often hear a similar refrain.

“I like her a lot, personally,” I’ve heard more than one person say. “But I don’t know if she’s electable.”

If the California primary were today, I might well pull the lever for Senator Warren, myself. But I’m less interested in advocating for any particular political candidate than in what our doubts about her electability say about us.

Specifically, that we could probably all do with having a little more faith in each other.

Many who like Warren find her appealing because she’s smart, principled, decent, and seems like she cares. Those strike me as qualities we should look for in anyone seeking elected office. Putting aside sincere differences in political beliefs, wouldn’t anyone want leaders who could be described in such terms?

We ourselves would, right? So when we convince ourselves that a candidate we personally admire is unelectable, what we’re often really saying is: we don’t quite trust each other to have a working sense of decency.

Whether because we think our favorite candidate is too radical, too moderate, or just doesn’t really look the part, we’re telling ourselves that while we’re clear-headed enough to see the content of a person’s character, we don’t think most others are.

Painful as the last presidential election was for so many of us, I’m certainly sympathetic to that point of view. But if we’re going to move forward into a more peaceful, kind society, we need to practice trusting each other—at the ballot box and in our daily lives.

Suspicious minds don’t tend to lead to reconciliation. Someone has to take that first leap of faith—and the second, third, and fourth.

We can start by asking: if we ourselves care about decency and compassion, why would our fellows be any different? Rather than aiming for the lowest common denominator, why can’t we embody those qualities as best we can and give each other room to do the same?

When it comes to bringing out the best in each other, often we just need a little leadership. There, no matter who sits in the White House, we each have the opportunity to step up.

Ian Cooper