I read the October issue of Envio, “the monthly magazine of analysis in Central America.” The lead story in it takes the Nicaraguan government to task for a litany of wrongs ranging from lack of transparency to outright fabrication of untruths, including the official release of a report which sought to convince the public that no less than a meteorite had been the cause of an enormous explosion in the capitol city of Managua. (This, despite lack of any corroboration by any scientific entity in the world.) In the view of the writers at Envio, what the government lacks in the way of transparency and public interest is more than made up by audacity and creativity. In the end, their plea is for the government to simply be honest and open about its actions and motives. Sound familiar?
Our own U.S. elections are now history (thankfully my phone will stop ringing quite so often) and in the latest edition the Republican party has attained a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The cheers among the party faithful are loud and long, as their expectations for a country headed in the “right direction” have been fueled once again. Now, they say, if we can just elect a Republican to the White House in two years, true peace and prosperity will finally be permitted to take hold in our country and we can all get on with the business of the pursuit of happiness.
I presume that we are to forget the anger and outright hostility directed toward the most recent Republican president as he left office a mere six years ago. Time apparently heals all wounds, even the ones that bring us to our economic knees.
Of course, the outgoing Democrats have proven little during their time in majority, even with a party member in the White House. They were able to pass a universal health insurance law which has become despised or mistrusted by over half the entire population, but they did pass the legislation.
Together, the Republican and Democrat legislators have forged a dysfunctional government in the U.S. that frustrates and sickens most of the electorate. What passes for governance today is little more than ideological warfare between the parties, and the good of the nation falls way down the list of priorities for both parties. Their number one objective is solely to be in authority, just as the Ortega family has practiced its own form of “power lust.”
In reality, perhaps it was ever thus. Maybe what the people of Nicaragua and the U.S. experience today is pretty close to what their respective governments have provided over the years (or in the case of Nica, at least since the demise of the Somoza regime). Our reliance upon our governments to significantly address the important issues of our day is misdirected, with little evidence to support the notion that any political party can effectively represent an ever-widening range of divergent interests and demands.
Well, if such is the case, where do we turn for hope in making our countries and our world better places? At the risk of over- simplification, I suggest that the answer may lie within us. We have the capacity to give in ways that governments cannot or will not. A starving person may respect the power and reach of The World Food Program, but he treasures even more the loaf of bread that he has just received. We all possess the power to strongly influence the niches of our lives, and in ways that we might never even recognize. Waiting for and relying upon the vagaries of institutional wisdom is often an exercise in disappointment and injustice. It is far more likely that the endowments that lie within each of us- compassion, generosity, healing and equity- are better suited for the task of remaking our world. Taking the government and its bureaucracies out of the equation leaves… just people. And I’d take my chances with each of them one-to-one any day.
I’m reminded of a cartoon which was given to me years ago, to help me put into perspective both the power and obligation I have as a steward of this world. In it, two creatures of the forest are having a conversation about the global state of affairs. One poses the idea that plagues us all from time to time. “Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering and injustice when He could do something about it.”
The companion responds with a challenge. “Well, why don’t you ask Him?”
“Because,” sighs the first, “I’m afraid that He would ask me the same question.”
I think it’s a bit the same when it comes to asking the question of our elected bodies.
We are perpetually torn in our earthly journey, it seems, between recognizing the wisdom and goodness of the human heart versus the easier pathway of allowing others to speak and act for us in ways that defy our better natures. My own search for answers has circled me back to myself, and a growing inclination to self-sufficiency in responding to the cries of the night….