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TRAMONTANE/ Julius Lester Working on Counterpoisons Hannah Arendt wrote once that, “Openness to others is the precondition for ‘humanity’ in every sense of the word.” If the election of 1980 portends anything, it is the death of the precondition to be human. It is not frightening that America has taken a turn to the political right. The country has seldom been anything but conservative, and a period like the Sixties was abnormal in American history. All nations are, by nature, conservative regardless of ideology, and that is as it should be. America has not moved to the right as much as it has simply reasserted the conservatism which was always there. In this election, however, America moved to be Right, and that is what frightens. Moral Majority, Christians for Reagan, and other such groups proclaimed what is Right by adroitly, shamelessly and obscenely invoking God as a supporter of increased defense spending, anti-abortion federal judges, and prayer in the schools. A vote for Reagan was tantamount to a vote for Baby Jesus. When Reagan takes the oath of office on January 20, Christian morality will be enthroned as the law of the land. Reagan said as much this past summer when he spoke in Texas to a large gathering of Christian fundamentalists and said that he could not ask them to endorse him, but wanted them to know that, “I endorse you.” Reagan said as much when he commented that he was not certain that the Biblical story of creation should not be taught in the schools instead of, or at least along with, theories of evolution. In Reagan’s overwhelming victory, the electorate chose, clearly and decisively, not to mature. And perhaps the best description of what it means to be mature came from the Cistercian monk, Thomas Merton, who wrote that maturity “does not consist in the ability to give a final solution to everything.” Rather, it comes by accepting “our place and our way in the midst of persons and things, in a historical situation, that we do not have to completely understand.” What Reagan offered and what the electorate so desperately needed was to believe that there is a solution to everything, and that “our way in the midst of persons and things” is only clear when we understand and are in control. Out of frustration and fear, the electorate chose to be Right instead of To Be. They chose a morality they believe to be divinely sanctioned, and now I understand the symbolic meaning of the Americans being held hostage in Iran. In this election, America became hostage to the same politico-religious madness rampant in Iran. Ayatollahs come in many guises, but when Reagan ended his acceptance speech at the Republican convention with the words, “Let us begin our crusade,” and then bowed his head in silent prayer, he was invoking God’s approval as Khomeini invokes that of Allah. This is not maturity, nor is it the precondition for humanity, but rather, the precondition for an Inquisition which will make the McCarthy period the object of nostalgia. Maturity and openness to others is the indispensable precondition for humanity because such openness respects the integrity of others. The present onslaught of Christian political morality and self-righteousness inherently violates the integrity of others because it is closed against any and all who define what it means to be human in any way which is not deemed Christian. There are many of us who have always been Outsiders by virtue of race, sex, political beliefs, life styles and religion. The ‘ time has come when we will bear our Otherness with pain. Not only has the majority of the electorate drawn a firm line between us and them, they will seek to punish us, because we are open to risk and change, to the unknown, to our fears and seek to accept “our place and our way,” even when we do not understand ourselves and our way. But they have no such problems, because God is on their side and people who believe that must commit evil, because it is evil to believe that God is on your side. So, Armaggedon has come. It is a fearful time and no one knows yet what to do. Perhaps it is enough for now to remember the words from Anais Nin’s journal: “I will not indulge in impotent, passive despair. I will not add to the despair of the world: I am working on counterpoisons.” In an era like that on which we are embarking, it is a counterpoison to passionately affirm the integrity , of the human soul. The soul is not Christian, just as God is not a Christian. The soul is not the property of the Republican Party, Moral Majority or fundamentalist Christians. Perhaps the first act of resistance in these times is simply to know that an attempt was made to take our humanity hostage on November 4, 1980, and we care too deeply, about ourselves and all humanity, to give into despair or to capitulate, regardless of the consequences. We are working on counterpoisons. Advance.. . from page 2 in the streets and in their beds and although President Reagan was unfamiliar with race problems in his golden youth he’ll be up to his incisors in them the next hot summer. A second civil war is in the offing. It will not be regional, although the South may again be a major theater, but it will divide us father and son, mother and daughter, friend and friend. Great issues are about to be won or lost. What is the proper response? To determine it, one must get at the heart of the Reagan message. The Chinese news agency interpreted the election as a manifestation of the frustration of the American people with their government. That is correct. But it goes further. Reagan ran on a platform promising to get the government “off the backs of the people,” a phrase he probably borrowed from “liberal” Supreme Court Justice William 0. Douglas. In effect, Reagan is pitting the people against their government, a classic “conservative” position, and one which always works 16 NOVEMBER 28, 1980 against the people because it leaves out a crucial third element, economic power. Economic power, when not in the hands of the government, tends to become concentrated in an oligarchy which gets smaller and richer all the time. It is neither the government nor the people. Reagan represents this third force and his election is a wedge made by that force between the people and the instrument of their self-help, their government. The government is the people. The trick is not to fear the government but to make it work. Governments are infinitely malleable they can become whatever we make them. Or they , can become whatever we allow others to make them. The New Right would like to make government a protector of the corporations, the wealthy, the white, and those who can screw their lives into a certain pencil box mind-set. The tragedy of the Reagan sweep was that this fear, a manufactured fear, won. The fear has been manufactured by an economic elite which, hating government the way wolves hate shepherds, for at least half a century has been willing to resort to religion, public school educational propaganda and outright deception to