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An Open Letter to Rabbi Michael Lerner Regarding Chris Hedges's Call for Public Apology to Ralph Nader

By Nozomi Hayase

Al-Jazeerah,, April 20, 2010

There recently was a heated exchange in the blog sphere in the context of Rabbi Lerner publishing an article by Chris Hedges, Ralph Nader Was Right About Barack Obama. I wrote this open letter in response to Rabbi Michael Lerner's article titled, Why I disagree with Hedges and Nader on Obama.

Dear Rabbi Lerner,

I read your letter responding to the article written by Chris Hedges. First of all I very much appreciate your passion and dedication to getting this country on a more humane and just track. 

As I read your letter, I experienced your strong commitment to the Democratic Party. I have some questions. I wonder if it is possible to look at what draws you to the Democratic Party. It seems being a member is an important piece of your identity. Could that be true? 

The larger question is, does party affiliation open doors to a more just governance? Can change really come from the Democratic Party, which is so undeniably corrupted with corporate money?  Is it possible to work together with people without having any association with parties and struggle under labels like progressive and conservative, Christian and Muslim, Sunni and Shiite, Democrats and Republicans etc? Or can we unite simply as people, creating something totally new, without corporate involvement? I feel that the real spirit of “spiritual progressives” is when we encourage each person to have integrity, an open mind, and see what is good for the country and the world, not depending on any system that may be antithetical to that. If the Democratic Party has so consistently demonstrated that they can no longer embody that or even support it, it is only logical to withdraw support. An even larger spiritual question is what does it mean to live a lie, when for example it is said that we live in a democracy, while the masses of money and the corporate actions of leaders in Washington indicate otherwise. 

I very much appreciate you giving voice to and engaging views that are different, like Hedges and Nader. But, their voices are almost completely marginalized and often by the Democratic Party, calling them pariahs, crazy, irrelevant etc. I personally suspect that Hedges’ words are liberating for those who are oppressed by the bigotry and hypocrisy of the Democrats and many of those who call themselves progressives. We may want to be careful judging emotions expressed in Hedges’ article as violent, non-spiritual etc. Think of all the movements for Women’s suffrage, Child labor laws, Civil Rights. They all had leaders that spoke out quite forcefully against injustice and the hypocrisy of people in power, whether Democrat or Republican. How is a strong condemnation of injustice not showing spiritual integrity?  I feel if someone who is truly committed to spiritual principles, instead of judging expression of other emotions, they will try to understand why people feel and act a certain way. 

Hedges quoted Dr. King in his article: “Anger at injustice, as Martin Luther King wrote, is the political expression of love”. I experienced what you call the angry tone of voice in Hedge's article as love. There is still such a thing as holy anger, as when Christ threw the money changers out of the temple. Perhaps it is time to throw the money changers out of the temple of our Democracy! It is hard to deny that the democrats and republicans are simply front organizations for those money-changers (Wall Street, war profiteers, etc.) 

I remember someone once said, “every judgment we make it is about ourselves”. It is a lesson that we all can learn from. I understand the logic of the star-fish story and I acknowledge that there is something good that Democrats do to help a few people. But I have to ask, what about the star fish that are not even visible to the American public, such as the ones over there on the Afghanistan/Pakistan beach where the democrat Obama hellfire missiles are blowing them up, or on the Main Street beach where the wall street Democrat and Republican sanctioned alligators are gobbling up the starfish by the millions? All this so we can save a few starfish on the gay and pro-choice beach? The majority of people are poor people, immigrants, oppressed living under the jackboot of world corporate dominance. In the US they are used when convenient then discarded or ignored by the party lines. What about those people? Who will stand up for them? 

I am puzzled by you seemingly unreasoned obsession toward Obama. After all, he did assemble an extremely corporate Wall Street cabinet in record time. Goldman Sachs it seems runs his financial policy. He is as much a robust war president as any other in recent history. It appears he knew what he was doing from the start. Do you think it is possible he lied to you when you talked to him and he was just placating you? I personally feel that real change happens when people stop talking about what Obama can do, should have done, and stop asking Obama to give us hope, but to realize power within our own (non-corporate human community) to create a world that we wish to live in. 

It is never politicians, whoever we elect, that bring changes. Only when each citizen counts themselves in can we actively make changes in lives of real hard working people. That is why I personally resonate with Ralph Nader, because he reminds me how voting for him is actually voting for myself. As Nader says, the function of leaders is to create more leaders. It is each citizen's duty to become a leader in a true democracy. 

The true fight is not between Democrats and Republicans, as this is as manufactured as the fight between Sunnis and Shiites. Yes, there are differences between the two parties which Nader even acknowledges. But we often fail to see what is common in us and also what is behind this divide. It is like a veil behind the curtain in a story of OZ. There are the same set of hands that control the two parties. The corporations flood both equally with rivers of cash and every time we engage in this political game we give power to those that control the rigged game. 

Cornell West said, “There is a price to pay for speaking the truth. There is a bigger price for living a lie”. I feel Hedges’ voice is at times for some painful to hear, but perhaps it may be more painful in the long run to live the lie.  We have to see clearly. The real battle now is between “We the People” and Corporations that are not even human. Only an anti-corporate party will make a difference, one that accepts no money from them, or a completely new approach that can effectively replace the whole system. We have to cultivate a sense to recognize each other’s humanness, despite different languages, disciplines, political and religious affiliations. Out of this sensing each other we can recognize and empower each other as “We the People” and unite together as people, not as party or corporate affiliates. We can self-organize, rather than being organized into a particular party, and mobilize spiritually, socially, economically and politically to replace a broken, dehumanizing system. 

I am very interested in the impulse to create a new party that you mentioned in your letter, as in a spiritual progressive party and how to work with frustrated Democrats who are wishing to leave amid the capitulation to endemic corruption. We must unite as “We the People”, and it does not matter what it is called. It is so important to walk with both eyes open, and call out lies and injustice enacted by the Democratic Party. They have betrayed the working class of this nation and the world, and attacked any efforts for a third party; blocking ballot access etc, excluding them from the debates, etc. The list goes on. Politics is here a dirty money game that has nothing to do with democracy. And the reason why I say this is if we don’t learn from mistakes, by deeply acknowledging them and becoming truly creative, we shall repeat them again and again. So it is not blame, but simply a way to hold each other accountable. 

I admire your effort and commitment in support of a spiritual progressive movement. I only want to voice how change does not actually happen in politics, amid the corrupt trappings of power, but it starts from deep inside. I hope that the Tikkun community will collaborate with people around the world with a shared commitment to throwing off the yoke of the corporate takeover of our ship of state. Hope doesn’t come from outside or from people imbedded in a system. It comes from ordinary people demanding justice and self-determination.


Nozomi Hayase

Berkeley, CA





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