... for a person with a modicum of social conscience to rise above the current bicker of political discourse?
For my own peace of mind, I know that this is what I should do. "Rise above" is perhaps not the best way to put it. "Stand aside from" might be better. Entanglement only leads a non-revolutionary like myself to despair. I despise the revolution that Donald Trump proposes--the America first-ism, the incessant saber-rattling, the deportation of Mexicans, the exclusion of Muslims, the denial of climate change... the list is endless. On the other side, whilst I agree with the ideals for which Bernie Sanders stands, I have grown weary of the (pretty much) monothematic utterances, the tone of bellicose outrage directed against anyone slightly less single-minded than himself, and his now senseless attacks on a political opponent who shares most of his goals but modifies them with what is to my mind a healthy dose of pragmatism.
Be it said: there is no moral equivalence between the hateful language we have heard--and not only from Trump--and the internecine bickering on the Democratic side. Nothing that Hillary or Bernie has said in the past few months comes close to the demagoguery, the jingoism and the mean-spiritedness that has characterized the Republican race for the White House. They have finally arrived at a "presumptive nominee" who perfectly reflects the basest of their base; and to realize that this man has a reasonable chance to become the next President of the United States should be as much of an embarrassment to the party as it is to the country.
Either way I look, though, I am distressed by what I see. There seems to be nothing but turmoil, anger, and indignantly-expressed antagonism. A sense of entitlement rules: so many of us seem to believe we deserve not only the expectation but the right to have everything exactly our own way. Tolerance is seen as weakness; compromise as capitulation. We pout, and threaten to take our toys home if there's even a suggestion that our every whim and demand might not be accommodated.
But here's the thing: I myself am attached to the outcome. I myself cannot bear the thought of a Donald Trump White House. I am appalled by the prospect of another Republican-dominated Congress--the more so if it is enabled in the pursuit of its goals by a Republican President. I dread the next appointment to the Supreme Court if it's to be made by a Republican. As I see it, the damage inflicted on this country and its democratic ideals in the past fifty years has become almost irreparable. To pursue the path we have been following is to invite a disaster of literally global proportions.
And yet... my political beliefs are the cause of nothing but suffering. The suffering is not merely mental distress, it is physical and emotional, too. It gnaws at the pit of my belly, throws my heart into a stew of conflicting emotions, and distracts the best intentions of my mind. I call upon all the resources amassed in twenty years of meditation practice and lessons learned from the dharma, but seem unable to relieve myself of the passionate belief in, and attachment to, one side of this national argument. Sitting in meditation and paying attention to nothing but the breath provides ground for a temporary truce. That's nice...
But then I return to the conflict, no better off than I was before. Does equanimity not depend to some extent on the equivalence of outcomes? So what's an aspiring Buddhist to do, when he sees no equivalence, but only a potentially dreadful outcome on one side--and something at least morally tolerable on the other? Join those who retreat from reality, and refuse to follow the news? Retire to an ashram? Keep breathing, and hope for the best?
You can see the conundrum...