Ruth Rudner
Ruth Rudner



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I used to care about politics.  For all my life in Montana, I felt committed to one candidate or another.  I sent money.  I wrote an occasional op-ed piece.  I attended sessions of the state legislature when issues of interest to me were up for discussion.  I went to hearings.  I believed that what I thought, and how I voted, mattered.   

New Mexico is a different story.  I was willing to leave Montana for New Mexico because its diversity appealed to me – an ancient and deeply present Indian culture, the overlay of Hispanic culture, the Johnny-come-lately arrival of Anglos.  There are much larger African-American and Jewish populations than exist in Montana.  (The Jewish population includes – to the extent they wish to be included—descendants of the crypto-Jews, people outwardly converting to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition, then emigrating to Mexico and what is now New Mexico as a further safeguard against the Inquisitors.  Some of these people – often to their great surprise -- have been discovering their Jewish roots ever since.) 

What did not occur to me in my fascination with the diversity was how complicated New Mexico politics would be.  

Corruption is the usual main story on the pages of the Albuquerque Journal. There is cronyism on every level; an elemental disorder attending ethics, education, health, law, energy, and virtually every other segment of public policy (it has made some environmental strides).  My response has been to ignore how the state works.  It’s New Mexico.    It works as it works.  The same way it has always worked.  The conscientious, ethical public servants who certainly exist in the state don’t  get much press.

Finding the idea of politics in New Mexico disheartening, it was easy to focus instead on the magnificence of its nature and the glorious multiplicity of its art. 

Until recently.   David and I attended a fund-raiser for Lawrence Rael, a life-long New Mexican whose entire career has been in non-elective public service.  Rael is running for Lieutenant Governor.  Invited to the event by our intellectual rights attorney, we attended in support of her.  We came away supporting him. 

We had already read his quite extraordinary background.  What we got from the time we spent with him was the person.  And politics – I remembered in his presence – is people.

People are why politics matter.  People are why it is worthwhile to keep wading through the divisiveness and polarization that currently stand for politics, but are, in fact, simply excuses for doing nothing.      

Meanwhile, in my yoga-meditation class, we are discussing compassion.  For compassion to be real, it must extend beyond the people we care about to those we find it difficult to love.  Only by viewing all people (this includes, but is not limited to, drunk drivers, murderers, rapists, religious fanatics, terrorists, con artists and political idiots) with compassion can change happen. “Be the change you want to see” is a cliché, but – like all clichés – comes out of truth.  (I could, for instance, start here by not calling people “political idiots,” which is, perhaps, not a compassionate term.) 

We see the power of the social networks to move one person’s idea into the minds of thousands.  Even when the idea is not yet fully integrated into the minds and hearts of those thousands, it can explode outward, resonating in ever expanding waves.  While a true compassion is a deep and permanent expression of humanity, rather than something we can just throw over ourselves and call truth, those expanding waves of an idea have a power to make many of us think. 

It is a start.

For me, what has happened in this combination of meeting a good man with political ambitions, and attempting to enter a compassionate relationship to the world, is a kind of awakening.  This is no chance juxtaposition.  But then, nothing is by chance.

Copyright © 2010 Ruth Rudner