The word “transcendent” seems to be cropping up a lot these days in the political debate. Senator McCain, speaking in Vermont today, said “we face a transcendent threat from Islamic extremist.” Former presidential candidate, Gary Hart, blogging on Huffington Post recently, wrote “I see Barack Obama as a leader for this transcendent moment, the agent of transformation in an age of revolution…” Two very differing views, each using the same adjective; together they highlight a profound divergence of perspective in American thinking.
TV’s talking heads have been having fun analyzing who is voting for whom in the primaries. The electorate has been thoroughly sliced, diced and dissected (political punditry meets CSI Miami). I believe there is a more fundamental division in the voters which crosses every racial and social boundary, and is evidenced in the McCain’s and Hart’s words: There are those who fear and those who hope.
Senator McCain, who obviously appeals to those in the first category, wants us to be very scared (especially of those dang terrorists). He is prolonging the message of President Bush. Senator Clinton (and Bill), in urging us to choose “experience” and established political protocol (ie. “now it’s my turn”), are saying, ‘be afraid of too much change and innovation’. You are safer with us, is the implication. We are tried and tested (yes, but did they pass?) Obama, on the other hand, is the prophet of hope. He is the future envisioned and embodied, while his opponents seem to be the past remembered (and embalmed!) Supporters of Obama believe that America can radically change, and for the better. They are ready for something new, beyond today’s imperfections. Their hope seems based on inner conviction. Let’s call it a heart thing. Those who favor McCain (and to a lesser extent Clinton), appear more afraid to take that leap forward, preferring instead to dwell in the safety of the familiar. Their choice seems more from the head, rational and logical, but tentative. And is it enough?
I think Gary Hart is right. America is experiencing a transcendent moment of great importance, which requires bold and innovative action. His use of the “T” word is correct (McCain, however, misuses the term. There is nothing subtle or profound about terrorism, nor his use of it to propagate further fear). The literal meaning of transcendent is “climbing or going beyond.” In spiritual and philosophical terms it means reaching beyond the level of material existence through meditation, prayer or contemplation to a deeper, more profound level of life. There is a huge transformation happening in America and it is coming from within. It’s a change in consciousness, not political opinion. It transcends the field of politics. Real transformation in a nation does not come from political platforms; it comes from a spiritual renewal in the soul of its people. The emergence of a political phenomenon such as Obama is a remarkable event which augurs well for the future of this country. His message of unity, hope and optimism indicates a transcendental shift in the national consciousness, a desire to break out of limitations and the mistakes of the past and create a positive future. Let’s hope the seeds of transformation he is planting are allowed to blossom into the flowers of reality.