Behind the Scenes in the First Presidential Debate of 2008

Each one of us will support the candidate we think best represents our values, who best reflects our world view and the promise of survival. Sadly, this includes our views on such non life-threatening issues as race, religion and sex.

Those of us who believe more in separation and competition (every man is an island, life is a contest to determine who wins and who loses) will support John McCain.

Those of us who believe more in oneness, separation and cooperation will support Barack Obama.

I added the word “more” in each statement because it brings each statement closer to reality. Our belief systems are dynamic and changing all the time. There are reasons for everything we do and when those reasons change, so do our belief systems.

Last night, September 26, 2008 on CNN, Barack Obama was considered the clear winner by every measure during and immediately after the debate. In the Political Analyst poll, he won by a score of 2 to 1 (44 to 22, after subtracting the negatives from the positives). In phone polls immediately after the debate, Obama came out on top. Today, the main stream media is beginning to spin the truth and say that McCain won because he sounded “stronger”. (Slate said, “Tie goes to Obama” and Newsweek said, “Win to McCain”.)

Closed is more like it. As McCain criticized Obama for his willingness to talk with opposition leaders, I couldn’t help but tie it to family life and relations. Giving people the silent treatment works, alright but it works against you, not for you! I know, I used it early in my marriage, and even with my young children. As far as I was concerned, it was my way or the highway. I was unwilling to consider anyone else’s needs or compromise. I wouldn’t say I was simply a spoiled child; just that I didn’t know any better. Does this sound familiar?

Another thing that bugged me last night was the way Republican and Democratic advisors tried to spin the results immediately after the debate, in an attempt to shift public opinion. An advisor to John McCain, Nicole Wallace, (still on CNN) tried to make it seem like McCain ran away with the debate. As I watched her spin a tale far from the reality of public opinion, I was dumbfounded. She reminded me of a talking doll with a string in back. Pull the string and you get a predetermined message that never changes, no matter what the circumstances. Like some hollow man, her response seemed devoid of all reason. To a lesser extent, you could say the same of Democratic advisor, Paul Begala, and Republican advisor, Bill Bennett, although they were more obvious about it, like they knew it was a joke and you were in on it.

I don’t know how people can do this! Many years ago I was chairman of the Parent- Teacher Committee at my children’s elementary school in San Francisco. One of our responsibilities was to select an architectural firm to build a replacement school. In the process of interviewing various firms, the liaison from the Redevelopment Agency and I became friends. We’d go out to lunch together and once he even asked me to attend a community meeting with him in another part of the city. The next time we had lunch, he asked me if I wanted a job with the Redevelopment Agency. He knew I had a college degree but was currently staying home to take care of the kids while my wife worked.

As we sat in his car after lunch, he told me I had paid my dues and it was time to get my reward. He then offered me an Executive Assistant job at the Redevelopment Agency that sounded interesting, although I did wonder if I was qualified and could be effective at it. In exchange, he went on, “All you have to do is support my agenda.” As this statement sank in, I felt a gigantic invisible snail crawl over me, depositing slime in every crack and crevice of my body. What?, I quickly responded, You’ve got to be kidding; I can’t ignore my own conscience! If I can’t be my own person, I don’t want the job! I then shared my snail story with him. I don’t know if he was embarrassed or angry but he started the car and took me home in silence, and that was the last time I ever saw him.

The point is, can we trust ourselves and one another if we divorce ourselves from our feelings? I look at feelings as part of a democratic process. For me, they represent the collective reaction of my entire body and everything beyond it. If we don’t listen to them, we do so at our own peril. Some people think a disconnection between thought and feeling as sociopathic. Can we afford to let sociopaths make decisions that affect all of us?

Likewise, can we trust people who believe in separation and competition to make sound judgments regarding issues that affect all of us? If you strongly believed that we’re all separate and life is a matter of survival of the fittest, would you go into public service or become a corporate executive to do what’s best for mankind or just yourself? I think the answer is clear. You’d go into public service and climb the corporate ladder to secure your own future, not that of the public. When we believe in separation and competition as a function of survival, we’re going to look out for our own best interest, not that of other people beyond what it takes to keep our job.

The danger of this negative or limited world view lies, not only in the divorce of thought from feeling, but in the addictive power of money, power and privilege. When all we ask ourselves is, “What’s going to work best for me?”, we set ourselves off on a path of conflict and, ultimately, self-destruction. Like electrons in a poor conductor, when we all move in different directions, we inevitably crash into each, canceling out each other’s momentum. Consequently, there is no net gain or work. Fortunately, many of us believe in oneness, separation and cooperation; otherwise, chaos would rule and coherent, or intelligent, life could not exist. Unfortunately, many of us do strongly believe in separation and competition and, as a result, we have a large number of money, power and privilege junkies running business and government who make decisions that affect everyone’s lives.

Driven by fear and greed, we become overachievers who stop at nothing to accomplish our goals and prove to the world, we’re somebody. We don’t recognize we’re someone already and that there’s nothing we have to do to prove it. If we could regularly quiet in our minds and let our feelings flow naturally, we’d see how amazing we are and how our thoughts, feelings and expectations form our reality.

(Competition works best when it’s kept internal. In other words, when we only compete against ourselves and try to do better today than we did yesterday? When we place our value system outside and start comparing ourselves to one another, cooperation begins to break down. The result is hurt feelings, conflict and exploitation.)

After the debate, we watched the Bill Maher show. Besides Ralph Nader and actor, Tim Daly, he had Political  Commentator and Republican, Lisa Schiffren, on his panel of guests. She  talked about how smart the Secretary of the Treasury, and former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Henry Paulson, is and how we should trust him to know what’s best for us in solving the current financial bailout of Wall Street. Hogwash, there’s a huge difference between cleverness and wisdom! It’s one thing to excel in math or English, limited fields of experience, and it’s another thing to see how ALL things are connected and interdependent. Make a change here and a change happens over there. We need to be good at seeing the big picture as well as the small ones to maximize our survivability as individuals and a country. Most of us don’t know what Henry Paulson’s personal philosophy is, therefore, it behooves us to pay attention and exercise control over this bailout process, up to and including, nationalization of the Federal Reserve. We can’t let people with self-centered and self-serving intentions shape the future for all of us. Wake up, America! Wake up, World!

Final Note

What would the world be like if, instead or competing for money, power and privilege, we cared more about becoming better people and creating a better world? What would the world be like if, instead of asking, “What’s going to work best for me?”, we asked, What’s going to work best for ALL of us, in personal terms, and in terms of business, education, the environment and peace? We need to value both our oneness and individuality, both our inner selves and outer selves to have the balance and wisdom we need to survive. By working together in cooperation, instead of competition, there are no limits to what we can create.

What do you think?


We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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Nature can Survive

Why We Need Barack Obama

America has lost its balance, but we have an amazing, unique opportunity to restore that balance on November 4, 2008.

 If you want your children and grandchildren to inherit a world of war, elect John McCain.

 If you want to watch this planet lose its environmental and ecological balance through global warming, disruption of ecosystems, disregard for endangered species (and the list goes on), vote for John McCain.

 If you want to see a continuation of a dishonest, self-serving and criminal government, vote for John McCain.

 If you want to continue the global fight for oil, instead of embracing new and greener types of energy, vote for John McCain.

 If you want to pay for war and corporate greed with your hard-earned money, vote for John McCain.

 If you want to see more unemployment, poverty, homelessness and loss of personal freedoms, vote for John McCain.

 If, on the other hand, you want to change the above, vote for Barack Obama!

 If you think Obama’s head is in the clouds, look again; he also has two feet on the ground.

Sandra Peterson