My Turn: ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ to a new political season

For the Monitor
Published: 11/22/2020 6:11:13 AM
Modified: 11/22/2020 6:10:58 AM

While many of us had hoped that by the time the major news outlets had certified the winners of our presidential election, and the normal outpourings of euphoria and grief had taken place, that our nation’s political polarization would have begun to subside.

Many of us hoped, in spite of the president’s protestations, that somehow movement toward reconciliation would have begun, and an end to our country’s dysfunctional, debilitating, and conflict-ridden governance would be in sight.

As our post-election hope-filled days continue to unfold, the depth of the resistance to change and accommodation is becoming ever the more apparent, along with the fear that a new state of dysfunction and conflict may be emerging.

When seeking an answer as to why this dysfunctionality has so plagued our governance, my elemental mind reconnected me to one of my favorite songs. Written and first recorded by Pete Seeger in 1959, and then made famous by The Byrds in 1965, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” represents one of the few moments in American pop music history where a song consisting largely of lyrics taken directly from the Bible reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts. Written over 2,000 years ago, the lyrics of note come from Ecclesiastes 3:1–8:

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

This remarkably enduring Bible passage seems to suggest that the source of our dysfunctional, debilitating, and conflict-ridden governance may be the natural byproduct of our immersion in a particularly challenging life (using the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) “season.”

Both our life experience and biblical wisdom suggests that this particularly difficult “season” may include, “a time to tear down,” “a time to hate,” “a time for war,” “a time to speak,” “a time to throw away,” and “a time to refrain from embracing.” Paradoxically, this stressful “season” may be painful, unwelcome, and limiting for some, while needed, agreeable, and freeing to others (and ultimately, may offer unique benefits to all).

Furthermore, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reminds us that life need not be fully defined by any particular “season.” (As Ecclesiastes suggests, “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”)

As humans, we are blessed with will, and have the ability to make choices other than “tearing, hating, releasing, speaking, discarding, and warring” (and to even act in ways to extinguish the darkness that many of us are immersed in). Thus, if we so choose, we can enter a “season” where we embrace “a time to heal,” “a time to build,” “a time to mend,” “a time to love,” and “a time for peace.” (I don’t know about you, but in our ordinary lives, which includes “a time to die,” I would personally prefer to finish that final “season” with a semblance of love and peace!)

Diverse wisdom traditions further implore us to recognize that unique amongst the most powerful of all “seasons” are those that in some way embrace love.

Buddha teaches that, “hatred does not cease through hatred at any time... Hatred ceases through love.” In Judaism, the Torah teaches that one must, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Rumi, through his use of mystical Islamic (Sufi) teachings asserts, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” In “First Corinthians, 13:13, we are fervently counseled to remember: “And now these three remain, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Thus, we are taught that it is through compassion, empathy, and love that we, unified as a species, in a politically disunified nation and world, may gain the power and confidence to move away from those behaviors that give strength to the “seasons” of “hate,” “tearing others down,” “giving up,” and “refraining from embracing.” It is through acts that focus on “a time to love” that we, as a species, have the potential to create a new, and some may argue desperately needed, kinder and more loving season under heaven.

In closing, consider what you need to do, personally and professionally today, to create your own kinder and more loving season under heaven (and consider committing yourself toward enacting that choice today, and choosing an additional task to enact for each tomorrow).

Ultimately, the choices you make are consequential, and will affect the quality of your life and the lives of others. As is observed in Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, this turbulent “season” in our history is one that may be offering us “a time to be born” (again), as a nation and as individuals, so it would behoove us to make thoughtful, heartfelt, and wise choices, as the stakes (for each of us, those we love, and our nation) have rarely ever been higher.

(Michael L. Fischler of Holderness is professor emeritus in the Department of Counselor Education and School Psychology at Plymouth State University and is a recipient of the university’s Distinguished Graduate Teacher Award. He founded the university’s Counseling and Human Relations Center, which he directed for 40 years. His teaching and research interests include cultural diversity, psychological counseling, multicultural education, and developing methodologies to reduce prejudice and discrimination throughout our world.)

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