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Reflecting on the president’s state of emergency

By Staff | Feb 21, 2019

This month I would like to share with you my own soul searching about my role as a citizen in a democracy that is now under real threat to its existence. When conservative mouthpiece Ann Coulter says that the only state of emergency in America is that the president is an idiot, you know we’re in trouble! I do not really feel we are likely to go out of existence. I do, however, feel a sense of threat and a summons to be more vigilant than I might otherwise be. The question is: what does this involve or, as the Buddhists would say, “What is right action?”

Barack Obama has said in many recent speeches that democracy is a fragile thing that requires the constant attention of all of us. Bernie Sanders implores households to make politics the standard fare of dinner table conversation (try that some Thanksgiving!). Staying on the sidelines seems to be fading out as an option.

So, I reflect on what I myself should do. All my life I have advised people to confine themselves to those issues that seem to have their name on them. In the face of overwhelming choices, what can I reasonably expect of myself? What do I feel called to?

Right now, I feel called to address the way trees are treated here in Jefferson County. Have you noticed the ragged edges of tree branches, along the roadsides, after the county trucks have come through and ripped their limbs/arms off? It causes me heartache whenever I see it, or even think about it. I marvel at my own ignorance when I note that I do not even know which agency of county government is in charge of tree care (read the novel, “The Overstory,” by Richard Powers).

I have been meaning to do something about this for many months, but have allowed the urgency of all my other responsibilities to keep me from it. Like the rest of you, I need income to keep things afloat. Besides that, our house and grounds need constant attention. Then there is the question of being faithful to my path of destiny. I have always felt called to put my psychospiritual growth first and then to help others with theirs. If I spend time on democracy, does it have to be at the expense of neglecting my personal sense of purpose for being on this planet? Probably not, but then how does one go about managing it all?

Finally, and this is the most disturbing part of this whole rumination – I just really don’t want to be bothered! My own pursuits, such as writing this column, the warmth of the fire place in our den and the delightful company of my dear wife, Linda, lure me back to my comfort zone.

Of course, I do some things. I vote, which is the basic obligation of a citizen. I keep abreast of the issues via CNN, Comcast, Colbert and Meet the Press. I also sign numerous online petitions. Last summer and fall I knocked on doors for Talley Sergent for Congress, which was appealing because I knew it would end at a certain time.

So, my questions to myself are these: What is required of me? What is enough? And what is too much? Do you ask yourself these same questions?

Bill O’Brien is a consciousness coach and shamanic practitioner. He and his wife Linda have lived in Shepherdstown since 2005. He can be reached at billobrienconsciousnesscoach@gmail.com.