For those of you who voted for Kerry, we must look deeply to see the Kerry elements in Bush. In this long and difficult campaign, Bush has learned many things from Kerry and those who voted for him. They share what in my tradition we call interbeing. If there had been no election, Bush wouldn't have questioned his positions or his approach. He would have been able to assume that his way is best. But he almost lost the election, and he is aware that at least half of the American people don't believe in him. Now, because he almost lost, he is more humble and must realize that if he doesn't listen to the other half of the American people, there will be a big disturbance in the country. So we have to see that now all of us are in him. Those of you who didn't vote for him are in him, are a part of him after this very close presidential race.
We have to help our government so that a president elected by 51 percent of the population will not serve just that 51 percent but the whole country. We need to keep speaking out, daily letting our government know what we want, expressing our insight and understanding. We need to be very present, very firm and constantly let the government know we are here. We can support them in our own way, through being present, calm, lucid, and compassionate. Being compassionate doesn't mean we surrender and give up. It means we see clearly that our country, our government is us and it needs our help. Compassion means acting with courage and deep love to help manifest what we know our country is capable of.
Historically it has happened that the agenda of the left has been realized by the right. We have to speak out and keep speaking out, and it is possible that the Republicans will accomplish what the Democrats, what the left, had hoped to realize had they won. We also need to remember that even if Kerry had been elected, he would also have had to partly realize the wish of those who voted for Bush, and it is not sure that he would have been able to stop the war in Iraq.
Nothing is lost because we are in President Bush. There is a loss only if we respond with anger and despair. We have to continue on, to continue our practice, and remain strong in our role as bodhisattvas helping the other half of our country by our firm, clear, and compassionate action for peace—the kind of peace in which both sides win because it is based on mutual understanding.Thich Nhat Hanh is an author and teacher of Buddhism and nonviolence. Reprinted with permission from Plum Village Meditation Center, France.