America, there is a giant elephant in our living room. It is fear. It takes the form of racism, sexism, lying, cheating, name-calling, rumor and innuendo mongering. It's ugly and it does not become us. As the presidential elections draw nearer, I find my inbox bombarded with sleazy attacks on the presidential candidates by those who identify themselves as the “opposite”.

Labels of left, right, conservative, liberal, democrat, republican, middle of the road are for those who can't think independently. Labels are for lemmings; and everyone has the capacity to think and feel the correctness, truth and quality of a person and his/her message.

But once someone identifies themselves as "liberal" or "Republican", someone stops listening altogether. Nary another word they have to say is given any listen by the closed mind and locked heart caused by fear. This is what I see happening in my inbox. Friends and family send these political missives; the latest one today was from a friend in Virginia. The e-mail was a compilation of the best bumper stickers - all of which were defaming Obama and the Democrats. As I read them, I realized that people who create this kind of “information” are afraid. Only fear can make people attack others.

The presidential race ought to be all about the issues; rather fear reduces it to slurs, rumor and innuendo. Another friend forwarded to me an e-mail that was reportedly written by a soldier in Afghanistan recounting that Obama had snubbed the troops on his recent world trip. This e-mail is not verifiable: it cannot be traced back to the author’s original e-mail address but just gets forwarded on, like it's Gospel truth...out of fear.

I trust that Americans can figure out for themselves what is Truth and not; but the key to this is that you have to come to the table with an open mind and an open heart. You have to come to the debate with the attitude, "Tell me who you are." You can't come to the table with fear that obscure you from ever hearing what they have to say, let alone giving yourself the opportunity to FEEL the truth or experience their beauty.

Fear is irrational. It has no reason; it simply lurks within a heart and obliterates the Light. Fear is why we are at war. Fear is why we fight with each other. Fear is why we are sick. Fear is why people pass on information that is without verifiable truth, because it supports your fear, which is basically lack. You believe that your good will be at the expense of “their” good. This is categorically a lie. My good is not at the expense of yours. There is enough, plenty, for everyone.

If you want a safer, better, and happier America, then each of us needs to take a good hard and honest look at who we are as individuals, first.

No one need know what goes on in this conversation between you and YOU. But we each had better have that private and intimate conversation with our self. Because it is we, the people, that make up this country. You, me, and all the John and Jane Doe's across these 50 states. However much fear and hatred that we harbor in our hearts, that is what we are going to experience as a country in this world.

It's time for some individual house keeping. I challenge you to have that conversation with yourself. Come to terms with the fact that you are afraid of those of different colors, different creeds, and different ideas. Now, I challenge you to love them. I challenge you to listen with an open mind and open heart.

This is no airy fairy exercise, my friends. This country is only as good as the people who comprise it. If you love America, but clearly hate certain Americans, how can this Nation stand? It won't. It will crumble from within; and it won't take any foreign enemy to bury us.

This country is advanced citizenship. It takes clear hearts and clear minds to deal with serious problems. To be a citizen of America means you must defend the right of someone to voice their opinion about something you would spend your life trying to defeat. It means you will disagree with that person vehemently on the issue; but you will respect that person as an equal citizen and a worthy being. This is not an oxymoron. You can disagree with someone and still respect them and their right to their opinion. If you respect their right to their opinion, you will not defame, slur or disrespect someone by making a policy opinion into a personal slur. That is spiritual immaturity. We are called to become spiritual adults, now.

It's time to grow up America. We can conduct healthy, spirited debates and actually learn from each other. Only fear closes our ears to what someone has to say. It costs us nothing to listen, not just with our minds, but also with our hearts. Times are changing, as they always do. It just feels so much better when you listen with your heart open, even to something you don't like. It's the idea you disagree with; the person is just like you: God having a physical adventure.

We have a duty as Americans to be very good stewards of democracy. Democracy is a place where everything, every idea, every people get to be here, much like the books in a library. The books in the library sit side by side offering their unique and individual thoughts for those who wish to read them. Those books don't hop off the shelf at night and duke it out. So it is in this wonderful and promising place, America. It all gets to be here. It takes advanced citizenship and spiritual maturity to fully grasp what this really means and how great a challenge this is to each of us every day of our lives.

We have nothing to fear, except fear; because fear will undermine us and crumble us from the inside out.

Next time you see someone whose political views you think you hate, try this: take a deep breath. Acknowledge that he/she is a unique individual with unique things to say, just like you. Acknowledge that you might be afraid of some of the things they might offer. Now, listen to them with your full attention and respect. Breathe in again, and now breathe out. Can you realize that you are in no way diminished because they have that idea? You can thank them for sharing. You can chew over what they had to say. You can discard all of it; some of it; or, surprise, none of it. Nothing bad is going to happen just because you listened with an open mind and an open heart. The only time something bad can happen is when you fear it; then, my friend, you will attract it.

This Universe can supply every one's needs at the same time. There's enough for everyone. America is the place on Earth where we are either going to learn to do that in the physical as a Nation; or we will go the way of all the other civilizations that came before us.

We can trust in the Good in each of us. Speak to that. Listen to that.

Everyone is God at center. America is the great experiment. Can we learn to live with all those different Gods in the same place and know that each of our Good is always at play?

I say we can. This is applied spirituality in action; this is spiritual maturity.