Revising Bernie Sanders’s Concession Speech

The excerpt for this Revision is taken from Senator Bernie Sanders’s concession speech given from his home in Burlington, Vermont via live stream on April 8, 2020.

BERNIE SANDERS: Together we have transformed American consciousness as to what kind of nation we can become, and have taken this country a major step forward in the never-ending struggle for economic justice, social justice, racial justice, and environmental justice.

Michael Richardson-Borne: There is no such thing as “American consciousness,” there is only American mind. Consciousness cannot be transformed. That which is both the story and the story’s visibility is an immovable structure that allows trappings like “American” to have a place to rest. The structure is permanent, the trappings can be maneuvered while ignoring the structure. Ignoring the structure must be the case if you are to take phrases like “American consciousness” seriously.

As I sit here right now, the best way I can describe what I’m pointing to is “stillness as movement.” That sounds like a contradiction, I know. But as you move from personal experience to impersonal experience to impersonal existence, you will notice the stillness under the frenetic and then move on to become the life inside the stillness and the frenetic as existence itself. It’s mastering this progression that reveals what I’m talking about. It’s what I call taking The Path of Non-separation.

It can be difficult to put this progression into terms that are more scientific and less poetic. That said, I consider The Path of Non-separation scientific to the bone. The experiences are as distinct and definable as a neurotransmitter and synapse. They are “flat” scientific happenings, as tangible as experiencing your knee jump when a doctor tests your reflexes.

It isn’t difficult for you to locate your personal experience – what you call American consciousness reveals this. Being American and having an American consciousness is unquestioned by all citizens of the US and allows you to speak in terms such as this without people batting an eye. You are interpreted by your proponents as having great clarity in regard to changing the outcomes of a flawed system whereas I see someone who has great confusion about how a separative system is created and what it takes to transform, rather than translate, it.

You share the assumption that all Americans share – the belief in a Separate Self that accepts the label “American” as a definition for the totality of its experience. When the totality of personal experience is American, it seems like the totality of a personal consciousness is American – which is a case of mistaken identity and a self-imposed limitation of consciousness. This mistake is the true American dilemma – a mistake made by citizens who create both the right and wrong sides of history.

Right now, your political movement isn’t about uncovering identity confusion, it’s about championing a claim of identity clarity while under the influence of confusion. It’s just another voice in what I call the Culture of Separation. Instead of internal realization that reckons with the Separate Self before external action, your campaign is an external realization of injustice calling for immediate external action. It’s not wise to skip the first step of a recipe and expect dinner to come out edible – which is to say you are still engaging a separative perspective that can only bring separative solutions that energize the Culture of Separation.

So, in essence, you jumped the gun – and instead of stopping to return to the origin of the race, you continued to run until you were completely off the track and even out of the stadium. Today, the race is long over. Yet you continue to hustle as if the race is still going and actually real. This is why the revolution you have sought for your entire career keeps eluding you. There is an experience that must occur before the revolution can begin. But what is it?

It’s what I call impersonal experience – an experience that Americans have yet to have, an experience that hides behind the stories that make up the Separate Self, an experience that makes the Separate Self or “being American” possible. Impersonal experience is freedom from the limitation of all things personal – it frees you from the Separate Self, it frees you from being American in the old sense so that a new America can be born.

Impersonal experience doesn’t mean “not close” or isn’t something like a relationship with a co-worker that is casual or “not personal.” The Impersonal is an internal experience of your personal story that makes the Separate Self a mere aspect of your mental landscape, one that is minuscule and light as a feather rather than the totality of your mind. The Impersonal appears when the Separate Self is questioned to the point where the origin of the Separate Self shifts and the attachment to identity stories is recontextualized in a way that empowers you to relate as the undefinable. It’s an experience immediately recognized when the “background” that the Separate Self happened to becomes the core of your identity.

Impersonal experience is not being detached – it’s a greater intimacy with the personal, now in full view and related with from the outside as well as dynamically experienced from the inside. The personal experience of being American is still present, but the presence of this American story is an impersonal arising in the mind viewed from a storyless impersonal experience.

But again, impersonal experience is hidden by the Culture of Separation and very few people in America know they can search for it. It’s like an unknown treasure buried on an unknown planet. And so movements like yours are led down a rabbit hole of separation destined to undergo disappointment as separative hope becomes separative deflation – or if you happen to meet your goals, hope becomes separative paranoia as required from winners who now have to protect their new gains in the viperish Culture of Separation. What you call a major step forward is an imaginary transformation of consciousness perpetuating the separation that comes with a separative identity blinded by the story of being American. Remaining American in a personal sense creates the never-ending reason for the “never-ending struggle.”

Think about the life cycle of a field of flowers. Thousands of flowers blossom and the story of the field changes. But the field itself is always the life cycle that lives the flowers of the field as its impersonal existence. In The Path of Non-separation, this is explained by saying thousands of personal attributes are lived into being and the story of the Separate Self changes. But the Separate Self is always Non-separation that lives the personal attributes of the Separate Self as impersonal existence – or better yet as existence itself.

It will take great courage to shift your movement to target the core of the system. But if it’s social change that you truly want, if you truly want to transform the American mind, an impersonal experience of America is the beginning of this process. Without this initial experience, any social change movement has the strength of a stray plastic bag rolling like a tumbleweed in the wind.

BERNIE SANDERS CONT’D: As many of you will recall, Nelson Mandela, one of the great freedom fighters in modern world history, famously said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” And what he meant by that is that the greatest obstacle to reach social change has everything to do with the power of the corporate and political establishment to limit our vision as to what is possible and what we are entitled to as human beings.

Michael Richardson-Borne: Freedom fighters are rebels seeking to free people into a new dominant narrative – which is just an overthrow of one illusion for another.

The situation is like an easel balancing a canvas that sits in the corner of a room – an easel you want to reposition to a different room with more sunlight. Despite your intentions and as hard as you try, you still can’t figure out how to create movement because instead of focusing on the easel, you focus on the canvas. Your desire is to add a few brushstrokes of color, covering a bit of the old paint, while hoping the easel will move with the friction of your brushstrokes.

Once the new color is added to construct the image you had in mind, you discover that although you’ve won an apparent victory, the easel remains in the same darkened room – now presenting what you perceive as a better painting. If you hear what I’m saying, you can easily spot how dysfunctional this mental framework is – painting a canvas will never pick up an easel. Yet every generation of change-makers attempts the same method of repainting the canvas as a means to move it to a different room.

This cycle of changing images without foundational movement is what you find in the Culture of Separation – the fractured system we live in that’s built on the assumption of a Separate Self.

To continue with our story, the assumption of a Separate Self is the canvas and the paints are the stories that give the Separate Self color. As I said earlier, to move beyond the assumption of separation, you must experience the shift of the Separate Self from a personal experience to an impersonal one – which is to say that you must see that brush strokes are coloring a canvas that needs an underlying support for its proper presentation.

To move the canvas, you must find what is holding it. Similarly, to move the Separate Self, you must find what is “underneath” it, what it rests in. Locating this impersonal experience allows you to see that personal change, the addition of new stories to the definition of the Separate Self, only causes separation to thicken – just as painting over an image on a canvas time and time again creates a thicker and thicker impasto. Thickening paint was never intended to move an easel. For movement to occur, you must see beyond your desire to paint in a way that widens your aperture enough to notice the legs of the easel under the canvas. Once you actually see the easel, picking it up and moving it to a new room is a simple task.

The same goes for the Separate Self. Once you see the impersonal experience that’s supporting it, separation is easily moved around in a vast field like a decorative object.

So paint over the image on the canvas as many times as you want – it leads nowhere. The only revolution left is to turn within and question the Separate Self until you go deep enough to remember Non-separation. Changing the narrative has nothing to do with the total freedom from narrative. Social change as incremental shifts of story rather than the overthrow (and then re-embrace) of story is the limitation of America’s vision.

BERNIE SANDERS CONT’D: If there was ever a moment where we had to effectively analyze the competing political and social forces which define this historical period, this is that time.

Michael Richardson-Borne: I agree. Every historical period has been and is that time. But every instance a group of American reformers has sat down to take a good hard look at the social makeup of society, it has started with the assumption of a Separate Self.

Rather than questioning and seeing through this assumption as the starting point for effective analyzation, this first step is skipped to get to what is considered the important part – devising a plan. It isn’t understood that devising a plan will never hold the solution you seek without pausing long enough to turn within until there’s an understanding of Non-separation.

We live in a world where history is the primary text and turning within to seek Non-separation is a small footnote within this history.

For this historical period, analyzation is being called to realize that Non-separation is the primary text and historical happenings are the small footnotes within this realization.

Effective analyzation is beyond external maneuvering and surface-level psychologizing. Analyzation must begin and end as a spontaneous application of Non-separation.

BERNIE SANDERS CONT’D: If there was ever a moment when we needed to stand up and fight against the forces of oligarchy and authoritarianism, this is that time.

Michael Richardson-Borne: No solution will ever arise outside the realization of Non-separation. So, sadly, it’s too early for this fight. This means time is of the essence as the Culture of Separation hovers on the brink of an unimaginable disaster.

Just as with effective analyzation, the fight against oligarchy and authoritarianism begins as an internal battle with the Separate Self. There is no way around this. The sooner this is accepted, the sooner you can get to the real work at hand.

BERNIE SANDERS CONT’D: And, if there was ever a moment when we needed a new vision to bring our people together in the fight for justice, decency, and human dignity, this is that time.

Michael Richardson-Borne: Justice, decency, and human dignity cannot arise from the fetid swamp of separation. In this swamp of the Separate Self, justice becomes something that has to be fought for or obtained. Decency becomes a choice between separative options and loses its ability to be spontaneously lived. Human dignity becomes an illusion disconnected from the source of human dignity – what I call Non-separation.

A new vision is more than creating another spin on the reality of a Separate Self. Having another goal, another narrative to accomplish, another light at the end of the tunnel is destined to fall flat. And even if part of the new narrative is brought to pass, the accomplishments will one day be rolled back or extended into a new separative story called progress. This is the nature of the Culture of Separation.

A new vision must be one that authentically fits the description – it must be one that lives outside the limitations of story. It must come from the depths of your birthright, the remembrance of who you are before claims of nationality. It must come from the impersonal existence of being that lives both your personal and impersonal experiences of being American. Anything else is the old vision of separation.

BERNIE SANDERS CONT’D: While this campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” The fight for justice is what our campaign has been about. The fight for justice is what our movement remains about.

Michael Richardson-Borne: The arc of the moral universe can only be bent and shortened when the fight for justice is both being and becoming a lived invitation to Non-separation.