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A Return to Values
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In the 2006 and 2008 elections, we need to turn around the direction that our country is going, and this is a job for the people who have the most reach into our society: writers, educators, and the media. We are going the way of the Roman Empire, falling into decline, and we are smarter and better people than that. Think not? The once all powerful Christian Roman Empire fell because of a decline in values, public health and environmental problems, political corruption, an ineffective economy, urban blight, and military spending. The barbarians moved in.
Sound familiar? The barbarians are at the gate. These same problems wind through the US today, and it is up to us what we do about it. We need to change the polarizing influence that is dividing and destroying us and replace it with a unifying influence. That unifying influence is the things we stand for (our values, such as democracy).
George Stephanopolous stated the case very well in his recent broadcast, A Country Divided: Examining the State of Our Union, Sunday, July 2, 2006. We are becoming more and more polarized, and research bears out how and why it is happening. What we do about it is up to us.
Division is an insidious influence, and as Abraham Lincoln said (paraphrasing Christ), "A house divided against itself cannot stand." It took a terrible Civil War to sear the wound caused by polarizing differences of opinion.
There are those who would have us believe that we are no more than Republicans and Democrats, red and blue States, liberals and conservatives, moral and immoral, religious and irreligious. Yet we are none of these things even as we all sometimes resemble or embrace all of them. We are people united in a single cause, seeking the good of all, expressing ourselves through democracy. We are a people with a strong sense of values.
We may debate the best way to achieve our values; we may have grand experiments and sometimes grander failures, but we try and we achieve great successes. We pursue and achieve our values - those things that we believe in.
To bring our way forward back into focus, we need to clarify and reaffirm our values. Our values are well stated in The Constitution of the United States of America, with its Bill of Rights, and The Declaration of Independence. These values are hammered out every day in legislation in the Congress and the deliberations and rulings of the Supreme Court. We need to remind ourselves of what we stand for. Both of these institutions should prepare statements on what our values are, as reflected in our documents, state why these values came to be, and how they have been served for the good of all. These should be elaborated on in our educational institutions and media.
These values aren't small matters. We have people fighting terrorism around the world because of attacks on our values. We have had men and women fighting and dying in world wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other conflicts, to defend and promote these values. People are willing to lay down their lives for them: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - values that others would snuff out at the drop of a hat in favor of death, oppression, and living in political or religious tyranny.
A picture of the world without democracy
Imagine for a moment that we lack the freedoms given to us by our Constitution. Imagine instead that rulers act at their whim, or through misguided intentions. We need only look around us at the many countries who lack these freedoms, to know what our world would be like.
Political tyranny. Many South American, Middle Eastern / Oriental, African, and Eastern European countries endure tyrannical rulers or governments. Some are worse than others, but they all have a basic disregard for human rights. Tyrannical rulers enforce their will on other people through the following ways:
Religious tyranny. Religious leaders have free reign in countries lacking well developed democratic systems. They feel that it is their duty to impose their particular view of what constitutes proper religion and proper behavior. Tyrannical religious rulers enforce their will on other people through the following ways:
Tyrannical leaders and governments are guided by hatred of dissent, and by intolerance of differences. They impose their will on others through strict laws, close monitoring, and creating an environment of fear, suspicion, and force. Their idea of morality is a narrow view that often excludes actual moral behavior from their thinking, while focusing on their peculiar hang-ups. The ideas of freedom and democracy are against everything they believe in. The idea that people can be responsible, noble, and seek higher things, is inconceivable to them. The idea that people should be treated as anything but animals to be herded, is beyond them.
There are many in the US and Western World who would impose their political and religious ideas on us if they could find the opportunity. They continually try to impose their will on us through religious influence, legislation, and police action. Fortunately the news media, courts, and public opposition do not let them get very far.
We are a nation that has kept its doors open to others, particularly the oppressed and those seeking opportunity, regardless of their differences, as long as people respect the rights of others. We accept religious differences. We support the right of people to dissent, to express their opinions, and to assemble to discuss their opinions and protest. We do not accept a climate of fear, monitoring, suspicion, and coercion. We expect the government to represent the people, not be dominated by it. We have found that most people mature into responsible and caring people without being shaped, broken, or destroyed by strict laws, close monitoring, and strong enforcement. A little room is necessary to growth.
We are a nation where individual differences are recognized, yet we are united in common values. We are a nation of majority rule, and individual and minority rights. In unity we work for the common good, to achieve the values that we believe in.
These are some of the strong values that we are about as a people, and they are reflected in our Constitution:
The negative - what we have to overcome
We stand at the threshold of a world in which massive economic, energy, environmental, and health problems in the US and other countries can be resolved. However, the past and current struggles of the US political system indicate several things (which is not a light observation, but comes from 50 years of watching US politics deteriorate):
Empowering tomorrow's leaders: unifying around our original values
We need to inspire, encourage, and foster visionary solutions for our future; inspire the grass roots support needed for political reformulation; assist with a mechanism that will help politicians and supporters transition away from blind party ideology; and enable free thinking and selection of effective ideas in the political path forward.
We need to be much more selective in our process of finding and electing leaders. The past 14 years have shown some qualities that are clearly needed:
If leader wannabes lack the preceding qualities, they shouldn't even be considered.
Leaders with the preceding qualities deserve respect, support, and through these will gain the empowerment from the people to do what needs to be done.
Strategically implementing values
Following are some of the values that are essential in today's world:
Issues of today:
A final thought - what writers, educators, and the media can do: In the 1970s and 1980s, groups that were radically opposed to nuclear energy and the environmental impact of even constructing energy resource plants, made it very difficult to build any type of energy supply. No power plants have been built for over a decade, and US refinery capacity is insufficient to demand. Their arguments weren't without merit, but their polarizing influence was. Today, those evaluating the environment realize that nuclear energy is probably the wiser choice, yet it would be difficult to build enough nuclear plants at this stage to avoid the environmental impact of our other energy sources. Such is the result of those who polarize discussions - the environment is now worse off for them.
Today people use similar techniques to polarize people. I'm sad to say that much information put out by political and religious groups on many issues is simply propaganda that builds on ignorance. They know that lies and slander win elections. Their goal is to force their will on people. It is tyranny.
Neither the Democratic nor Republican parties currently have agendas (election platforms) that make much sense. The Republican agenda is recognized as too conservative, but the conservatives don't know where to go with it except to flee. The Democratic is recognized as weak, unfocused, not substantive, and ineffective, and they don't know how to make it stronger. The country is so divided that appealing to either side does not assure victory, so parties are pandering to any minority they can to pick up a few votes.
In the 2006 and 2008 elections, we need to turn around the direction that our country is going. The writers, educators, and the media in this country have the ability to help do that. They can help focus the debates back on our values. They can responsibly inform, debate issues in an enlightening and captivating way without resorting to polarization, seek solutions that address all aspects of issues (not just one side), and empower others to put it into action.
Clean money, clean elections. "Public Campaign is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to sweeping reform that aims to dramatically reduce the role of big special interest money in American politics. Public Campaign is laying the foundation for reform by working with a broad range of organizations, including community groups around the country that are fighting for change in their states and national organizations whose members are not fairly represented under the current system. Together we are building a network of national and state-based efforts to create a powerful national force for federal reform." (http://www.publicampaign.org/)
The Center For Health Transformation is "a collaboration of transformational leaders dedicated to the creation of a 21st century intelligent health system in which knowledge saves lives and saves money for all Americans." It is visionary in approach. (http://www.healthtransformation.net/home/)
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