Monday, May 17, 2010

Imagine 2010

Forty years ago, newly ex-Beatle John Lennon captured the attention of the world with his evocative, quasi-Marxist utopian ballad, Imagine. He cried for a world free from borders, nations, possessions, religion and war with everyone "living for the world." The song remains a favorite of folks over 50 and all who share its collectivist and globalist sentiments. Though I do not share the late singer's philosophy, I do resonate with the desire for a better world, free from the passions that divide us and incite so much hatred and violence.

To mark the anniversary of this song, I offer a new, 2010 version, with more achievable and less ideological sentiments. Imagination is a good thing. Envisioning a better future is the first step in the courageous pathway to a better destiny. I do not offer the following thoughts with Lennon's tune in mind, though I invite the musically-inclined to compose a new anthem. I believe that thoughtful souls from all parties and traditions can embrace these affections and affirmations.

Imagine no fatwas, no suicide bombs, no children used for anger and hate.
Imagine no collateral damage, no border lands in danger, ooh, you may say I am dreamer
But I'm not the only one.

Imagine all husbands faithful to their wives and every home a place of peace.
Imagine no children rushed between the ex-'s, but secure with Mom and Dad.
I wonder if you can.

Imagine our leaders keeping their word, and all neighbors lending a hand
Imagine no one hungry, a real brotherhood of man. Ooh, you may say I'm a dreamer
But the One who made us all showed us the way.

Imagine all the people living for faith and future
Something to live and die for, the healing of our land. Ooh, you may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one. I hope someday your join me
As the many are one.

OK, it will not make the charts, but the idea is clear. The way forward is NOT more fear, collectivist structures and repression of ideas. The way forward is faith and hard work, fidelity in relationships and building a better future for our posterity. The way forward unites imagination and integrity, as we envision a better nation and world and chart the ethical pathway to achieve it. The way forward requires a moral and spiritual awakening that will reverse the anarchy and narcissism of the past 50 years. It will require each of us desiring for others the liberties we want for ourselves.

All the regulations for business practices must apply to government agencies. Public employees must meet higher standards of ethics and productivity. Pension funds must be privatized and unfunded mandates ended. Divorce petitions must be reviewed and parents admonished to think of their children and not just their personal passions. Economic expansion and sane environmental policies must coexist to ensure our future. Creating wealth while caring for the commonweal will be the new norm as we remember that liberty requires virtue.

Our First Amendment will again be a beacon that guides our civil discussion. Apart from direct threats of violence, we must allow all manner of opinions and argue in public about our differences that make a difference. The role of government, regulations on business, religious values, political debates - all deserve a hearing, even if we radically disagree. Such is the brilliance of our Founders, who gave us a Constitution after months of acrimonious debate. It is easy to retreat into our ideological fortresses, label of enemies and avoid solving problems. Today's politicians suffer from what I call, "The Hezekiah Syndrome." The Israelites King proudly displayed the treasures of the Jerusalem Temple to the emissaries from Babylon. Later, the same king pleaded with God for an extended life and reign. A prophet came and said that his rule would be extended, but his hubris opened the door to his successors being subject to foreign control. What was Hezekiah's response? We was relieved that it was, "not in my lifetime."

Today's leaders in all parties care more for their power and privilege that for the long-term good of our nation and the world. They are exempt from accountability (except at the voting booth!), have "guaranteed" pensions and see all of us as statistics to be manipulated. Change will come one decision, one relationship and one vote at a time.

Here is a final verse to my hit song:

Imagine all adults voting, I wonder if you can.
All well-informed on issues, caring for their fellow-man
Ooh, you may say I'm a dreamer
But there is power in one.
I hope today you will join me until the battle for liberty is won.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Observations of the Surreal

Today is the 7th of May in the year of our Lord 2010. I live in the USA, a republic with more than 300 million citizens from around the world. I love the vast landscapes and tall skyscrapers. I love the diverse cultural, political and religious communities that make our nation the envy of the world. I am aware of our current problems and the serious challenges to our future. I will continue to write about them in future essays.

Today I am apoplectic. I am in shock - not about the cliches emanating from the White House or the organs of Left and Right. I expect they will continue - in fact, it is healthy that they do so we can sort out fact from fiction. My shock is not focused on ex-NFL star Lawrence Taylor and his alleged misdeeds. My shock is not centered on the tame Administration responses to the oil spill or the NYC terrorist plot.

I am in shock over two incidents that reveal how little progress we have made in the past 50 years. I am aghast at the subversive forces at work undermining my land and I cannot keep silent.

In California, students were sent home on Cinco De Mayo for wearing T-shirts with an American flag. They were told that such actions were disrespectful to students of Mexican heritage as they celebrate their independence from Spain. One of the students was half-Mexican and his mother was surprised at the punitive attitude of the hyper-PC administrators. Apparently patriotism is offensive. I have several questions for these fearful and foolish school officials. Is it wrong to have an American flag displayed on St. Patrick's Day? After all, there were anti-Catholic movements in our past. Is it wrong to have a flag on display during Kwanzaa or Ramadan? These students were not protesting or inciting violence with racial epithets.

Mexico is our neighbor and we need to have the best relationship possible. However, we need to stop feeling guilty for 1848 and stop pretending that some kind of "Bronze Nation" should emerge or that Mexico should have joint sovereignty with the USA over any territory. Mexico is ruled by officials even more corrupt that our own and she has a history of trading on our goodwill and guilt. Conversely, American corporations and consumers of illegal drugs provide tempting pathways for unspeakable exploitation.

Cinco de Mayo celebrations should continue, just like St. Patrick's Day for the Irish, Columbus Day for Italians and any number of other moments for the cultural and ethnic groups that enrich our land. If we do not like these moments of cultural pride (Native Americans are not thrilled by Columbus Day), then it is our right to peaceably assemble and let our voices be heard. But we must stop apologizing for loving our nation and stop brainwashing children that America is nothing more than a land-grab. There are no innocent cultures, no "good old days." There are only the accidents of history that arrange themselves and get interpreted by people of influence.

America is the greatest experiment in freedom in history. We also have an awful record of exploitation of the Native Americans, for which many have repented and are seeking repair. We are a land of opportunity and the envy of the the oppressed. We are also only one generation removed from millions of African-Americans being denied voting rights and equal access to education and work. Americans of all ethnic and religious backgrounds have spilled their blood for our freedom and the liberty of scores of other nations. We have also supported oppressive regimes when our economic and strategic interests were at stake. We are the most generous nation on earth, especially through our private charities. We have also excused too much "collateral damage" in our pursuit of enemies. In other words, we are like many empires and nations - full of admirable qualities and our own worse enemies.

The second incident was even more jarring than the PC nonsense in California. I am in the Midwest, listening to ESPN. A disclaimer from the local station declares that they must play the following political ad because it comes from a candidate for federal office. The local station disavows in advance any connection with content. I brace myself for a Left or Right set of cliches. Instead, I am subject to the worst KKK-incited Anti-Semitism I have ever heard. David Duke's organization is supporting a write-in candidate and the candidate approves the message. It is a screed straight from Father Coughlin in the 1930s, the Nazis in the 1940s or the KKK at anytime. Jews are the source of all our problems. Jews are not loyal to the USA, etc. I had to pull over and collect my emotions to avoid ripping out my radio. It astounds me to think that there are people in my nation actually running for office with such ideologies.

As I calm my emotions and step back from these incidents, I discover a common evil underneath both these incidents. That evil is totalitarianism. Whether in the form of left-wing collectivism and globalism or right-wing racism and xenophobia, underneath both of these are mentalities that cannot handle real freedom. Totalitarians of either extreme do not know how to debate issues civilly. Totalitarians will deceive their way to power, using the liberties of the moment to arrange their ascent.

The concomitant tragedy of these two incidents is the fuel they provide for hotheads on both sides of the "normal" political spectrum. The Tea Party participants are unfairly labeled as extreme and reactionary, while any advocate of an increased role for the federal government is implicitly labeled a Communist. The losers in all of this are the regular citizens who are currently victimized by both government ineptitude and waste and unethical business machinations. We can do better. We must do better if our experiment in freedom is going to continue.

We can argue about foreign policy and the decisions of the State of Israel. But we must condemn Jew-baiting and racism, whether from KKK or Islamofascist sources. We ought to encourage cultural celebrations. But no patriot should be afraid to fly or wear the flag. We must tolerate offensive speech as part of our First Amendment. But there is no law that says we must approve or promote any ideas that undermine our nation.

2010 America can be surreal at times, with average folks displaying courage and love, while others remain locked in a world without windows, a dark place of hatred and despair. I hope we will choose a pathway of faith, hope and love instead of the road of anger and anarchy with totalitarian consequences.