Sunday, July 6, 2008

Independence...

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“Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err. It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi
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Evolution is a funny thing. Biologically speaking it either makes sense or it is an abomination to some peoples' beliefs. But evolution is pretty broad. Thinking evolves, societies evolve and so do blogs. I'm thinking of starting another blog dedicated to Pablo and Opal Creek so that subject may not get lost here among all my other writings. It seems to me that my personal evolution continues and that this blog has become more than what I envisioned it as being. I enjoy writing and expressing my views on a variety of topics and as I continue posting there is much more I wish to say and so many subjects that I have an interest in discussing.

Like today for instance...

This past Friday was the 4th of July. Independence Day. A day to celebrate our freedoms as citizens of the USA. And celebrate we should. And celebrate we did.



But it aso falls upon us to be a bit introspective about those freedoms for which our nation's founders fought so hard and which were won at no small sacrifice.

Today's USA bears little resemblance to the early and largely rural agricultural society that existed at our founding. Today we are embroiled in war and controversy, society powered by wondrous technology. Those who question our nation's actions in Iraq have their patriotism derided by those who believe that struggle just and right. And in return those who rail derisively against the faction of protest are subject to criticism in return. "Conservatives" snidely demean "liberals" and versa visa. And this back-and-forth screaming has become a cacophonous wailing that drowns out those who can see both sides and call for real resolution. Is the Iraq war just? Or were we handed a bill of goods? Were we deceived? I think so but I don't know for sure... Do I feel Vice President Cheney is a lying scumbag who is but a shill for the world's oil oligarchy? Well... I can't really say. I've never met the man and I cannot measure a man without a personal glimpse. But I will say his presence on TV sure makes him look like an arrogant and surly prick.

One of the things I know for fact is that equality is reality. And our nation's freedoms are based on recognition of the innate equality of all human beings. I have met many whom are deserving of respect, whose wealth or education far, far exceeds mine, yet I look them eye-to-eye and call them by their first names. But the respect I see them as deserving comes not from their wealth, their brains or the pedestal on which others have placed them. Respect is a key ingredient in human social interaction. And equality demands of us that we treat all with respect. In treating others as equals -- fellow human beings -- we free ourselves from the chains of ego and false pride. We cannot all be equal in accomplishment but we can be equal in our individual joys, sorrows and... respect for one another.

The rancorous barrage of epithats flung between those self proclaimed as liberal and conservative (descriptions of questionable validity) do nothing to further our great societal experiment. I truly believe we in the USA are at the tipping point of being either an equitable and successful endeavor or failing miserably falling into social upheaval and chaos.

I do know that it was a very grievous process watching those in the deep south suffer the ravages of hurricane Katrina and then fall prey to neglect behind a government paralyzed by inaction. I question whether had our National Guard troops been home instead of fighting in Iraq we might have saved more and lost less. As I watched the recent flooding in the midwest I had the same questions. As California fights multiple wildfires in an early fire season that will stretch well into summer and fall I will ask the same questions. As our roads, bridges and cities fall into disrepair from neglect I ask the same questions. As oil prices skyrocket, as food prices rise meteorically and education slips us further behind the rest of the "modern" world I cannot help but wonder what world my children will inherit.

I know that when this nation was born it was born on a continent rich and fertile, waters abundant and pure, forests full and widespread. I know that we have degraded all of that inheritance and not planned well, valuing consumption and wasting much. Far too much. We waste resources and we waste lives. We neglect those in our military whose sacrifices in wars -- be they right or wrong -- were based on honorable service to a greater ideal. Sacrifices that cost limbs and lives. Sacrifices that cost families their young and a nation the promise of its youthful citizens. As a veteran I am disgusted with how little attention we pay to issues vital to our nation's veterans. I wonder why, with more veterans dying from suicide each year than have died in all the years of fighting in Iraq, that we as a nation of citizens are not outraged. We need to do more than put yellow, made in China, "support our troops" stickers on our cars. We need to thank these men and women, not with just hollow rhetoric but with real health care for their injuries, real treatment for their mental traumas, and endowments for the children and widows of those soldiers who have fallen on the field of battle. We owe them at least that.



I wonder at a political process that finds candidates for our nation's highest elected office spending hundreds of millions of dollars. I wonder at campaign conventions surrounded by barbed wire and highly armed security forces. It is not all about money. It truly is about Independence. Independence of thought and in our personal lives. Freedom to come and go, to find work, to become educated and then even better educated. To grow old and maintain our value as elders, not just become old people to be shuttered away in institutions where the accumulation of a lifetime's experiences go wasted, unrecognized and unused.

Historically it is proven that all societies rise and fall. The most successful still all eventually fell into decline and collapsed. We in the USA (and the rest of the world) are at the crossroads. Will we care enough to care for those with the least among us or will we fall into the apathy of individuals entranced by the glitter of plastic baubles and googaws and the minutiae of the lives of celebrities? Or will we see the impending chasm and apply the brakes and turn around and become a nation -- a world -- of citizens passionately involved in their own destinies, individually and collectively?

Truly, our fate is in our own hands.

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“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.”

~ Albert Einstein

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