|by Flemming Funch|
Article by my friend Bruce Baumrucker about some things that it would be very appropriate for Americans to reflect on around the time of 9/11.
THE BROKEN AMERICAN
by Bruce Baumrucker
September 10, 2002
In the 1950's and 60's, older people in America felt proud of the society they had created for their children and grandchildren. They could let go of worry and live out their remaining years feeling they had fulfilled their contract with life and their lineage.
Now in 2002, I am 64 and not so proud of what America has become. The society I have allowed to come into being has institutions failing to look after our democracy, our civil society, the education of our youth, our once vibrant communities, the health and well-being of us all.
I feel ashamed of what our country has been doing in the world, making enemies who attack us, instead of friends with whom we work to make a better world. No longer can I rest assured that my children and their children will be all right in the world I am leaving them.
As I watch our society break apart, I am feeling sad, ashamed and sick at heart by whatÂ¹s happening and feel almost powerless to do anything really meaningful about it. Are you feeling any of this? Over the last year, have you felt betrayed by the lack of integrity in our government and corporate leaders and their inappropriate responses to deal with human problems and needs? I may be wrong, but I believe many of us are feeling uneasiness about the unprincipled activities that are going on.
It appears that our once great country is now being run by shortsighted, self-oriented people who have learned how to manipulate the systems of power to get what they want. They seem to be saying: Â³Get, Take, Have, and to heck with those who are too weak or poor or dumb to get theirs. Too bad for the environment. Too bad for social fairness. We got ours, and we got it legally, because we know how to work the system. This is our right as an individual in a democracy, isnÂ¹t it, where very individual takes and overall society gains?Â² Do any of you feel, as I do, that there is something wrong with this?
I canÂ¹t see how, if every individual just takes and exploits, -how the overall society can benefit. I mean, why would an individual or business have any interest in considering the big picture, or their effects on people and the environment, when that just hinders their personal advancement and corporate profit in the time-blind practices of today? IÂ¹m told corporate leaders get fired for expanding their time horizons or their social concerns and not concentrating on producing the profit their shareholders desire.
I hear the Television Newsperson asking the question: "Will there be economic consequences to us of a war with Iraq?"
I can't believe that we should not reflect on the fact that we're considering attacking a third world country and killing hundreds or maybe thousands of people there. Is this what I want us to do? No way! Is this what you want us to do? Is this something we, the American People, are to decide? Or is this perhaps something that has already been decided by the people now running our government, and they are just selling it to us?
Where is the moral dimension of our lives? What is going on with the people of America? Where is moral leadership, noble citizenship, the living spirit of America? Why is it that so many of us are suffering? Why are so many American youth emotionally lost and in pain. I am told we have the highest youth suicide rate in the world, how could this be? The elderly are suffering. Those with health problems are suffering. The Afghan people are suffering, and more now than before our national anti-terrorist actions. Where is the America I used to believe in?
I am disheartened by generally well-intentioned people who let themselves say words that are not their words; who do things which are not consistent with their higher values, but for which they excuse themselves and justify; and who support other people's actions which are in direct conflict with their own moral convictions, but which have benign names, like "preemptive strike" as our government leaders are now using against Iraq, instead of "unprovoked attack", which is how I see it.
Are we going to spy on each other and tell some Big Brother? Can the Corporate Police get us to report our neighbor? Can our TRUST in each other be so easily destroyed? Can our promises to ourselves and each other be so weak? Can the struggles and sacrifices which created this "land of the free and home of the brave" be so easily lost?
One hundred thirty-nine years ago, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln made his address at Gettysburg. Our country had been founded in liberty and dedicated to equality only eighty-seven years before this. In his speech, Lincoln referred to the civil war as a test of whether our nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, could long endure.
He said we should be dedicated to the unfinished work for which the brave, living and dead, have struggled and so nobly advanced. "...that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion --that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain --that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom --and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
I believe we have forgotten that America is a test, an experiment in self-governing. History has examples of "good tries" that didnÂ¹t last. What I am concerned about is whether America will just be another good try that didn't last.
I have been told that it takes a great deal for natural forces to kill a tree. But once it begins to die, its cells lose their vitality, its sap stops flowing, its leaves die and fall off and new buds wither. I believe it takes even more to destroy a society, but once it begins to fall apart, every person in it feels its breakup. We may be witnessing this today in each of our lives, as we keep extra busy so we donÂ¹t think too deeply about what is happening to our once great country. As we are preoccupied with surface matters, as we are short-tempered with others and ourselves, as we are feeling a sadness in our being that we donÂ¹t want to acknowledge.
Where is our American Soul? Why aren't we now standing up and speaking out against these injustices? These wars against the poor, the minorities, the small farmers? Against Nature itself? Where are our programs to empower the poor, the minorities, the farmers? Where are the plans for the well-being of seven generations from now? Where are the actions to work in harmony with Nature and not exploit her? What can we do so our youth find more to admire in us than discard? What can we do to create again a society which empowers dreams, not destroys them?
To me, this doesn't mean that we restrict the freedoms of our citizens and put our people in fear of arrest without charges, without evidence, without respecting their human rights and without due process of law. This doesn't mean we beef up our police and military for use on our own people. This doesn't mean we use our power abroad to threaten, bully and beat-up on countries just because they have resources we want and we have the might to take them. This doesn't mean that we forcefully control peoples and nations because we fear that if we donÂ¹t, we wonÂ¹t get all we need and deserve to maintain our privileges.
I feel we Americans need to trust in each other once again. We need to empower ourselves so we can compete in the world markets; so we can take care of our youth, sick and elderly; so our large and small businesses alike can provide useful and healthy products for our well-being today and for the well-being of our children, and our childrenÂ¹s children.
I feel we need to be able to participate in our government without having to donate great sums of money to our representativesÂ¹ election campaigns in order to get their attention and allegiance. I feel we need help in making our communities strong, self-reliant living units in a national and global reality where human beings belong and matter. Where the Statue of Liberty actually represents a national desire to honor and respect the people who come to our shores, not treat them with suspicion as unwanted aliens. Where we operate with respect for other people and other nations in the world. Where we believe in, support and abide by the international process of justice which the United Nations has created.
To those of you who know what IÂ¹m talking about, shouldn't our priority be to heal our nation from its current sickness and recreate her so she is once again a model to the world of an America with capacity and caring, stability and change, compassion and cooperation?
I wonder what it will take to renew America? Where we will once again believe in ourselves and each other. Where we will believe that people working together can create healthy, meaningful lives, and generate opportunities and material wealth that more than meet the needs of everyone. Where all people and cultures are valued and enjoyed. Where we once again believe in dreams and possibilities and in the living power of love.