We sit captivated, once again. Some of us silently wondering where we came from, how we got here, and where we are going. Others, understanding or not that "power never changed on its own you got to make it,"¹ vociferously attack the opposition. These protests stressing that their point of view is the best often times comes from a fanatical viewpoint; one unwilling to acknowledge that perhaps even bits of the counter argument may have validity.
Taking a look back at our fore-founders, the gentlemen who separated from the monarchy to establish a free society - free to practice religion in its most liberal form, free to express feelings, air grievances, and allow citizens to choose how the country would move forward, it is easily arguable that we have come a long way in this American Experiment. But are we better or worse off?
America remains the hope of the world. Don't think so? Spending only a few moments in the developing world will vehemently provide that answer: Yes. "But what kind of hope? More than the hope of material prosperity, more than the promise of equality and liberty, more than safety and security. The deeper hope of America was its vision of what humanity is and can become- individually and in community. It was through that vision that all the material and social promise of America took its fire and light and its voice that called to men and women within its own borders and throughout the world."²
This country of ours, the United States of America, was the first country to be created "intentionally by thought and moral choice."³ ”America is not a tribal, ethnic or racial identity. It is a philosophical identity composed of ideas of freedom, liberty, independent thought, independent conscience, self-reliance, hard word, justice."4 We are the first nation to embody our inner world and outer world. This bridge recognizes our moral obligations and connects them to the physical world beyond, and when in balance great harmony, peace reigns.
However, with a tremendous emphasis placed on capitalism, our outer world begins to weigh more than our inner world. Following this great imbalance is unhappiness, emotional instability, disaster, a nation at unrest with itself. To get beyond this state we need to weed through what is presented to us, look beyond what we are being sold, told to believe, and understand how rules, laws and the news operate under a for-profit model. Benjamin Franklin was "strongly against salaries for the president and the congressmen, having spoken passionately about the corruption that salaried leadership would bring."5 Franklin had the wisdom to foresee a formidable weapon that could break down the integrity of government. While Lobbyists pressure congresspeople to pass regulations with financial campaign contributions, Super PACs pour unfathomable amounts of money into candidates they think will push their agendas forward, and news stations report sometimes twisted, misleading stories to integrate their views into the public, we, those in charge of electing officials who will drive this country in the right direction, are being influenced by destructive and deceiving motives.
Tragedies occur every day, all over the world; some continuously for many years, but when a notable crisis is broadcasted through our televisions, radios, and now the assortment of social media we begin to ask who is to blame. Pointing fingers, accusing someone or something has become the scapegoat. We fail to recognize that many of our misfortunes stem from ourselves. We have adapted to the thought that we deserve all the material wealth the world has to offer and this has created a great imbalance.
With increasing frequency, our second amendment right is being questioned. The sole reason may be because we as a society do not understand the complexity of the Constitution. John Adams once reflected that the Constitution is "a complicated piece of machinery, the nice and exact adjustment of whose springs, wheels, and weights, is not well comprehended by the artists of the age, and still less by the people."6 These artists debated day after day, going back and forth, creating this piece of machinery that would be the ultimate governor of our nation. While each man was given the opportunity to express what he felt should be contained in the Constitution, whether he believed it would be for the betterment of the country or for his own personal gain, during the final hour, Benjamin Franklin rose and addressed the president with the following:
I confess that I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present; but, Sir, I am not sure I shall never approve it; for having lived long; I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change my opinions even on the important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that, the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment of others.
In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults- if they are such; because I think a general government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other."7
Was Franklin "squarely acknowledging that he must sacrifice attachment to his own 'wisdom' in order to allow the action of the group intelligence?"8 Was George Washington thinking the same thing when he turned down what could have been a King's throne for the betterment of the country? Coming to understand the motives of our forefathers, we should be able to recognize that while they each had their own utopia in mind they had to compromise for the betterment of society. In today's USA we do not think in those terms. Our selfish desires replace compassion.
It is time to think about how we can stable the scale of our inner world and outer world. Until the scale becomes balanced in our own world, we should not expect the external world to be balanced. To conclude, in 1993 the Dalai Lama gave a speech in London saying, "Good conduct is the way in which life becomes more meaningful, more constructive and more peaceful. For this, much depends on our own behavior and our own mental attitude."9
Instead of relying on popular media to shape our thoughts, tell us how to think, how to act, what to consume, we need to look inside ourselves. The driving force behind our aspirations should be what our soul, spirit, morality; however we should name it, inspires us. Let’s turn off the noise of the external world and listen to our inner self. Follow its lead.
Author's Note: This work is solely based on opinion. It attempts to bring forth the interconnectedness of the human spirit or inner world and his or her external world. For further reading on how to become active in reconnecting the two worlds the following books are highly recommended:
- Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in without going crazy
- The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders
- The Power of Compassion
Until we allow ourselves to look within, whole-heartedly learn from mistakes and make a conscious effort to better ourselves, we will continue having the same debates.
1. Brother Ali. 2012. Letter to my countrymen. On Mourning in American and dreaming in color [CD]. Minnesota: Rhymesayers Entertainment.
2. Needleman, Jacob. 2003. The American Soul. (p.3). New York: Penguin Group.
3. Ibid., p. 64.
4. Ibid., p. 39.
5. Ibid., p.68
6. Ibid., p. 67.
7. Ibid., p. 67-68.
8. Ibid., p. 67.
9. Dalai Lama. 1995. The Power of Compassion. (p. 20). New Delhi, India: Harper Collins Publishers.