Friday, January 29, 2010

A Time to Remember What Values Guide Us

I was impressed with Obama's State of the Union speech; it skillfully wove together so many important points, and helped build back some of the hope I had had in him originally. I, like others, have been disillusioned in his lack of follow-through on so many issues, wondering if he did not have the character or leadership ability, after all, that I had seen in him. Time will tell, but my heart filled up and overflowed again. I was impacted in the exact opposite way by the Republicans' amazing lack of respect for Obama as the President of our country, and in their desire to tear him down in any and every way they can. They don't seem to have a concern for the country as a whole, but only for their own issues, refusing to stand unless they felt a point benefited big business. Any point that addressed real people's needs, they ignored. We so much need to recenter into the original values of our country, and into a philosophy that is based on spiritual roots.

Tonight I happened to finally watch Emilio Estevez' film, Bobby, and Kennedy's speech, edited into the aftermath of his assassination was quite moving—the very sort of inspiring, recentering, core-truth words we all need to hear again. I am reproducing part of it here for you; the bold is my emphasis, generated by watching the hateful divisions in politics in our country.

"Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily — whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence — whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded. . . .

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. . . .Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them. Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay.
This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter. This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.

. . .When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered. We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.

Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens.
The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.
We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land.
Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution. But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can. Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. . . ."