Wednesday, March 25, 2015

New Name - Same Mission

I suddenly have become aware, duh!, that the name I originally created for this blog, Preserving American Greatness, is not really appropriate to its mission statement.  That’s pretty bad for a writer.  But better that realization later than never. 

One problem with the original name is its connotation.  It sounds like the blog is a proponent of American exceptionalism, which it certainly is not, or that it promotes a right wing “America right or wrong” perspective, which also clearly does not apply.  Beyond being misleading, this connotation would naturally be offensive to many people around the world for whom we have long ceased being regarded as “the beacon on the hill.”

The other problem is that although the seeds of greatness are in the American story, our country has unfortunately not fulfilled the promise shown in the Declaration of Independence.  We are certainly a powerful country, the biggest economy in the world, the strongest, or at least biggest, military force in the world.  We have made huge advancements in many different areas.

But on a human level, we have failed rather miserably.  The curse of slavery that was embedded in our founding documents remains with us despite the Civil War, despite all the laws that guarantee equality.  While women have had full rights (well, almost) now for a century, and they have advanced far in the work world, their position vis a vie men is still very unequal in fundamental ways.  People’s attitudes have changed, but only by degree, not fundamentally.  

We live in a most unequal and divided society … not just between black and white Americans, men and women, the rich and most everyone else, but in ways without end.  The promise of “success” (as defined by our culture) is tantalizingly held out to everyone by the marketing media, but for the majority in this country the Declaration’s guarantee of the unalienable right to the “pursuit of happiness” remains a cruel joke.

So just what are America’s values?  To me they are encapsulated in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .”

Greed, a consuming self-interest, and a lack of concern for others may be the values of our contemporary culture, but they are not the values that our Founding Fathers gave America at its birth.  While the words of the Declaration may seem on the surface to champion self-interest and the right to do whatever one wishes, they are tempered by the spiritual statement that we are all created equal and that we all were endowed by the Creator with unalienable rights.  Thus, if the exercise of one person’s right harms another or inhibits his right, then there needs to be a check.  The Declaration does not proclaim an unfettered right to anything.  That would be anarchy.

This is why I wrote the book, We Still Hold These Truths in 2004 (years before the conservative author Matthew Spaulding wrote his take on things under the same title, oddly fulfilling the statement I made on the book’s first page that “in [the Declaration’s] interpretation lies the core of both the Liberal and Conservative ideologies that have run through American political life and the tension between them).  This is why I started this blog several years ago.

This blog is a celebration of those profoundly liberal American values.  It is dedicated to insuring that the promise of the Declaration becomes a reality for all Americans and beyond that, that these values impact our dealings with other nations.  Let me repeat here the mission statement that was my first blog post:

Our nation stands under attack … not from without, but from within.  Both our politics and our culture have been corrupted.

Politics on both the right and left are ever more polarized.  We cannot be a great or strong country if the people and their politicians view fellow Americans who happen to have opposing points of view in an us v them mode, as the enemy; we can only progress if we are united, albeit with differing perspectives on how to go about things.  And our culture caters to the worst aspects of capitalism with ethics and concern for the common good falling to the demands of greed and competition.  The same issues are present throughout much of the world today.

One central aspect of the problem is that our country and much of the world is bereft of spiritual values.  Now right here we have a definitional problem.  I am not referring to the values hawked by born-again Christians in this country, or Islamists in Muslim countries, or the ultra-Orthodox in Israel.   Because interestingly, in almost all cases, the “spiritual” or “moral” positions taken by these self-righteous people go against core tenets of their own religion.  

On the other hand, you have the majority of people, at least in the United States, who claim to believe in God but are not spiritual in any meaningful sense; their lives are totally a creature of contemporary culture.  Their spiritual core is if not empty sorely depleted.

It will be the mission of this blog to look at current events, be they political or cultural, from a spiritual, not religious, perspective, with relevant support from our founding documents, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.   Remember when it was popular for Christians to wear bracelets that said, “What would Jesus do?”  That’s basically the question that this blog asks, but from a larger spiritual perspective.

I will take as my perspective the common teachings that are at the core of the spiritual/moral constructs of all the world’s great religions … Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Greed is the root of all evil.
Put away lying; speak every man truth.

Only when these maxims are followed will we achieve “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” and realize the goals set forth in the Declaration of Independence, that “governments are instituted to secure” the equality of all men and their “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”