Change Starts from Within
There are many obvious problems in America in the 21st century. In addition to foreign policy related problems, some of the domestic problems involve morality issues. How will these problems be solved? With the upcoming 2008 elections, there are many that seek to pass laws to supposedly address these problems.
There is much violent crime and there is a huge prison population (the largest in the world, see here), though a large percentage of those criminals incarcerated were NOT for violent crimes (see here). The notoriety of same gender marriages and the prevalence of abortions (even though their numbers are declining) irritate the principles of some.
For many Christian Americans, there is a perceived loss of morality with a continuing intolerance for different religious or sexual preferences.
There are two things wrong with the commonly suggested solution to these problems, the passing of laws and/or constitutional amendments either making the offense a crime or preventing the civil union from being recognized.
1) The solution is the imposition of one person's judgment on the actions of another, though that other person has not wronged the person passing that judgment. Control does not improve morality.
(Proper education about the choices and adults setting a good example for minors could.)
2) Evil in the world cannot be banished by exerting control on others.
In the first case, the use of an illicit drug or alcohol can be objectionable to many people but if we live in a free society then people can make that mistake. The use by another person of an undesirable drug or substance does not harm anyone other than the user but still many seek to control such behavior.
The Prohibition Era was a good example of entrepreneurs finding a way to satisfy the demand of a banned product. With the prohibition of such products that had been so readily available previously, the demand for a limited supply resulted in higher prices and therefore better profits for those getting into that business, enticing anyone willing to risk getting caught to enter the business (as supplier or distributor). The banning of substances is the surest way to make sure that there will be criminals available to prosecute.
The criminal justice system is then forced to go after everyone involved starting with the users, who are typically in a safe environment at the time (at home or in the establishment serving the product), proceeding to those involved in its distribution.
This entire process does not eliminate the use of the banned substance, which is the assumed goal for those that pushed for such legislation. It just ensures that there will be a steady stream of people being caught by the laws trying to eliminate that use.
I have read others make the observation that the damaging health effects of tobacco are much worse than those for marijuana but the tobacco industry has a very influential lobby in Washington and certainly the industry is not damaged by its regulation. With tobacco, politics trumps morality.
With same gender marriages, the rationale for their restriction is difficult to comprehend. Somehow two people wishing to have a legal commitment, perhaps for the joint ownership of property or even for equitable insurance coverage, will supposedly have some dangerous impact on the marriages and families of male-female marriages. The bottom line for such legislation is just intolerance.
When a woman becomes pregnant, there are many that feel she is no longer allowed to decide what to do with her body, that the fetus living inside her, like a parasite until old enough to survive outside of the womb, is more important than the expectant mother. The fetus inside is not yet a viable human being, but is wholly dependent on the mother until maturity (premature infants rarely survive when less than 6 months in the womb). Since many are willing to allow an abortion in cases of rape or incest, there is the recognition that there are circumstances when the mother's situation must be more important than that of the fetus. Instead of developing the support system that would enable mothers to carry to term an unwanted child, perhaps for adoption, laws are proposed to prosecute doctors and mothers that do not allow the fetus to mature to full term. The goal of restricting a mother's right to choose seems to be based more on punishing the mother for having become pregnant than to help her deal with the situation.
Many claim that America is a Christian nation. It is rather hypocritical when seeing a lack of 'love one another' in any of the above. Instead of taking a tolerant attitude to social wrongs, a number of Christians seek to increase control of those in apparent conflict with their expectations. I am not suggesting that Jesus is MY role model (e.g., see The Mistakes Of Jesus by William Floyd, from 1932). However Christians by definition have some devotion to the teachings of Jesus the Christ. I am also certainly not the first to suggest that Christians should reconsider some of their actions (e.g., see Some Mistakes of Moses by Robert G. Ingersoll, from 1879)
If a person follows the golden rule, to treat others as oneself would like to be treated, in treating others with respect then the typical result will be the respect and consideration by others. If a person lives a righteous life then those around him/her will have their lives enriched. The world will get better only when people understand the consequences of their actions and when people stop trying to enforce their will on others.
The attitude that good must win in a battle over evil, as if evil can be eliminated through aggression, is ludicrous. If there is good in the world then there must be its opposite, evil. The only way to truly eliminate evil is to eliminate good as well, where everyone is a zombie unable to choose good or evil. In a free society there are choices to be made, that have good or bad consequences. When a person is free to make an informed choice most of the time he or she will probably choose the 'good' one. When there is excessive control exerted and free choice is hindered then the likelihood of a wrong choice inevitably increases, as a person's judgment is impaired by the awk ward constraints whenunder the effects of that unjust control.
Jesus is recorded as saying "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" in Matthew 5:39. I have certainly read from others that the obvious interpretation for this passage is when confronted with an offense, the two options are either attack in retaliation or let it pass with the hope that whatever caused the initial offense is not worthy of that escalation in violence (assuming of course that one's life is not in danger or threats of that magnitude).
There are other serious domestic problems confronting Americans that have a different cause than our local and national laws, and efforts to establish control with new laws will just enforce further intolerance.
With the terrible incident on 9/11/2001, many Christians feel attacked by those of the Islam religion. This is the inevitable result of the fear mongering that followed the incident, to enable support for military invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq. When the (Catholic) IRA in Northern Ireland committed violent acts against non-Catholics in the United Kingdom, there was not a commonly held belief this had become a war between Catholics and Protestants - though I expect a few suggested just that. Extremists should never be stereotyped with the rest. Unfortunately, many now envision profiling people of Middle Eastern descent as necessary to prevent future terrorist acts. A group of people will be assumed guilty until somehow proven innocent. Islamofascism is just a slogan intended only to elicit fear and hate.
The illegal immigration problem is something of a humanitarian crisis, with millions in this country without following the rules for such immigration. There are literally thousands of poor people risking their lives to get into this country illegally, because their home country is unable to meet their basic survival needs. This situation puts many in the predicament of how to support these new residents, though our country's depressed economy seems unable to deal with the immigrants.
Our government's foreign policy is the root cause of what is becoming a domestic problem. For at least the last century, this country's foreign policy has been rooted in making the world ripe for American business, especially the countries in Central America. By pushing these 'free trade' arrangements on these developing countries (where the country is not allowed to interfere in exporting products to America), their economies are ravaged by foreign business pushing for the cheap labor to serve the American markets. This change destroys the subsistence living for many, making those affected look elsewhere for survival. In the areas of Northern Mexico, the foreign companies take advantage of no toxic waste or worker safety restrictions, thereby ruining the living conditions and the health of the workers. As the workers eventually rebel against such conditions, some companies have subsequently moved their factories to the Far East, leaving destroyed communities. Having run out of options locally, many are seeking a way to make a living by moving to America.
As various writers have pointed out (Noam Chomsky is one example), a developing country must be allowed to have a level of protectionism in place, to protect domestic industries from foreign competition, because it is important for the growth both in industry and in the workforce for that country's economic health. While it is likely a correct conclusion that this might result in higher prices for the populace, that consequence must be weighed (by that country's people and government, not by America) against all of the benefits and profits from the labor going to a foreign business, rather than staying within the local economy.
The same observation could be made about the American economy, where many companies have moved their manufacturing operations outside of this country, causing lower prices (and higher profits) for those imported products (now made by foreign workers with much lower wages), but then there are now fewer workers in this country earning a living wage to afford those products anyway.
Domestically, the desire to interfere in the lives of others results in less freedom for all, as restrictions are passed and crimes are created for acts which do not need such terrible consequences (especially given the terrible conditions in American prisons). As more such laws are passed, the prison population grows, as well as the number of those now labeled as criminals.
With our intrusion in the affairs of other countries, to make sure the country remains available to the depredation of American business, we have typically backed with military support (money and/or arms) the autocratic rulers since a free society subject to the desires of its populace would not tolerate such an invasion (of political or military influence). The American government's claim that it is seeking democracy is a blatant lie, since historically we back those leaders that are not at the head of a democracy (as long as they follow our wishes) and in those cases where an election results in leaders not suitable for our aims then our foreign policy will work to undermine that new leadership until they become suitable or are replaced with those that are suitable.
I can still remember the 60's with the cliches of 'love one another' and 'live and let live' but those slogans are out of place in our current economy of the rich getting richer at the expense of everyone else, and all those not wealthy are fighting to survive - susceptible to those charlatans that can find someone else to blame for their troubles. Fear obscures judgment.
This country's electorate continues to keep those in office that are subject only to those that pay for their campaigns and provide them with various fringe benefits, rather than to those that voted them in office. Elections are now a sham for accountability. A huge percentage of Americans recognizes the disaster that is this political environment and yet there seems to be no way to derail this runaway train to disaster. Only a major change, where the people really have a say in their local, state and national affairs, will bring about a better future. Our country has to stop interfering in other countries (causing much death and misery). Companies are not people; when the corporate leadership damages a community, that community must have recourse. Finally, laws that try to establish 'morality or else' have to stop because those laws can only damage the vitality of the community.
America was formed by a union of colonies, a number having distinct religious themes (state religions, but not a national religion). Together the country had diversity and ambition, enabling the union to survive as a new country. Over time, waves of immigration from different parts of the world (with the slaves being moved here involuntarily) resulted in an even wider diversity. This mix of heritage, perspective and experience could certainly be the foundation for strength.
Instead this country has a military presence in many other countries, attempting to keep those peoples under our direction (by keeping their leaders compliant). Our domestic economy is being ravaged by the policies that explicitly support the outsourcing of jobs. State and national governments are subject to the whims of business rather than the electorate. Frequent claims of a 'clash of civilizations' between Christianity and Islam and claims of the 'lack of God' in politics are only the tip of the iceberg for such religion-based intolerance.
Americans need to remember the principles of our Founding Fathers, that we must be free from government interference in our life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
created - Mar. 2008
last change - 03/02/2008
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