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LIBERTY: Rights & Tolerance | January 17, 2005



An E-Mail to a Friend & Fellow Democratic Activist

On Martin Luther King Day

There are two things that buoy me up...[during times of trouble]. First, God is great (I can say that in a Blue State, can't I?). The worst things that can happen to us here on Earth pale in comparison to the torments of Hell, and the best things that can happen to us here on Earth pale in comparison to the splendours of Heaven. Mother Theresa was a poor as a church mouse; and Donald Trump, quite the otherwise. But I think you know who I'd trade places with, in a minute, if I had to.

Second, I have great faith in the basic decency of humanity -- even though there is SO much "evil afoot", in daily affairs to international trends. Just look at the tsunami disaster: what a horrible, horrible tragedy. I think the worst in our lifetimes. But then again, just look at the response: millions and millions of people around the world caring about and giving to millions of other people, whom they've never met and from whom they expect nothing in return. That, I think, is the most charitable -- and most hope-giving -- act in our lifetimes, if not ever.

As I'm reminded each year while writing Christmas notes, I have dozens of family members and friends not only all across the country (and, via email, around the world) but also all across the political, religious, and philosophical spectrum. While I sincerely believe in the goodness and wisdom of fundamental Democratic and Judeo-Christian values, I have been raised to at least try to understand the beliefs of others, even if those beliefs may seem foolish or even repugnant to me.

What it usually comes down to is that each of us forms our belief systems based largely upon the doctrines were are exposed to, particularly while growing up, modified in large part by our personal experiences. I find that the most religious or spiritual of my family and friends, for example, are usually so either because they were raised in a very religious setting (or, ironically, in a very anti-spiritual family, against whom they eventually rebelled) and/or because they suffered some terrible events, usually health-related, affecting themselves or their loved ones, during which times they turned to God, as the Rock of Ages, to hold onto. Unfortunately, such positive affirmations of faith can oftentimes, as you well know, turn into intolerance of any other beliefs or, especially, contempt for anyone's lack of religious faith.

Regardless of the "tolerance level" others may possess, I try to take all that into account while looking for the underlying motives for people's particular actions; and almost always -- there are always exceptions, amongst particularly disturbed individuals -- what is driving people to do and think as they do is a positive effort to try to establish some sort of order and sense in their lives and those of their loved ones: a very human and life-affirming thing to do. Mom used to say that the biggest problems in the world, from one-on-one relationships to international affairs, were caused by "insecurity", in the broadest sense of the word. I think she was pretty much right, although we're not talking about building more bombs but about building more understanding.

Two-thirds of the GDP is personal consumption expenditures, by households; the remaining third is historically divided almost equally between spending by business and government. In America, our government officials have to answer, at least indirectly (as through the appointment process for judges), to the electorate. In other words, both economically and politically, the real power in the country is in the hands of the PEOPLE (no matter what Madison Avenue and the Beltway may seem to sometimes indicate). And because I have faith in the basic decency of the people, I have faith in the ultimate destiny of America and, likewise, humankind.

There have, of course, been unthinkable horrors perpetrated in history by people who, in more normal times, would have never even considered themselves capable of such evil. I'm referring, of course, to things like the Holocaust (as if there was ever anything really comparable). But even in that case, the good in the world eventually overcame the evil. And institutions and policies and education were put in place to help prevent the desperation and errors in judgment (to say the least) that fed upon one another and culminated in such disaster.

Overall, even though there is much war, famine (and other shortages), pestilence, and greed (selfishness, perhaps my greatest fear) in the world, there are also more people living in more freedom and in better standards of living than ever before: over the long course of history, humanity has persevered and grown.

I'm sure there will be 1984-style oppressions as well as stupid-state policies -- we're seeing so very much of that today, as you well know, which is indeed alarming given the efficiencies of our modern technology and the power of our military and other forces (including the psychological impacts of our media). Nonetheless, the basic instinct of self-preservation as well as the basic decency I see in humanity seem to always kick-in -- oftentimes at the last possible moment (who wants to make waves or do more than they have to?) -- to keep our species from going over the precipice. We may all too often act like lemmings, but we're still Homo sapiens -- too sociable to desire the anarchy of the extreme Left and too independent to desire the fascism of the extreme Right. We should be OK.

Unless we overpopulate the planet like rats in a cage or a meteor wipes us out like the dinosaurs or...

I like to think of myself as a realistic optimist, or (perhaps better yet) an optimistic realist. But it really doesn't matter; reality happens, whether we like it or not. But that just brings us back to God -- the Supreme Being in almost every system of belief (as I found in my studies of camparative religions) is truth or reality or the source of truth or reality: God told Moses from the Burning Bush, "I am that I am." And in the end, I can just accept that or not; and since I'm glad to report I'm not schizophrenic (I took a thorough psychological test once and was found to be "normal and well adjusted", how boring!), I choose to accept reality (C'est le vie), although I try to shape it, too. My motto is, "Do your best, and hope for the rest." What more can we do?

Thus endeth my sermonette for M.L. King Day! He had such great faith in God and humanity; and even though he was assassinated, he continues to inspire (The dream lives on!) -- more reason for optimism, even in the face of evil.

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