We forget some of the principles this country was founded on. Yes, it was for freedom. Freedom not to be under a tyrannical government. Freedom for its citizens to practice their own religion, get a good education, move from one class system into another, have a voice in the way the government was run, and freedom to care for one another. The founding members of this country wanted to escape an oppressive and unfair government. An ocean wasn’t enough to create the kind of country they wanted to live in so they rose up and said, “No! We are going to create a country where all people have rights to a better life in the way they want to live it.” Actually, at the beginning it was only white men who had rights. The founding fathers (they were all white men) didn’t fully understand they weren’t really forming a free country for all, just men. So they were misguided. As a nation we had some learning to do and since then we have learned and advanced into a truly free country for all, on paper anyway.
This isn’t a Christian nation. It was founded by men, most of whom acknowledged there was a God, but that doesn’t mean the nation belongs to any religious practice but does allow all religions to be practiced. That alone is a big deal. Right now in this world people are imprisoned for practicing a religion other than the government approved religion. We are not that country.
The United States is a place of freedom for all. The preamble of the Constitution sums up what this country is founded on best: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The role of the government and citizens of this wonderful experiment is to support justice, do what we can to insure peace for everyone (domestic tranquility) as well as support one another to have basic physical, social and economic needs met (promote general welfare). We are to think about how our actions will affect the general population.
We are given the freedom to thrive and grow in an environment where we are protected and provided for. We can get an education and become a productive adult within our society to add to the domestic tranquility, demonstrate justice, participate in the common defense and ensure the blessings of liberty continue for the generations to follow.
Sadly, many people have forgotten these basic tenets our country was founded on. We do things that benefit only ourselves. We cut corners to save ourselves money (or make more) but then sometimes in the process we hurt others (letting toxic waste flow into a stream is cheaper than processing it in a safer way so the waste doesn’t end up in drinking water that damages others). Laws have had to be added to help protect us when people don’t care. We don’t like laws. I don’t think our founding fathers intended for us to have so many laws but I think they were naive and blinded to their own selfishness: women didn’t have rights, slavery was legal, and they viewed Native Americans as savages, just to name a few.
We’ve had to do a lot of growing as individuals and as a nation. We’ve had to enact laws to step in and make it harder to violate justice, domestic tranquility and general welfare. As technology and situations change, new laws have to be put in place to address the ways we hurt others. And on this July 4th, the hot topic is wearing masks. We need to ask what is the reason for wearing one? Is it recommended so the government can take away your rights or is it because they believe it is in the best interest of people (general welfare and domestic tranquility)? I don’t like wearing a mask at all. I wear one because I want to do what I can to help others and it just might help. I care about the common good not just my good.
As we approach the celebration of the founding of this truly wonderful country, memorize the preamble (School House Rock put it to music way back when I was young, it’s catchy and easy to remember). Put what you do through the filter of: is it just, does it perpetuate domestic tranquility, does it promote the general welfare of others, will it be a benefit to future generations? Take on the role of bringing goodness and kindness not only to our country but also to this world. It will create a free and peaceful existence for you, too!
My heart is grieved. I see so much hate being thrown around on social media and in the news from Black Lives Matter to Anti-Mask protests and beyond. I’m pretty sure people on all sides of the issues are not stupid, wicked people. I think, for the most part, we are all scared and hurting in some way. Some fear the loss of control, “If I give in to the demand to wear a mask you’re going to just keep taking away my rights.” Some fear culpability, “If I say black lives matter, then I have to admit there is something inside of me that thought they didn’t or perhaps I am some how complicit in their oppression.” Some fear the loss of protection, “If you don’t wear a mask you might infect me.”
I think our hate for those on the other side of an issue comes from fear, anger or sadness. I think the fear, anger or sadness come from wounds from our distant or not so distant past. We were hurt in some way and now we let that hurt spew out on others. We were oppressed by another, we experienced hurt at the intentional or unintentional words or actions of another, we felt misunderstood, unheard, or not good enough to another. Something happened and the hate toward others started to take root and grow into something dark and hurtful inside. Left unhealed, we just repeat what was done to us, only we think we are justified some how. We’re not. We’re just as guilty as the person who hurt us. We are repeating the cycle.
We have this wonderful aspect to our humanity that enables us to change. We can look at ourselves, learn about the hurtful parts of us, heal the pain, and function in a kind, understanding way toward ourselves and others. This takes work. It takes humility and it’s worth it. I don’t say this from an “I’m all that” place but rather from knowing what it’s like to be the one hurting others, doing the hard work with others by my side to delve into the why, and find healing. I’m not always good at it but I try to see the other side. I try to understand where the other is coming from rather than demand I’m right and you’re wrong. It’s freeing, really it is. It feels so much better to put down my arsenal of attacks and listen instead. I don’t have to agree with you to listen and understand your view. Listening to you helps me soften. We might not end the conversation in agreement, but we will still be friends. Try it, you might find freedom if you do. 🙂
When the political, cultural and theological climates are marked with polar opposite views, hate begins spilling out of many of us. We think hate-filled thoughts about people who have different views. People use hate-filled language to express their dissent with another’s opinion. This is not beneficial to anyone. All it does is fuel the hate and does little to create change.
Let’s start with listening and acknowledging. Although this doesn’t necessarily stop the hate immediately, I believe deep and lasting change happens when we are willing to listen to where the other is coming from, when we listen to each other with the intent of hearing them and acknowledging their view. Sometimes we refuse to acknowledge what someone else is saying because we fear we are giving approval. Acknowledgment is not approval or agreement. It simply is saying, “You get to have the view you have. I do not get to decide that for you. I hear what you are saying.”
This is a place to begin bridging the gap whether you are talking about a marriage, a family, a community, a country, or the world. Just start here, “Let’s have a dialogue where you get to tell me your view, I’ll listen, I’ll acknowledge what you are saying and then you will do the same for me.” And that’s it. You may walk away from the conversation unsatisfied since you haven’t reached a solution yet, but that is down the road and can be too big of a goal to start with. You could be setting yourselves up for failure.
Some issues haven’t changed for generations. Although it would be best for all if we could get to some sort of workable agreement soon, that isn’t likely to happen in one conversation. So keep your goal reachable. Just listening to another person is a huge step. Adding the piece of acknowledging what they are saying is a grand goal for now.
I posted this in 2017 and it’s time to bring it back.
“The challenge is to always do what is right and good and true, even if others don’t appreciate it. Making the world a better place can’t depend on applause. You have to keep striving, no matter what, because if you don’t, many of the things that need to be done in our world will never get done.” ~ Kent M. Keith, author of Anyway – The Paradoxical Commandments
The Paradoxical Commandments by Keith M. Kent:
- People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
- If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
- If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
- The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
- Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
- The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
- People favor underdogs but follow top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
- What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
- People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
- Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
I resonate with Kent Keith’s ideas. Our job is to leave a positive mark on this planet through our actions and words. Our ripples may be small or large. The size isn’t the point. The healthiest approach is to detach from the outcome or reach of the good we do and do good anyway! 🙂
What’s happening right now is really hard to write about. I rarely hit the delete button while writing but today I am on my third attempt to say something helpful. As I write I wonder how my words will be taken. Will they be twisted? Will they be misunderstood? Will they seem too simplistic? Trite? I think a lot of us don’t know what to do or say.
I feel a wave of tears, a breaking inside for humanity. We can be so cruel to one another. I’ve been there…I’ve been the one doing the hurting and I have been hurt. We have this amazing combination of love and hate inside each one of us. The propensity to create as well as destroy.
Somehow we have not annihilated ourselves. I hold on to the hope that this will be another step toward growth, healing and leaving behind a better place for future generations.