Thursday, October 27, 2005

I Believe

My one regular reader, based on the number of comments (five or six, maybe), is my brother, Neil. He doesn’t share my views completely. He has a different view of BushCheney’s ineffective response to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. Nor does he have much use for the US Senate. Other comments have disagreed with me as well. I welcome the discussion. Even without comments, I realized that writing for publication forces me to think beyond slogans and buzzwords, to look at things as objectively as possible and be able to rationally and logically present my position. If I’m going to publish something, I want it to make sense.

I can write knowledgeably and logically about many topics. Traveling, reading, meeting a wide range of people, here and abroad, observing people, their institutions and behavior over three decades has enabled me to acquire and analyze information. What I don’t know I can find out. But all that is knowledge, something I learned; at some point I write from strongly held beliefs, from my sense of what is right. I have three fundamental beliefs.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

All human beings have, as individuals, unalienable rights, among these are right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, which no other individual or organization can infringe.

Individuals may join with others in order to obtain security and accomplish purposes not within the means of a single individual.

These values are indisputable. They clarify for me what it means to be a good human being in a world shared with other human beings. They apply also to entities created by human beings: governments, corporations, religions, all the way to little leagues and garden clubs. These ideals provide all the direction necessary for for a moral life. To believe otherwise is to believe that some may control and exploit others. To believe otherwise allows some individuals to escape responsibility for their actions that harm others. To believe otherwise rejects what have been universal principles for most of recorded history.

Killing another human being a good case in point. Killing is proscribed by our ancient texts. Unless one is suicidal, killing is not something one wishes upon oneself (and even then the wish may not be rational). Killing another denies Life and the Pursuit of Happiness. It certainly abrogates security. Humans have regarded killing as wrong since the dawn of moral conscience, yet humans have killed each other for just as long. We rationalize the need to kill, primarily as individual and collective self-defense; killing is still wrong but we make exceptions when necessary and live with the consequences..

I also believe in the Social Contract upon which this nation is founded. The US Constitution is America’s unique gift to the world, a product of the Age of Enlightenment. The Constitution recognizes that government is a joint endeavor by individuals. In joining together, we relinquish some autonomy to accomplish what exceeds our individual capabilities. We secure our homes and loved ones against attack and deprivation. We create the infrastructure and support that benefit all: transportation, utilities, schools, environmental protection, banking, national parks and forests, to name only a few. All Americans benefit from the security of life and liberty, property owners benefit in proportion to their wealth.

Because many benefit in proportion to their wealth, I believe it is reasonable as part of the Social Contract to ask more of those who have more. And beyond a certain level, wealth is superfluous. I don’t know what that level is but it does exist. Above that level, wealth should be returned to the community that helped create it. This sounds radical but many wealthy individuals know this. Bill Gates has endowed a $20 billion foundation. His father, along with Warren Buffet, actively support roll back of BushCheney’s giveaway tax cuts because they understand that their wealth far exceeds what they need. Even 19th Robber Barons like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockerfeller gave away some of their fortunes. Along with these private decisions, the community also has a right to use these resources for the common good.

The common good is defined by the unalienable rights of the individuals who make up the community, which can be local, state, nation and the world. The idea of a world community that is alien to most people, especially Americans, but international terrorism, economic globalization and environmental threats to the entire planet are slowly raising people’s consciousness about worldwide interdependence. In the future, I believe that securing inalienable rights will require greater cooperation to among all the world’s inhabitants and their societies.

Although not stated, God is present in my belief. Not the Sky God of the religious texts but rather the moral force of my beliefs. To me living according to my beliefs, respecting others and the world around me, is the Supreme Good. There may or may not be a Supreme Being but I know that if I live according to my fundamental beliefs, no just and omnipotent creator will condemn me just because I did not follow a prescribed religious ritual. When I need to see a manifestation of my God, I need only to see the world of creation–Mother Earth and Father Sky–of which I am a part to find it.

These are my fundamental beliefs and the ideals that flow from them. In holding these beliefs I am respecting the individual rights of all other individuals (and for that matter, all of creation including plants, animals and eco-systems). If you were wondering why I write what I write, these beliefs underlie it all.

Now you know.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hallowed Ground Again

I visited the Navajo Veterans Cemetery last week when I was in Window Rock and found a group of volunteers clearing brush. Their efforts were marked by the smoke rising from a constantly fed pile of burning brush. About three quarters of the cemetery has been cleared. The graves and headstones are now far more prominent. So there is some landscape control in this place, a never ending battle that is waged periodically to keep the cemetery clear.

Walking among the newly liberated graves I see that many are enclosed, more than I remembered. The enclosures are made from all sorts of materials. One enclosure is a weathered picket fence about three feet high, its weathered wood hiding the marker. Other graves are enclosed with different materials: concrete block, smooth rounded river rock, rough stones. Here a grave is decorated with broken glass of many colors. Another sports shiny sprinkles. The earth is reddish tan, sandy and mixed with small stones. The flags wave in the light wind. There are fewer today than in past visits. Virtually all are whole and bright. Veterans Day is three weeks away. More flags will appear then.

Standing here on a sunny day, I see a memorial to hard life in a difficult place. Military service often added hardship. Many veterans buried here died before age 50. Their headstones tell little about them beyond branch and theaters of service, medals and dates. No hint of what led so many to early graves.