AMERICA'S TEARS - The Replacement of Ideals by Ideology
In 2004, Ted Sorenson, a former aide to President John F. Kennedy, wrote an article called "A Time to Weep" that was both heartfelt and eloquent in its plea to return to the ideals that are basic to the core of America. This article outlined, sometimes painfully, the need to restore moral purity and authority to our national and international policy to replace its present emphasis on military authority. Sorenson wrote:
"True, we have not lost either war (Afghanistan, Iraq) we chose, or lost too much of our wealth. But we have lost something worse - our good name for truth and justice."
Today, we in America are facing similar challenges. We are being asked to pursue a policy of war in the Middle East that is costing the lives of thousands of people, dozens on a daily basis, and at the same time we are being asked to absolve ourselves of any responsibility for this action. Our conscience as a people requires that we not do this. We cannot pursue a policy of widescale death and diminish our responsibility for being the agents of this death. We cannot turn aside from the heartache that is being caused by our presence in occupied Iraq and occupied Afghanistan, without losing our sensibility as being people of good conscience. This willingness to pursue our own ideals at the expense of others and with indifference to the lives of others has made America less than the nation it was – not a nation of ideals, but a nation whose ideals have been placed in service to the requirements of personal and political ideologies which have a vastly different flavor than the ideals which contain universal and eternal moral truths.
The difference between ideology and ideal is vast. An ideal, in its highest and truest form, partakes of a truth that is human and universal because it emerges from our essential nature as souls and as beings who have been created with a heart that knows itself to be linked with all. Ideology, by contrast, contains a set of principles, goals, values, and aspirations, all of which connect to current political, social, and economic strategies and agendas. These move with the popular currency of societies and cultures and reflect the needs and goals of large groups of people. They do not reflect the permanent values that are inherent in human nature in its deepest sense, but the thoughts of a smaller portion of humanity that then become generalized to affect a larger portion, at least for a time.
Today in America, we are in the thrust of a powerful ideology representing itself to our hearing and to our awareness as being expressive of our higher ideals as a nation. This assertion distorts truth and confuses the listener who genuinely seeks to be true to what is highest and best within the national outlook and presence in the world. It distorts what it means to be an American.
As a public, we are handicapped by the degree of misinformation present concerning events that form part of our foreign policy and military policy so that we no longer know when ideals are being departed from We no longer know what we are actually involved with in the day-to-day, nitty-gritty interaction of both military and non-military representatives abroad in relation to the populations they are living among. We do not know, really, what effect it has on the surroundings to have an occupying force in their midst. We could know, for there are those on the ground reporting on these things from the perspective of first-hand observation, but it would require an effort, an effort that we are often too confused, too tired, or too cynical to make. Yet the absence of this effort is part of the seduction of ideology as it relates to our moral center. Such seduction invites us to abdicate placing our full support behind the need to know what is going on so that we can sleep better, think less, and be more enveloped by our own personal concerns and lives. This willingness to remain asleep has been used by the proponents of ideology that seek this very thing in order to further their own plans and agendas. It is also used by forces that are antagonistic to the expansion of light that continue to stir conflict and violence in the world. The purpose of the latter is to dismantle any possibility for the true benefits of democracy or individual liberty from taking hold in the world as God and light would have it be. These forces are powerful, and while we sleep, they remain in charge of the ground plan for stirring uprisings, insurgencies, hostage-taking, and atrocities of all sorts – all of which are taking place now at an ever-increasing rate.
We cannot afford to stay asleep while our ideals are being replaced by new presentations that claim to represent them. At the very least, we must be awake to the consequences of our actions around the world so that we know how and why the moral power of America has become tarnished - so that we know how and why much of the Arab world feels humiliated and degraded at the hands of U.S. policy and seeks retribution of one sort or another. This needn't come as a surprise to us though it is painful to see. It needn't come as a surprise since it is based on the preemptive policy of intervention and control that has caused the U.S. to be increasingly seen as a manipulator of peoples in its own interests, rather than a helper to all. It has made the U.S. seem to be a powerful force of interference and intention that needs to be stopped, rather than one that comes to serve the purposes of freedom. We are on the brink of waking up to discover that we are not welcome in much of the world as we once were – not as individuals – but as a nation that is asleep to the consequences of its own actions and to the source and effect of these actions.
There are many in the world who are suffering greatly due not only to the presence of U.S. self-interest and its pursuit of continuing economic advantage, but also because they have been unable to establish a way of life that permits anything but poverty to exist. Often this is due to a combination of factors including the lack of means for production and therefore of a positive trade balance and greater national income, climatic conditions which prevent indigenous agricultural efforts from being successful, initially, due to lack of funding, and to despair, crime, and corruption which are the long-term consequences of being firmly wedged into a cycle of poverty that there seems no escape from. While the U.S. may not have directly caused these conditions to occur, its willingness to retain the lion's share of the world's wealth and to use the lion's share of the world's resources has a large part to play in this situation. This willingness to not accept responsibility for lifting up the nations of the world in proportion to its capacity to do so and to the need that exists, this willingness that allows us to pursue economic ideologies that create a vast discrepancy between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' while at the same time espousing concern for the welfare of all - has a large effect on world poverty due to our indifference and greed. In truth, we face the same situation at home as we do abroad where the same principles of the right to economic equality are espoused while the poor become poorer, the numbers of homeless increase, and those who are dependent on government aid for the basics of survival have more difficulty making ends meet. Here, too, the words of economic ideology used in place of ideals cost our most deprived citizens a great deal in terms of the quality of their lives.
We need in this country to have a genuine awakening in order for change to take place. We need to awaken to the part that we are being called to play in the upliftment of those who have less so that the ideals of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" can remain true not just for the few, but for the many. We need to take responsibility not for controlling large portions of the world through our military and political power, but for helping the rest of the world through our willingness to not remain isolated in our economic supremacy and in our desire to guard and to hoard what we have. For the end result of holding on to the great deal more that we have is that those who have less, as a result, will seek through their own pain and sense of deprivation to undermine the holding on that we are doing, and will seek, at the same time, to equalize the situation whether we wish them to do so or not. This is inevitable, for the world is moving toward greater freedom and greater self-determination for all peoples whether we wish it to do so or not, and this self-determination cannot ultimately be bought by the U.S. It can only emerge as a true sense of what each nation and culture wishes, based on its own history and outlook. This may or may not agree with what America's policy would prefer it to seek in the way of identification with our own beliefs, yet it remains valid, nevertheless.
In Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, in the name of freeing people and establishing democracy, we have denied basic human rights, trespassed on the livelihood and even the possibility of life for the populations we have come to 'free', and have interfered with ways of life that we did not agree with. This stance can no longer be legitimized by an individual consciousness that is awake. Such a consciousness must stand within itself against this usurpation of the right to influence all others because we can, and to position ourselves in positions of power and control because we can. Such an awakened consciousness needs to stand up to ideology representing itself as ideals and see through the distortion behind this. It must assert itself as the independent awareness that it is, bound in loyalty to the true ideals that lie at the foundation of American history – those that give the right to each human being, everywhere, to liberty, happiness, and the control of their own destiny. This needs to remain our motto and our creed, and we must remain bound to it not only for ourselves, but for the rest of humanity as well.
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Please send any comments or questions concerning the above to JR@lightomega.org. I welcome hearing from you.