Saturday, May 27, 2017

Jolly School Party

Little despots running around in red neckties, aiding the state to enact new forms of oppression. This is how totalitarianism thrives, with shiny gold stars and delighted murmurs of parental assent -- at once self-serving and willfully ignorant. 

Encourage budding torturers, fete future informants, coo at the precocious operators who will one day run the guillotines. Baby steps!

Cultivate a sophisticated cadre of censors, with vision so skewed they don't even see their own excisions, much less their scissors.

Celebrate new innovations in state brutality; pioneer brilliant modes of creative suppression. Laud random violence, egg on self-styled vigilantes, three cheers for ratting out your no-good, treacherous neighbors.

Report on your parents, turn in your friends, indict your uppity teachers with a fabricated revelation. Disown those relatives, wash your hands of them and wish them well as they are shipped off to labor camps -- you are competing to fulfill the revolution.

Doused in patriotism, transmitting empty words, painted with unseeing allegiance: a tall national tale draped in a cherry-hued banner, dyed in a missionary zeal.

Let's look for more villains to stab! More public enemies to expose! Black classes against whom we rave and rant, categorical criminals against whom we can chant. More guilty civilians to condemn and jail, beat, impale, and perhaps even investigate.

Martial shouts as we drag out bookcases, full of tomes, to build a bonfire, gleefully tossing wooden instruments atop the crackling blaze. More sheafs of poems for kindling, more etudes to feed the flames, more lemmings to follow over the cliff's sheer edge -- vanguard to nowhere, smashing the old, it's time to raze the temple, raise the flag, and burn down everything behind us.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Our home in the world

Looks like we are going to get rid of much of what makes America an amazing place to live. How tragic.

Great countries don't do this. They don't destroy their scientific, medical and cultural edifices to fund fictional conflicts, while deceiving their populace about the necessity of militarized borders.

Yes, they provide security -- but they do this out in the world. Recognize that every dollar spent fighting an imaginary enemy for political gains means less preparedness and less funding for combating our real foes. These foes include hostile countries and militant organizations that would do us harm -- but they also include ignorance, deprivation, oppression and hatred.

Great countries have educated people. They raise informed citizens who care about the fate of the nation, and who understand how events in places near and far are connected. They are curious about societies around the world, recognizing that there are many ways to live.

Great countries practice empathy. There is a sense of solidarity and community. People are dedicated to a set of shared norms and principles; they care about their neighbors. "Out of many one."

Great countries enable opportunity. There is vibrant commerce that is available to all, not only to a select few. People have social and economic mobility and can choose dignified work. They are free to create amazing things, and to invite others along on the journey.

Great countries have art and culture. There is a sense of connectedness to the sacred and the secular from our past, and an understanding of how these define our future. They tell stories, create art, express emotions, and illuminate the human experience. There is freedom to give voice to the voiceless, to experiment with new ideas, to explore uncharted territory.

Great countries seek knowledge. They strive to understand our world and what animates it. They use science to analyze reality, research new cures and novel technologies, to "boldly go" where they have not yet gone before, to unlock the secrets of the universe. They are not afraid of truth; they are inspired by it.

Great countries enact compassion. They provide care for body and mind to all, including those most vulnerable among us. They promote access to medicine and wellness, not only for individuals, but also for communities. They don't restrict treatments to only the rich or the powerful.

Great countries honor Mother Earth. They care for the land, the air, the water. They understand their impact on the plants and animals, the great unseen web of life that exists all around us. They seek to live in balance with these complex systems, so that not only this generation, but their children, and the children of their children, will all be able to enjoy the privilege and beauty of being residents on this planet.

Great countries are idealistic. They aren't bogged down by petty material gains or held hostage by acquisition and greed. They believe in things other than power or wealth. They have a vision for international order that is not simply "might makes right" -- but instead look for ways of coexisting built upon the "better angels of human nature."

These countries believe in the human spirit, in collective action, in the greater good. They strive to put this into practice in their own words and actions -- not only for themselves, but for all human beings. They are not perfect, but damn if they don't try.

Great countries inspire. They don't back away from the world and look out only for themselves. They are committed to serving an idea bigger than themselves -- beliefs that can unite humanity and incite multitudes and generations into action.

Not only do they empower their own citizens to achieve more of their human potential, they extend a hand in friendship to share the fruits of their achievements, so that people in other societies might also one day enjoy these same rights and benefits, and freely choose how they exist.

While striving to improve themselves, great countries lead others to do better. By celebrating freedom, practicing empathy, and engaging in acts of mutual responsibility, they produce a sense of great harmony, at home and in the world.