Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Reflections On July 4th

My fellow citizens of the world, I am here today to present to you - and myself - with the challenge of living decently. I look around my country and despair. Our measure of our worth as people is our ability to make money, pay our bills, and generate wealth for the rich. We have terrible healthcare, pollution, and infrastructure crises. We are in the middle of an unjust war which will set the cause of freedom and democracy back across the world for decades. Our government has been coopted by multinational corporations - big pharma, oil, agribusiness, insurance, auto; the list goes on. Our search for spirituality, genuine love and compassion, fulfillment, and art has been fed into by these companies, which provide us instead with bigger cars, bad food, gadgets we don't need and shoddy consumer goods made by sweatshop labor.

The diamond chips in my and my ex-wife's wedding ring may very well have cost someone in Sierra Leone an arm. The soy I eat comes from former forestland mowed down for agriculture. My drinking water isn't safe without filtration.

And yet we live in comparative luxury with the rest of the world. My friends from other countries - Iran, Brazil, South Africa, and others - have experienced poverty and persecution that we can barely imagine.

I don't know what to do. I have no answers. The only thing I can think of is to be kind to others, vote, write letters, contribute to causes. Is it enough?

"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."
Robert F. Kennedy