A NEW ETHIC FOR AMERICA
We are at a crossroads in America, and the choices are wide before us. We can go in the direction of listening to those who speak the loudest with an effort to convince us of their point of view, or we can try to go deeper within ourselves so that we learn what truth feels like - what our own truth feels like...
This article follows the previous one on American presidential campaigns in which it was stated that a new ethic is needed in America in order to transform the prevailing perception that "might makes right," and force and aggression are needed to demonstrate strength and guarantee security.
Today, this ethic undergoes increasing scrutiny as America becomes more disillusioned with the tenor of the existing political scene, and as it sees the posturing of those in public life as a competitive struggle to stay elected or electable, or, as a method of demonstrating their own superiority in other ways.
Into this arena, one who walks in gentleness and in a desire to not engage in conflict is perceived as a sheep among wolves, or as a lamb that doesn't know that the wolf is a wolf at all. Gentleness and conciliatory behavior, behavior oriented toward cooperation rather than competition, are often taken to be signs of weakness, not strength, and the Gandhian dictum of creating peace by 'becoming peaceful oneself', is seen to be valid in principle but not in practice.
America has such a proud history and a proud spiritual foundation upon which she stands. And yet this foundation is tarnished in so many ways by practices that run counter to the principles which her core ethic espouses. In many respects, and since her embattled beginnings, America does not treat all of her citizens equally. And she does not pursue the ways of peace when war is presumed to be 'inevitable' or when fear is strong enough to let these ways go in favor of something else.
Within public life, those who are gentle but firm, who do not raise their voice to shout, but who speak deeply and truthfully from a clear place within, are precious jewels among rough stones. Declaiming and pronouncing are part of how one operates when given a pulpit to do so in the political sphere. It is only when the audience that listens has developed a truth-sensitivity that is deeper than words and stronger than habit, that shouting will be replaced by sincerity of feeling, and pronouncements will be replaced by true adherence to a deeper set of spiritual principles.
We are at a crossroads in America, and the choices are wide before us. We can go in the direction of listening to those who speak the loudest with an effort to convince us of their point of view, or we can try to go deeper within ourselves so that we learn what truth feels like – what our own truth feels like. In the process we will learn how 'standing for truth' may be perceived in others and how it may offer a strength that exceeds all forms of outer aggressiveness. Then, and only then, will we accept those who come in the name of peace and conciliation, not out of weakness, but out of spiritual and moral strength. We will seek and we will find these individuals, since their message will correspond to what we most deeply recognize and desire within ourselves.
Till then, it appears that America will continue to value conflict, adversarial engagement, denouncing of others, and promotion of oneself at the expense of others, instead of valuing peace and cooperation. Hopefully, the time will not be too long before the people of America grow tired of this and want something different in those who aspire to speak for the people.
When all are ready to let go of conflict as a show of strength and to see inner integrity and firmness as a show of strength, we will have moved far as a nation toward the goal of achieving the peace in the world that each heart so deeply desires.
* * *