What Will It Take?


Just some thoughts to begin the year

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What will it take for change to occur in this country in the next year? What will it take for this country to understand that the methods and the thoughts of the past have no place in the future and that those who cling to the past will find no future?

There is a gap in this country, a gap between the people. It is a gap between those who have and seek power and those who have no power or voice in this country. It is a gap brought about by economic and social differences. This gap grows larger every day, especially in terms of power; those who have power and seek power are so far removed from reality as to make any power they actually gain meaningless. They are removed from the reality in which the average American lives and cannot possibly comprehend the problems the average American encounters on a day-to-day basis.

The problems of this society, this country, and this world are the results of thinking in the past and believing that what once worked will work again. This is maybe the worst winter this world has every faced and if there are expectations that a new year will bring change by itself, there will be many disappointed people.

In the winter of 1776, Thomas Paine wrote of the times that “try men’s souls.” He wrote of the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot, of people who were for the Revolution when things were good but turned against and away from the movement when things were going badly.

And in this winter of 2008, when the economic fortunes of this country and the world are sliding downward quickly and prospects for the future are bleak, we hear the same cries. There are those who are quick to blame others for these misfortunes, quick to say that one political philosophy or another is at fault.

There are many today who are the 21st century equivalent of the sunshine patriot and the sunshine soldier that Thomas Paine so despised. They are the ones who are only interested in a solution that allows them to maintain what they have, be it in politics, economics, or social status. They are only interested in other people’s problems if such interest will further their own interest.

The people of this country will let others tell them how to think and what to say because what they are told fits within their own selfish interests. To let others think and speak doesn’t require much effort on an individual’s part.

Look at the nature of commercials on television today. Many of the commercials (and I am not speaking of the 30 – 60 minute infomercials that many stations use to fill up air time) that fill up the spaces on the cable television promise wealth, health, and success in ways that verge on illegal, dishonest, or unethical means.

We cannot see the contradictions in our rhetoric. The media is proclaimed to be liberal in nature but all you hear and much of what you read is conservative. The people cry out against illegal immigration and blame those who seek to enter this country in search of better opportunities. Little is said about the companies who hire the illegal immigrants and go unpunished and nothing is said about the fact that those who cry out the loudest are often the children and grandchildren of immigrants themselves.

Many of our parents and grandparents came to this country in search of better opportunities; the fight for freedom some two-hundred thirty-two years ago was about such opportunities. Yet, those who are the beneficiary of those opportunities want to say no to those individuals who seek the same opportunities and seem to forget the racism, bigotry, and oppression that their own ancestors meet.

Our politics have become the politics of fear, not hope. Our politics are more about who has the power in the present time rather than leadership into the new century. Each year political campaigns get longer and dirtier. While a new administration still has some three weeks to go before taking office, there are some who are already proclaiming its efforts a failure. And though the next never-ending set of political primaries and accompanying Presidential election is not until 2012, we are already speaking about the candidates who will be involved in that race. It is almost as if the 2008 election either didn’t take place or didn’t count.

Change is hard to accomplish when no one is willing to work for change or when one must give up something for the good of the people. We speak of this being the land where people can find opportunity but that is only true if you have the resources to seek opportunity. We speak of this land being the place where all can be successful but success depends upon your economic and social status. If you have no resources of your own, then you will not be allowed to seek your own opportunity. If you are not among the social, political, or economic elite, then you have no chance to be successful.

What will it take to effect change in the coming year and years to follow?

Change will not occur if individuals see others as a threat to their personal way of life. If we are intent on keeping what we have and getting more at the expense of others, if we are intent on seeking salaries that are unrealistic when compared to the salaries and wages of others, then change will not occur.

Change will occur when we no longer use war as the means for arbitrating disputes, when violence is not the answer to violence. Change will occur when we decide to do something about hunger, poverty, homelessness, and lack of medical insurance. Change will occur when we decide that housing and healthcare should be affordable and wages and salaries should allow a family to earn a reasonable living. Every human being living on this planet has a right to a decent place to live and access to medical care without bankrupting their lives.

To do all of this will require funds and that probably means higher taxes. And most people don’t want higher taxes. You can hear the critics how this will cost a lot of money and most of the money will be wasted. You can hear them howling that it would be better to let each individual decide what to do with their money. If the problems were new and limited in scope, that would be the most appropriate solution. But the problems have been left to fester and grow and now are beyond the realm of individuals acting independently.

When your thinking is on the short-term, it is hard to see the solution is a long-term one. The solutions will not come immediately and that is troubling to a society that is used to immediate gratification. It will call upon the many who have much to sacrifice and that will cause grumbling about those who feel that what they have is theirs and they do not want to share.

Change will occur when we stop thinking in terms of traditional labels. To be a conservative or a liberal is to wear an outdated label. Such labels are two sides of the same lens and we need to see the world in an entirely different manner.

Change will only occur when we realize that every life on this planet is precious and labels such as American, Iraqi, Iranian, Palestinian, Israeli, Indian, Afghan, or Pakistani no longer apply.

Change will only occur when we understand that we are altogether on this planet and that we must share in the resources equally. If we decide that because we are somehow better than others and thus entitled to more than others, we will die. Change will only occur when we understand that how we treat this world affects everyone living on Earth. We need to understand that the resources of this world are not limitless and that pollution does not immediately go away any more.

Change can only begin when we begin to focus on the future as much or more than we focus on the past. It will take a new mind set, a new way of thinking to solve the problems and make into the future. If we desire to maintain our present way of thinking with our present delineations in society because of race, creed, and status, then there will be no future. What it takes is for us to see that we cannot continue as we have in the past and that we need to be thinking about everyone together, not apart.

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