The Open Hand
One of the ruling principles of the Constitution is the protection of the nation and its citizens, but inherent to America is freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. I, also, believe that our founding documents support another kind of freedom cloaked in the words life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Each of us is free to discover and fulfill his/her potential.
Protection is important, but the freedom to express our potential is essential. Military might does not make America great; the expression of the potential of the citizens is the key to greatness. It blesses individuals, our nation and the world.
Our fear is causing us to lose sight of the freedom to express our potential because we are dominated by the need for protection. Take note of the freedoms listed above: speech, press, and religion. Through the years, our nation’s consciousness has evolved and these three freedoms now have restrictions. You can’t say whatever you want to say. You can’t print whatever you want to print. There is protection from liable, lies and slander. You can’t yell fire in a theater when there is no fire. Even religion has its limitation. It is not to dabble in politics. The principle of separation of church and state endures.
Take note that the right to bear arms stated in the Second Amendment is often elevated to the position of an essential freedom, a freedom that is considered by many to be untouchable. There are restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press and religion, but not arms. Because of this, we grapple with a problem. We are willing to defend ourselves, but not our children. We think turning our schools into armed camps will protect the children, when, in fact, it shows our children our lack of willingness to resolve the problem at its root. This is the sign of a people losing their way and erecting the wilderness in which they wander.
Terrorism Is Winning
Look at what has happened since 9/11. A Homeland Security department was created as well as the Transportation Security Administration. These two important departments added significant expenses to our national budget. Now there is talk of fortifying “soft targets” like schools. Dear friend, America is filled with “soft targets.” We can choose fortification, but this will drain our resources. Since 9/11, billions of dollars have been added to the national budget.
Most adversaries strike at a opponent’s weakness, but terrorism has unknowingly struck at our strength, our economic power. More and more financial resources are being assigned to protection. Our schools, for instance. Will malls be next? Churches, synagogues, mosques? When we attend the theater, will we be greeted by soldiers with automatic weapons? Are we marching toward an armed state?
Consider that most of the violence we are experiencing is homegrown. It seems our greatest threat is not foreign fighters, but our own citizens. We buy guns to protect ourselves from one another. Everyone becomes a potential threat.
Terrorism is weakening us. It is a slow bleed of our resources and a heightening of our fear. As more resources are assigned to protection, the promise of democracy is diminished. Our deficit soars. We forget the essential freedoms and are dominated by the right to bear arms. We challenge the freedom of the press, but allow the escalation of weapons of mass destruction like bump stocks that make a weapon lethal enough to kill 58 people and injury over 500 concert goers in a few minutes. We declare this an acceptable loss along with the recent deaths of 14 children and three teachers in Parkland, Florida. After little debate the inaction of our legislatures declares we consider these losses the collateral damage of the 2nd Amendment. The unrestricted right to bear arms trumps the ongoing, ever increasing death of our citizens, even our children. Are there no restrictions to the right to bear arms?
A Spiritual Way Forward
Threats abound. One is the ever-increasing national debt. We are fast approaching a point of no return where we cannot balance the budget without a new approach to either our budget and its priorities or global relationships.
We are walking a spiritual path and know it not. We have a choice between our fearful self and our compassionate self. If the fearful self dominates, America will become an armed state in which the military budget is the priority while infrastructure and people programs crumble. When fear dominates, the solution is always protection: larger weapons, a wall, armed personnel in schools, etc.
However, if we allow our compassionate self to dominate, a new world emerges, and the United States leads as it was meant to lead. I suspect the only way out of the deficit is an initiative to “get along” with one another. We can try to intimidate other countries, or we can find common ground.
Imagine the dilemma…the national debt is out of control. We can balance the budget by cutting social and people programs and allow our bridges and roads to crumble. We can turn off the lights at night as they do the North Koreans. In this way, we can have our advanced weapons and seemingly project ourselves. We would be protecting ourselves from others, but we would not be protecting ourselves from ourselves.
We can do this, OR we can walk the path Spirit ordains for us.
The answer is not to isolate us from others and warily try to work with them while always being aware of our needs. The way out is to “get along.” In this way, we will eventually reduce our military spending. I have come to believe that we will never balance the budget until we reduce our military spending. And the only way we will do this is to learn to get along with the other nations of the world and their people.
The Olympian Initiative
Let’s call it the Olympian Initiative. Remember the spirit of the Olympics? We experience “getting along” at every Olympics. It shows what can be done. It illustrates the principles that will change the world.
Terrorism is draining our economic resources. Thus far, we have chosen fear’s path of protection. Another path lies open to us—Compassion. We have chosen a closed fist. May we choose the path of the open hand.