My hair couldn’t be more gray than what it is. As I get older perhaps I have some small claim to wisdom, at least some experience in watching the world go by for almost seventy years. So the older I get, the more concerned I become about the great inequality in the distribution of wealth throughout this country and the world. So much of that inequality is the result of the accompanying lack of political power by those who are poor or at least middle income and lower. We have this strange idea that we are ‘in control’. To my way of thinking nothing could be farther from the truth. As the middle class and/or poor, we are so desperate that throughout history we have elected leaders who use the cry ‘for the common good’ for their own good. The Emperors of Rome used the old “bread and circuses” to keep the people pre-occupied and fed. It was a premise built on a shaky idea. That was proven later in the French Revolution when hungry people went on a rampage against the wealthy who saw the poor farmers and shop keepers as rabble and only to be used to their benefit. In South Sudan today we are seeing two politicians using age-old tribal hatreds to tear their newly found country apart. The wreckage is a land where millions have become refugees, where rape is used as an act of power, where people are scrambling for food wherever they find it, and horrible, horrible acts are being committed. There is nothing decent nor compassionate.
It is too easy for us to dismiss what is happening by saying, “Well, that is a different culture. They do not value human life and peace as we do.” The seeds for disruption and political breakdown have been appearing on the scene for years. The most troubling facet of our life in this country is the rise of the influence of money to control our elections. Party animosity has seeped into religion, and culture to the point that unless you define a political party, explain how you practice your religious faith, and align yourself with ‘the big bucks’ you will not survive.To climb the corporate or social ladders in any part of the world you have to be in the right group and you have to follow all the right rules.
The power brokers in Washington today and actually throughout the world are a club of billionaires. Their obsessive need to be in power, to control the fate of their particular nation keeps the world on edge. For many generations it was believed any young man or woman who worked hard could be president. That is a myth. You have to have money, come from money or be backed by those behind the scenes, the king makers. They don’t want to be seen or even known, but they are the power brokers and politicians need their money in order to survive. I heard one Senator make the comment that ten of the richest counties in this country are grouped around Washington, D.C. Money and power attract.
I don’t know how we develop a culture where compassion and kindness are how we define ourselves. Where simple living is joyful living. The anger that has torn us apart for many decades has resulted in a country that is divided and still angry. There is no civil discourse, there is no attempt at understanding. Even our president says, “My way or the highway.”
My own personal ethos comes most often from the words of Jesus and those men and women who have followed his teachings through the centuries. It is not Republican or Democrat, it is not liberal or conservative, it is not white or people of color; it is not legal or illegal aliens. If nothing else perhaps we could take a lesson from Creation. All around us we see ecosystems that depend on each other. Clean oceans, breathable air, mountains, trees, wildlife, the passing of the seasons. Disturb one part of it and the balance is destroyed.
I don’t know how we bring our lives, our thinking, our personal philosophies back into alignment with each other. I can’t make it through this life alone. I need people and for that reason I am willing to be needed. Those billionaires in power have no understanding of the way we live our lives here in Montana or anywhere in the small towns and corners of this country. They line their pockets and we struggle.
Not every politician is this way, of course, but those folks cannot defeat the establishment. There are millions of people in this country who need what help we can give for food (volunteer to help in the Food Bank), for employment (support job training), for housing (support low-income housing or groups like Habitat for Humanity), for medical care (support free clinics backed by government assistance). If our focus is on helping and supporting each other, politics becomes less important. It is up to us to create a decent place to live and an environment for our children to grow in peace. It seems the rich will continue to get richer and Washington will continue to be removed from the realities of real life. When they get done with their silly little games that make them feel good, perhaps something really worthwhile can then happen.