There is a lot to be said for the trepidation felt among the American citizenry right now. This is especially true for the sensitive individuals who abide by a moral code which includes compassion for others. Through compassion, we come to see how each of us is connected, not just to other people but to every living thing on earth. Thus, through compassion we come to care about life. Soon to take our highest office is a man whose compassion, whatever may exist, is smothered by ego, ego being one of the greatest enemies of tolerance, clemency, sympathy, lenience, and courtesy. As a result and now more than ever, it’s up to each of us to stay true to the compass which guides us instead towards morality and humanity.
The more we know about the impact of our day-to-day actions and words, the more willingly we put aside luxury, convenience, and personal gain whenever those goals may bring harm. Ironically, in doing so, we come to develop the most luxurious sense of appreciation and wealth. As others thrive in the conditions of our restraint, we benefit even further, like the gardener and the bee. After one refrains from picking the blossoms the other comes to feed, and so yields fruit.
Yet, as if faced with some desperate need to stay alive, the culture of America seems to have given in to self indulgence. “What’s in it for me” reigns supreme. Like drowning swimmers, citizens grab at whatever means is necessary to save themselves and maybe their loved ones. They’re tired of waiting. They pick what they want and justify the action with a flippant notion that there will be more tomorrow. Prudence has been replaced with entitlement. This unfounded recklessness has washed over every class and generation. Best get what you need now before some pest comes along and eats it first.
The charm is subtle and clever. Even the most kind creatures among us have begun to display hints of it within themselves. Yet for those of us who have successfully resisted–for any who still cling to ideals of prudence–the evidence rests in our discordant position among the majority. We are at odds. Outcasts. Fools.
Most hunt for bargains online oblivious of the workers and resources the cheap product harms. For instance, they let discounters dictate the true value of a book, ignoring the contributions of the writer, the publisher, or the tree. Saving money, winning the deal, finding the shortcut: these are the virtues rewarded.
They applaud and tweet with glee after the award winner glides across the stage to accept the highest achievement of her life while wearing a dress befitting a high-priced prostitute.
They get in line to pre-purchase the “game” with the most life-like graphics, the one that splatters even more realistic blood to indicate a win.
They tune in nightly to the big network news, happy to let journalists investigate the real-feel temperature on a really cold day, removing the burden of truthful discovery that can only be found by stepping outside the front door.
Why not then allow our most powerful leader to dedicate himself to personal gain? Why is it so atrocious that he should profit from the hardships of others? Is it just because he is so much better at it than we? He got the Taj Mahal; I got a new table at the going-out-of-business sale. Shall we not both be rewarded for our savvy economic prowess?
Is it because he degrades woman, too?
Is it because he supports violence? Is there really any psychological difference between shrugging off digital violence as entertainment and passing off real violence as security?
Why shouldn’t he lie to increase his popularity? Instead of investing a few dollars a year to support public-media journalism, do the ratings not show that we’d rather buy the lies sold on the mass-market news?
I have spent the better part of my adult life learning about innovation and progressive ideas for products, services, policy, and infrastructure that would position the United States as a world leader in intelligence and benefit all living things on this beautiful planet. Yet, during that entire time, I’ve had to listen to rhetoric against it. We can’t afford it. It won’t work. The technology is not there yet. In everything from parking lot materials to electricity transmission, legacy greed has held a tight grip on our advancement, and instead of fighting for new and better, we’ve somehow come to accept that the sharks know best. To cope with the ensuing boredom from perpetually standing still, we escape by entertaining ourselves with sex, violence, scandal, and shopping, which further suits the sharks just fine.
And so, here we are: stuck with a representative of greed and self interest as our most powerful leader-to-be. This week, valiant attempts to remove him from this electoral position failed. They were unsuccessful in suppressing this single symptom of a country-wide plague. With our country’s highest honor in shambles, we must remove the mask that covers what really ails us. The voter’s choice dwindled to the very bottom of the dried-up political bucket for a reason, and we have to find it in ourselves to heal this ourselves.
I believe strongly in the power of strong leadership. But as I see, if our leaders aren’t taking us where we want to go, we should STOP FOLLOWING. And just because we should have turned around long ago doesn’t mean we can’t turn around now. To do this we must demand quality, peace, ethics, and respect not just from them, but first from ourselves and our culture. Then, before you know it, proper, ethical leaders will emerge, invigorated by the positive momentum of the crowd.
Until then, where do we start? With compassion. Let us remember that it is inherent in each of us. Let us remember the true power it brings. Let us consider it’s long-term value. Let us remember how easy it is to lose. And let us reward those who act upon it. Don’t be fooled into thinking it doesn’t exist. Reserve judgment, explore the facts, buck the trends, reject wickedness, and defend kindness. Continue to do the right thing even when . . . especially when . . . it’s most difficult or uncomfortable.
In a world seemingly gone mad, your concern for others is shared by more people than you might think. Your positive actions and words make more of an impact that you might realize. Your intention to do the right thing is matched by more neighbors than you know exist. Your distaste for big box stores, giant media conglomerates, violence- and sex-crazed entertainment, and scandal-ridden political campaigns is far from reserved for you alone.
There is good reason for that constant feeling of trepidation. And you are most certainly not the only one to feel lonesome, hopeless, or distrustful right now. Let this current situation not further tear us apart but compel us to act. Let us plant a new garden, one in which we can once again be free to imagine, dream, and grow the fruits of compassion so that we may all come to care about life once more.