My Dear, Dear Child,
I’m writing this letter to let you know what you are living through now, the division, the hate, the corruption, and the resulting squalor did not have to be. It was a failing of me and my generation which has condemned you to endure this fate. But though it seems dark now, know that still the sun can rise. It’s up to the people, and it’s up to you to decide where you go from here. What is does not have to be.
The other day you requested an explanation. You had heard from your teacher that the United States of America was once a noble and respected; was once a great nation; looked upon with awe and reverence; as if it were a beacon on a hill. You asked me if men and women around the globe aspired to live amongst others striving to embody ennobling principles of integrity, truth and justice for all; in a land fostering opportunity. You asked why America committed suicide.
I was overcome with emotion at your question. This letter, though inadequate, is an attempt to explain how we squandered our gift; our chance for prosperity; and our calling to greatness.
You must understand and remember human beings have two natures: one nature, our base “physical” nature seeks power and status; dominion over others with the purpose of elevating self. The other nature, our true spiritual nature recognizes that all is one. The eyes we gaze into, the grass we walk upon, the air we breathe remind us of our unified true nature, and that we journey together.
Life is a constant struggle between our two natures. We vacillate between I-me-my and us-we-together. Only if and when we open ourselves to our true spiritual nature does wisdom emerge and we draw together. Only then do we live in harmony and prosper. Human history is the story of this struggle projected onto an epic stage.
I know it may be hard for you to believe, living now amongst such ignorance and fear manifesting in hatred. But it wasn’t always this way. The United States was the product of a timeless idea – an ideal really – that all people are created equal, and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The men who chiseled this ideal into the collective consciousness were far from perfect; many were slave-holders and ambitious power seekers. But the spark they inspired lit that beacon that shone around the world.
There was, for a time, one nation on earth where ideals held sway. One place on earth where men strived to improve; where most aspired to and revered principles of honesty and integrity. Succumbing selfishly to our physical nature we discredited those principles and shred the document which had enshrined those ideals. The Constitution of the United States had been a bold proclamation; an attempt by the people to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
But alas power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
You see, each individual, every man, woman and child is endowed with a gift. Each of us has the power to think; to choose how we feel; how we respond to what is. And each of us has the power to decide what we will do and which way we will go. This is the ultimate power. In a world of limits, this is freedom – our ability to think is our freedom. Yet always with power comes responsibility; and responsibility is too much for many to bear. So instead of thinking and embracing freedom with responsibility we absolve ourselves of the burden by giving our power away.
We give our power to others so that we cannot be blamed for doing what we do. If we hold onto our power – every bad decision, every weakness, every self-serving ambition is amplified in our awareness. We lay bare our own hypocrisy. If however, we give our power to others at least we have someone else to blame. And so the unraveling begins.
Every generation advances and declines in cycles as we deal with the human struggle: self-above-all-else against one-supporting-and-supported-by-many. The cycle moves through four stages: pulling together, followed by elevating self, followed by an unraveling where an attitude of “every man for himself” prevails, inevitably leading to the final stage – a crisis. The crisis is the point of decision: fight for self until the bitter end or come together and advance.
When times are bad and circumstances dire people naturally pull together. There is power in unity. But when times are good and opportunity abounds people begin to feel secure enough to seek their own way; their own advantage. The dismissing of principles and the undermining of trust are imperceptible at first, but soon distrust takes root and grows.
This age-old pattern produced war on a global scale in the first half of the twentieth century. By the end of World War II the United States had emerged as a superpower and our downward trajectory began.
The culture shift to every-man-for-himself had been picking up momentum since the 1960’s. By the early 2000’s we had completely abandoned those founding ideals of integrity, honesty and justice. However our quest for freedom without responsibility culminated in something we had not anticipated; the concentration of power in the hands of a few.
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Over the course of generations, leveraging anonymity, we ruined our system. What we call bribery, graft and corruption in other countries we codified in law here in America: campaign finance, corporate and tax law, and the reliance on bias to oppress those we felt we must oppress. Consistently and persistently we converted government from a body of the people, by the people and for the people into a corporate behemoth rewarding winners and disenfranchising losers – not for the good of the many but for the benefit of a few.
The ruse was so thorough millions celebrated the victory of power over principle and America began to die.
Bowing to powerful masters, we selected the weakest most self-serving and feeble-minded amongst us to officiate at the highest levels of government. We eradicated from the public sphere civil discourse and progressive human values – those divine ideals enshrined in the Constitution. And we crushed any individual who recognized or pointed out the folly of our destructive strategy. The long-game was on.
We stoked and amplified division and hate through traditional media: television, radio, newspapers and magazines; anti-social media on the internet; and through political and economic platforms.
We did not realize that by fleeing from responsibility we undermined our own prospects for living decent, fulfilling lives. We fashioned modern American politics into a lying, cheating, stealing art form. Isolating good and decent people, we cultivated fear and made sure hate flourished.
We caved to the depravity and deception of self-serving elites. We ceded power to bullies and then hoped crumbs would trickle down, going so far as to embrace the bullies’ “Me First” mantra as a liberating call to arms galvanizing fear and hate politics.
Three types of people rally to bullies: those who scheme to benefit, those enamored by power, and those ruled by fear. Politicians and corporate opportunists prostrated themselves before ruling benefactors, while the power-hungry grew enraged and the fear-filled cowered with every ignorant, hated-filled word and divisive tweet issued by self-absorbed elites.
But remember, life intends to grow. When we move off course a power beyond time and space nudges us in another direction. Into the mix of “Me First” an opportunity to change course surfaced. It was a corona virus dubbed Covid-19.
When Covid-19 struck Americans responded fearfully. We acted to protect ourselves personally and to a degree, others. But the response had inconvenient consequences. Worse still, the virus revealed a truth even lies could not suppress: the elites’ prosperity-act was an illusion; only the rich were growing richer.
Undeterred by truth, throngs gathered to invoke fear and hate, chanting “Me first, me first, me first.” They stormed and ravaged our capitol. And the ideal that was America died.
The rest of the story; the fear and hate leading to violence; was an inevitable consequence of our divisive path hastened by our “Me First” movement.
We never stepped back to examine what we, at the time considered a self-evident truth: powerful ignorant men know best. We blamed everyone but ourselves. Seduced by the prospect of “Me First,” we destroyed trust with enthusiasm at an industrial scale. And we ended up destroying America and destroying your life.
I am sorry. I regret deeply the pain and hurt I’ve brought to you and yours. We squandered our opportunity to rise above our petty nature and become what we are truly capable of becoming. But all hope is not lost.
As long as you breathe, the opportunity exists for you to set the world right. I know destroying is much easier than building; we did that in spades in my generation. But don’t follow our path. There is a better way. Focus on cultivating integrity, honesty, equality, and justice; these will bloom into trust promoting unity; ultimately resulting in prosperity.
You can salvage the opportunity of life. You can salvage this planet. Life intends to grow. Grow, grow together and become. It’s not “Me First;” it can never be “Me First;” it must always be “We, Us, Together” – for all of us.
Lovingly and Hopefully,