Showing posts with label national security. Show all posts
Showing posts with label national security. Show all posts

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Security vs Compassion; Wisdom vs Mercy; Liberal vs Conservative!

In the uproar about separating children from parents at the U.S. border, I am reminded of the long-running controversy over abortion which pitted right to life against the right of personal choice. 

In the case of the children, we have security and integrity of the state (borders) versus compassion for the welfare of children. In both cases the obvious choice should be compassion and personal choice: both reflect the nature of the guiding principles and the overriding consciousness of American culture.

In the case of the children, it seems that there must be an administrative way to BOTH secure the border AND protect the children. On that score, I simply do not know enough about the issue. If a family attempts to enter and not everyone in the family is legal, maybe it's their choice whether they all are turned back or they are separated? Or, if they can provide sufficient documentation to ensure proper follow-up, they all enter and approval processes take place later?

I don't object to the right of our nation, indeed, every nation, to secure its own borders and decide who is allowed to enter and stay. Many are concerned about our having a porous southern border both in principle and given present world conditions of terrorism. Building a "wall" has come to be a symbolic issue but whatever practical means can be employed to better secure our borders should be considered on its own merits. Border security is basic to national security in these times.

But border security is far less an issue than the suffering of people in other nations who desperately seek to flee violence or poverty. But is pouring unending amounts of relief aid all that viable long-term? My impression is that decades of "relief" have had mixed results. (I am not referring to temporary disaster relief or medical assistance.) Better to help rebuild an impoverished economy from the inside out than simply sending food decade after decade, thus impoverishing the initiative, creativity, and self-respect of recipients.

Right now peoples in the southern hemispheres of Africa and South (and central) America are desperate for security and freedom. To open wide the gates of Europe and North America to immigration is politically and culturally unacceptable at this time. Thus we face the stark reality that present border and immigration policies could be viewed as indirectly causing more suffering in the southern realms. 

At some point, all human beings must face the reality that suffering on this planet exists and has always existed and that there will probably never be (in any foreseeable future) a global solution. We know we can feed every-body on this planet and that starvation shouldn't exist. But it does; so does poverty; abuse; exploitation; and addiction. Reason and the golden rule alone should suffice to end all injustice and suffering. But, they do not and never will. 

I sometimes come across non-profit organizations trumpeting the goal to erase poverty, hunger or illness. I'm all for it but I remain sceptical on philosophical and practical grounds. 

The reason for compassion for these children and for giving women the rights to choose (an abortion) is because the greatest gift given to humanity is free will, reason, individuality, and choice. The fact that this has the very real potential to create suffering, whether self-inflicted or inflicted upon others, is the necessary corollary to this God-given gift. 

God permits suffering because God has given us the right to make choices, including those which cause us to suffer or to inflict suffering. We are teenagers and have been given the car keys. Each person is on a long journey on which we have choices in our efforts to seek the pearl of great price: happiness. That no-thing, position, status, object or fleeting experience will give us what we seek takes a LONG time (lifetimes) for the individual soul to learn. It may be ironic, or even be seen as cruel, but the simple fact is this: it is suffering that causes us ask the deeper questions and to seek lasting solutions. We are here to re-discover that we are "One" and that unconditional love and the existence of that Love is the sole reality of creation (the true purpose of our creation).

We must learn, individually, to use the gift of freedom wisely. Preservation of individual liberties is a higher moral standard than collective security (at least under present circumstances). As is so often said: "Democracy is messy." Yet, the northern nations (Europe and America) are in the midst of a battle over where the border between individual freedom and collective security lies. That boundary line is the real national border and by necessity will move up and down within a given bandwidth. 

When prosperity, liberty, health and security are strong, we can be more "liberal." When all of these are threatened (or perceived to be), then the "border" will get tighter. As it tightens owing to fear, it appears to give permission to express prejudice, even hate. As it loosens owing to security and prosperity it appears to give permission to express love and acceptance. Thus we find the great irony that on a collective level, security and prosperity will tend to foster love and acceptance! Can we have it both ways: loose and loving? At this point in history and in consciousness, perhaps not. 

But the issue is not just a collective one, but an individual one. Institutions do not have feelings; people do. Can we affirm compassion even at the perceived expense (or fear) of our security? That takes courage and will. Right now the northern nations are faltering. Strident condemnation on both sides only makes matters worse, for it re-directs compassion towards anger while it reinforces fear's tendency to turn a blind eye to suffering. 

BE THE CHANGE -- a campaign the worldwide Ananda communities initiated a few years ago -- goes to the heart of the true solution. For the only lasting change that can emerge from in the collective reality comes from a change of heart in the individual consciousness. 

Does a nation like America have the courage to admit asylum seekers and help them get re-established? Do we have the wisdom and courage to offer not merely relief to the suffering nations from which come the asylum seekers, but to offer genuine long-term tools for their own security, justice, and prosperity? 

But do we even have such tools to offer? And, in the end, can we accept that they, too, have to want to change their cultural consciousness and embrace higher ideals and equality and refuse to accept corruption and exploitation within their own ranks? Can we force our ideals upon other peoples? As our nation fought for its freedom long ago, don't other nations have to do so--perhaps alone?

The simple fact is that the karma of individuals and nations rule. We can't save other nations and peoples from their suffering. We can be wiser and more compassionate but if we are only compassionate, the lack of wisdom may undermine our compassion. Wisdom and mercy must forever balance one another. 

The middle path starts in our "middle": our own heart. Then comes action which follows feeling. Successful action is balanced. It learns to compromise on issues such as border security vs. compassion; the right to life vs. right to choose. In a world of endless flux and duality, we must be practical in our ideals. 

The suffering of others is hurtful to those both wise and pure. But the question of "What is right action" is not so easy to answer. For me and for now, the only avenue open is to pray for these children. [Our meditation temple is hosting a prayer vigil for just this purpose. (see]

There is a desperate need to return to the "middle" path of reasoned dialogue, mutual respect, and willingness to compromise. Self-described liberals must learn how to do this, perhaps more so because the heart is wiser than the head, and, more courageous. Those "on the right" are driven by fear (and sometimes worse). They are not as open to change unless forced upon them. As Gandhi said and King reiterated, those in power do not yield it willingly. So, who, then, will make the first move?

[The very nature of conservatism is inertial. The very nature of progressivism is to change. Conservatism affirms static, unchanging values and realities while progressivism affirms the reality of evolution and the need for creative and positive change. Conservatism tends to support the status quo while liberalism tends to support change. Both represent relative and valuable truths.] 

Screaming at each other from left to right and vice versa increases in inverse proportion to the power to do anything about the situation. Left and right need to dial down the volume. Once an issue is polarized screaming is all that's left. And, it's easy to scream because there are no consequences to screaming when no one is willing to talk.

May our calls for compassion be compassionate not angry. Gandhi and King identified the redemptive power of unearned suffering. They gave their lives for their ideals. 

But today's issues do not seem to invite this heroic level of self-giving. I strongly suspect that our culture's fascination with superheroes is in direct proportion to our lack of them. Furthermore, I doubt there are any superheroes on the horizon line of our planet's destiny at this time.

Instead, we need to grow up and recognize reality as we find it. More nuanced tactics are needed for today's sophisticated issues of climate change; voting rights; prejudice on the basis of gender, race or religion; immigration policies; global trade; sustainable and healthy lifestyles; and more.

What's needed today is to learn the art of cooperation and compromise. Collective change is directional, not absolute. Imperfection is the nature of the outer world. Perfection exists only in the pure heart which "sees" God. All else is woven in the fabric of fleeting flux.

May we be both wise and compassionate.

Swami Hrimananda

Addendum: Having said "What's needed today" above, I have no illusions that it is likely to happen in this highly polarized environment of America and the world. Sadly, but seemingly inevitably, only a crisis of monumental proportions will motivate any given nation, or perhaps the planet, to unite in its response. Most people or nations change only when forced to by external circumstances. 

Addendum no 2: The silent movement establishing intentional communities, such as the Ananda communities worldwide, will someday set a pattern and an example of "how-to-live" in troubled times. There is no doubt that a planetary storm is brewing. Like weather-related storms, some will be devastated, others untouched, though they live side-by-side. Jesus said, "Two will be in the field; one will be taken; the other will remain." The law of karma (action and reaction) rules the universe.