|Posted on July 12, 2016 at 7:50 AM||comments (0)|
I first met my wife, Dana, when she was 11. I was 31 at the time, married to my first wife and raising our two sons. Let me clarify something here. I did not have any romantic or other attraction to Dana at this time. She was a kid--a charming, cute kid--but that was all she was to me. Although my wife and I were fond of her, I could not have, nor did I, imagine what she might be like as a grown woman. It NEVER entered my mind then, nor would it enter my mind for decades.
Dana’s family moved to the suburban neighborhood a year or so after we did. In those days, children were free to roam the several blocks near our houses safely. Families were around to watch out for them, mothers to keep in touch with each other in case of emergencies. Indeed, everybody knew everybody. It was congenial and comfortable in a way neighborhoods are no longer. It was unnecessary to look over one’s shoulder out of fear. There were no drive-by shootings. Muggings were few and took place in dangerous neighborhoods, not in our calm place. There was race-baiting, but it was in the national news, and it took place at nothing like the present volume, at least not where we lived.
Dana and her little brother sought out our boys as playmates. Her brother was the same age as my boys. Dana was approximately five years older, thus she became the leader of the bunch, quickly organizing them into a club in the woods behind our house, beneath what she called the Tree of Life. She led them through the usual kid-like rituals, building a "fort" and making bows, arrows, and quivers out of branches, telling them stories she made up about spirits, knights, and heroes. A large grass lawn lay invitingly next to a church that abutted our small lot. I joined them there for impromptu baseball games. We spent a lot of energy laughing.
A few years later, we moved an hour away, just over the state line. I continued to work in the city. One Friday, my wife called asking me to pick up Dana and her brother for a weekend visit. By this time Dana was 15 and a lovely girl. The weather was bright and sunny that weekend. We cooked out, played ball on our own large lawn, and swam at the pool nearby.
I was putting together a portfolio of illustration then to take to New York. Dana asked to see the little shed where I did my painting. As she examined my work, she described her own drawings and told me she wanted to write, giving me the plot outlines of several stories involving a heroine with three names, which I have, alas, forgotten.
A couple of years later, my wife and I separated. It had been an unhappy marriage and I missed my home and children. I moved back to the city and, a year or two later, my boys left their mother’s house and moved in with me. Boys need fathers. But they were difficult, associating with dubious creatures I did not much like. They never got into trouble with the law, but they skated close to the line. My older son, unknown to me, began doing drugs, marijuana at first. He also began to drink. He never did these things in our house, but elsewhere, where he was sure I wouldn’t find out.
I happened to run into Dana once or twice during that time. She was in almost in her twenties by then, much engaged in a busy social life. She drove my boys to rock concerts and took them to parties. I paid little attention, glad that my sons still had some close friends who were sane. I trusted Dana, sure she was smart enough not to indulge deeply in the cultural shift that was too rapidly taking place. Eventually, I could not tolerate my sons’ foolish habits and, at my mother-in-law's insistence, packed the older one son off to live with his grandmother. The younger son left of his own accord, having gotten a good restaurant job and his own apartment. I had been unemployed for too long and needed to live elsewhere, where I coul dfind a new place to live and gainful employment. At the invitation of a friend, I moved to New York to refresh my prospects.
I had been in New York a year or so when, walking home from the market with my supper in a plastic bag, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned, stunned to see Dana standing there, a smile beaming across her face, her gray-blue eyes twinkling like stars. “Hello, Frank Rocca,” she said. I couldn't believe my eyes. She was now a grown woman, lovely to behold! She was cute, but serious. She wore work boots, jeans, and an athletic shirt under a brown denim jacket. A leather tool belt with a hammer in a holster draped her tight waist, worn like a cowboy’s weapon. We walked and stopped for coffee. She told me she was now an experienced stage carpenter, working on a job at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. I was impressed. A few weeks later, she phoned to invite me to dinner at her apartment just to catch up.
I took the train to the Bronx, a bottle of wine in hand. When I rang the buzzer she poked her head out of the window of her sixth-floor apartment. “I have to toss you the keys,” she shouted. “The buzzer doesn’t work.” I took a creaking elevator to the sixth floor and knocked. She greeted me cordially and ushered me into a large, airy space, where she fed me chicken Marengo. It has since become the signature dish of our relationship. She told me she had no great ambition but to live a thoroughly good life. She also said that she had returned to the Catholic faith of her upbringing after a hiatus of several cynical years. She confessed she had once had a terrible crush on me—when she was 15—and had told my children. I had never known it, nor would I have acted on it had I known.
We saw each other casually over the next couple of years, but never quite got together, even though we began to have feelings for each other. For me the 20-year difference in our ages held me back from feeling what I thought was deep inside, buried somewhere. It seemed forbidden in some way. For one thing, I had known her as a child. That kind of difference can ultimately prove deadly to a romance, even after an intense beginning. Better, I thought, not to engage at all. I was certain Dana would eventually find me boring and old anyway, she was so young and vibrant. I was sure she was up for dancing and gleeful laughter, while I was up for stodgier, more contempletive pursuits.
She felt differently, but when she said she wanted “babies, backyards, and barbecues” I stepped back. Her alliterative reference frightened me in a way. I’d had an abrasive relationship with my ex-wife and did not think I could ever again take a chance on such a dangerous venture. When she announced she was going back to her home town to finish her education and become a teacher, I thought it was a good idea for her, but knew I would probably miss her a great deal. The last night I saw her in New York, we went to see “Madame Butterfly” in Central Park. When I said goodbye, I was sure I’d never see her again.
She surprised me with a phone call a few years later. That began a 20-year correspondence, at first by phone, later by e-mail. We never met during that time. We contacted each other four or five times per year on average. Some years it was more often, some less. During those years she married, but did not speak about it much. I learned later that her marriage had been unhappy, as mine had. Now, I lived the bachelor’s life, accountable only to myself. I worked, enjoyed the city, made a few friends, mostly at my job. I entertained them with conversation and meals, which I enjoyed cooking for them. I had a cozy apartment with a fireplace, skylight, and garden all to myself. Solitude was, well, not exactly my friend, but my companion, my sort-of-buddy, my roommate.
My sons visited me from time to time. My younger one had become a chef—later to be very successful in several positions, such as head chef at the World Bank—while my older one, also a talented chef, seemed to lag in his profession and life. I found out why when in a phone call he confessed he had become a heroin addict. After that, for better than a decade, I spent much time and energy trying to help him, encouraging him to seek counseling (which he always promised to do but never did).
I often had to pay his bills when they grew overwhelming—rent, doctor’s bills, and other expenses. I also sent him money for groceries, but more often than not I thought he spent it on drugs. In utter frustration and not a little fear, I even offered to take him in (against the advice of friends). I told Dana about it on one of our phone calls. She said to let things go. There wasn’t much I could do. He was a grown man. I grudgingly agreed.
He visited for a week, but I knew at the end of that time we could not live together, not together in the sense of father and son, or even grown adults, because he was bound and determined to keep his drug habit going, putting my safety and well-being in the same jeopardy he put his own. I lived in fear he would invite drug dealers and other shifty people into my home, something for which I could have been turned out of my apartment, especially if he’d gotten himself arrested for a felony drug conviction. A neighbor had done exactly that and lost his lease. I could not afford to lose mine.
When I think all this over I realize that, after he confessed his drug abuse, there wasn’t a single call from him that didn’t involve asking me to send him money. After that week-long visit, he must have realized I would no longer be a soft touch, and he more or less stopped calling me. I also realize, sadly from my own experience, that drug addiction can change the personality monumentally, deeply, erasing fundamental human values such as dignity, trust, and honesty, and turning one’s self upon himself.
In January of 2007, I got very sick and spent a week in the hospital with a bad infection in my neck, too close to my brain cavity, so the doctors told me. In the three months I spent recuperating, my heart sank lower and lower. I came into direct confrontation with my loneliness, with the lack of purpose in my life, with a choking ennui. Unable to bear it any longer, I prayed, “If my life is to have a purpose, then lead me to it or just let me go. I’m too tired to go on the way I am.” I had not heard from Dana in some months, but two days after my prayer, I got an e-mail from her titled “Out of the blue.” That was in February.
In the e-mail she proposed coming to New York to take a screenwriting seminar. She was pinched for funds and could not afford a hotel for the three days of the seminar, and asked if she could “crash” with me. She said she relished the idea of a whole weekend with me, as well as the seminar, but that if I were uncomfortable with the idea, she hoped we could remain friends. As it turned out, she had to cancel the trip. But it started me thinking a visit from her would be delightful.
She and I began to speak on the phone more frequently. She told me her second marriage was over and that it had been sad, abusive, and angry. My heart trembled when I realized she was now raising her two daughters on her own with little help from her ex-husband.
She’d had a terrible year. Her husband had walked out and, within a matter of months, both her parents had died, thus she no longer had even their moral support. I wanted to do something for her, but was paralyzed about what to do. I didn’t offer her money for fear she’d resent it. She was too self-reliant to accept what might appear as charity, and I knew it.
I flirted with the fantasy of carrying her and her two daughters to New York. My apartment was small, but so were the children. I did not suggest this. She was well established in her teaching career and relocation might be difficult, especially if she had to quit her job. And relocating the children to new schools and a radically different environment might be traumatic for them. Besides, I could not promise that such a move would be beneficial for them.
At my request Dana sent me the girls’ photos. How lovely they were. Dana was in the background in some of the photos. It was the first glimpse of her I’d had in 20 years. I suppose it’s a cliché to say I fell in love with her at that moment, but I realized then my love had been long in the making. For decades, since the failure of my first marriage and two other relationships that came close, I’d told people I would likely never marry again, because I could not marry anyone I could not trust and, therefore, would have to know my potential spouse for many years before I’d be able fully to commit to her.
That, I was sure, was clearly impossible. There simply weren’t enough years left for that process to take place. Then it dawned on me, and it frightened me a little, to realize this seemingly impossible standard I’d set myself for finding and testing the perfect spouse had suddenly and unexpectedly been met. I hesitated. But then something happened to move me.
I am not a mystic by any stretch of the imagination. I like my truths grounded in reality, not in visions, apparitions, or specters. But one night, in a dream, Dana’s dead mother, whom I had gotten to know years before, seemed to lean over my bed and speak to me. “Someone has to go and take care of these wonderful girls,” she said in the dream that was all too real. “I can’t do it anymore. Do you love Dana enough to do it?”
I sat bolt upright, stunned out of sleep and unable to close my eyes. I got up, dressed quickly, and wandered around Manhattan in a daze until it grew light again. That day ground on slowly as I waited to phone her. Finally, evening came, when I knew she would be home from teaching, and I dialed her number. “I have a confession to make,” I said.
“What on earth could you have to confess?” she said, sounding amused, almost giggling, but also a bit apprehensive, I thought. What indeed could I want to confess?
“I realize now that I’ve been in love with you,” I said. “For… many years.”
There was a long beat of silence until she answered, somewhat irritated by my awkward and not-at-all-well-timed confession, “Well, it’s about time you told me!” It wasn’t fair, I admitted, but I’m a slow learner. In a later call, I told her, “And I’m going to marry you.” She laughed out loud.
Nonetheless she agreed to come to New York for a weekend. When I first saw her, I could not suppress my own wide grin. But she told me firmly she’d have to see what happened, that she would have to be certain, that she was making no commitments. Her children were a vital element in such matters, and if they had the slightest hesitation the deal would be off. Besides, I had no right to her immediate answer when I had presumably made her wait for something like 25 years! She was going to make me wait, because I deserved to demonstrate my patience. I only hoped she would not make me wait as long as I’d made her wait.
I visited her a few weeks later and met her daughters in person. That first evening the dog jumped into my lap and the cat curled her tail around my head as she purred on my shoulders. Dana, who’d just put the girls to bed, stood on the staircase and said, “I guess the family has accepted you.” Relief flooded my senses, as though I’d finally made it home, not to a physical place, but to somewhere inside my soul.
Our life together has had its moments that seem like ordinary ups and downs, but they are fleeting moments at most.
Dana and I were married in our home on December 30, 2007, the Feast of the Holy Family. We could not be married in the Catholic Church--at least not yet--so an old friend of Dana's who was a practicing Unitarian Minister married us. I had just turned 66 and she was 46. It seems late to some people for anyone to start a life together, but I would ask those people whether they considered life still worth living when there are still so many years left. Of course, our life together has had its moments that seem like ordinary ups and downs, but they are fleeting moments at most. The difficulties are easier to handle, because we handle them together. Our marriage is so easy, we know it is rooted in the deepest kind of love; therefore, it has never wavered for a moment.
It is solid, also because it is based not in the initial heat of passion, but in the depths of friendship. It is comfortable, never wanting. Now I see why God made us wait. It is because in the waiting had been the magic. There is no other explanation I can think of. I would not prescribe waiting so long to find the perfect spouse, but I would prescribe solid friendship as the precursor and that if it is true love, it ought to be easy—not the relationship, which always requires its own kind of due diligence, but the love itself. I know it has worked for others; it has certainly worked for us.
Dana is still my closest friend, confidant, confessor, and angel. She has been my teacher, too, as I have learned so many deep truths and continue to learn more as I live with her day to day. I knew many things intellectually, but the depth of a truth must be demonstrated empirically in living. Dana has not forced me to live, but instead has made true living eminently possible for me.
I feel at home in my life now, as I have never felt before. She has released the bonds of my rigid self and enabled me to broaden my experience, and in the process, my wisdom. I learned, as did Peer Gynt in the Ibsen play, that living is not in the nonexistent “seed” of the onion, but in the layers, in the day to day realities, the experience.
Aldous Huxley said experience is not what happens to a man. It is what he does with what happens to him. The miracle of finding the right spouse has opened me to experience and taught me that wisdom is greater than simply the sum of knowledge. It is the greatest yield, the great promise, of living one’s life. Wisdom is where true happiness resides, in that part of the mind that is called the heart.
I know that sounds like cliché, but even clichés are based in some cosmic, if distant, truth. I was 66 when I married Dana. She made me promise to stick around for at least 20 years for holding back at least that long; I owed it to her. I pray every day that it is going to last much, much longer.
|Posted on August 7, 2015 at 8:00 PM||comments (0)|
Devoutly religious people sometimes criticize “humanism,” i.e., the philosophical premise that man is the center of the world, or possibly of the universe, because they believe it denies the existence of God by its very premise. I believe this is a misunderstanding. Logically, true humanism raises “humanity” (man’s value) and neither argues nor challenges the conception of man as God’s creation. In any logical analysis, reasonable people must agree that man is the most highly evolved sentient creature to inhabit the earth. This is demonstrable by virtue of man’s conceptual faculty. No other creature is capable of comprehending and explaining the normative concepts of goodness, truth and beauty, for example, which in philosophy are absolutes, although it is assumed that human beings can never achieve them absolutely.
Because they are the highest peak on the moral, ethical and aesthetic landscape, striving toward them should be at the core of man’s life purpose, not abstractly as floating, unattainable ideals, but as factors in the things he does and in the goals he seeks to achieve. While other animals are driven by instinct, man is driven by intuition, a product of knowledge and reasoning. To celebrate this great gift is not to denigrate its source.
True humanism is the codified philosophy of being human and of enforming [ ] man’s practical nature, at its best. It is the embodiment of man’s greatest asset, the faculty of reason. To declare that humanism is bad is to say that man is worthless in this life, and can only approach those great peaks if God enables him. If man is endowed by his creator with the ability to define these concepts, he must be endowed as well with the ability to strive toward them. That is the true definition of Humanism, not secular or spiritual, but holistic.
Some people believe that a person who is not overtly religious, but who strives toward those norms, possesses a natural undiscovered religious conviction. But it is also possible that religion itself is a primitive version of philosophy that seeks to explain the workings of the universe without the benefit of sophisticated reasoning. To define how humans should live is as old as man himself, predating any recognizable existing religion. But Humanism, per se, which is defined by the process of reason and not faith, is not a primitive concept. It is modern, consequently, as open to interpretation as religion, and in some cases its definition is as easily perverted.
If Humanism defines man at his best, it is dangerous to misdefine the concept of humanism. The term “secular humanism” for example is used without religious connotation, equating “secular” with “atheist” and behaviors that are considered repugnant under religious tenets, even though these behaviors and actions are also repugnant in the greater “human” sense. Thus, excuses are offered, such as "it is human to be jealous,” or “it is human to lust" or "it is human to be greedy.” These are presented as normal, whether or not they are desirable, and the resultant dilution of the ideals of not being envious, lustful or greedy causes a concomitant acceptance of a more permissive, less ideal standard that is easier to justify. This defies the term “norm” which does not represent “average” but is the highest attainable standard. Those who deconstruct the meaning of “norm” do not elevate man. They tear man down by implying that he cannot achieve their standard. In this way, the excuses of Secular Humanism turn the very concept of humanity upside down, because, whether or not it is human to be tempted by lust or envy, to give in to the temptation degrades man. Thus Secular Humanism is not humanistic.
Secular Humanism is also equated with Atheism, but, while Secular Humanism is presented as a purely philosophic proposition, Atheism is in reality an anti-God religion that carries with it the same irrational fundamentalism of which atheists accuse zealous Christians. In fact, they take the First Commandment literally and apply it to No-God as it is already applied to God. This is NOT true Humanism. In fact it is Anti-Humanism.
Enter the concept of “collectivism” disguised as “humanism.” The very idea of applying collective concepts to human nature is abhorrent, because there are no collectives applicable to human beings. Each and every human being is unique in genetics and in existence. No two people can occupy the same space or the same existence. No two people have the same brain with which to think, because each and every brain develops from its own unique origins and through its own unique experiences. No two people see with the same pair of eyes or from the same perspective, because no two people can occupy the same space or time. Even destruction by a massive bomb which kills hundreds of people has a different specific cause and effect on each and every individual among them.
This also applies to the concept of “feeding the people.” There is no collective stomach any more than there is collective need. Everyone possesses a unique stomach which must be fed its own food and process its own nutrition. Every person has his or her own needs and, although those needs may be similar, they are never the same, because each person possesses his own life processes. No greater expression of true humanism is there than the recognition that each and every person is endowed by his creator with the inalienable rights of life and liberty.
Groups do exist but groups are not collectives. Groups consist of individuals who come together for a common purpose. Redefining human beings as incomplete parts of a collective whole dehumanizes them, thus it is the opposite of humanism. Joseph Stalin, who understood how to dehumanize people, once said that, while one death is a tragedy, a million deaths are merely a statistic. Each member of a society, a nation, a tribe or a family is a unique person who lives a unique, individual life. True Humanists recognize this fact, while collectivists do not. Theirs is a false definition of humanism that is corrupt at its root. Every human is a person; collectives are always merely a statistic.
|Posted on August 7, 2015 at 7:15 AM||comments (0)|
The Liberal Democrats encourage class warfare between the rich and the poor. They treat these groups as though they were collective masses of humanity, poised against each other, ready to do battle. Their battle cry is Income Inequality which claims that the Rich Mass steals from the Poor Mass and that only government can step in to equalize them by seizing wealth from The Rich and redistributing it to The Poor. The politicians pose as Robin Hoods. Their Sherwood Forest is the American Economy. But the story they tell is a lie on two levels.
First, this nation is not divided into vast masses of Rich and Poor juxtaposed against each other. The rich are individual people. So are the poor. The rich are rich separately and independently of each other. So are the poor. Poverty is local. So is wealth. Notwithstanding the immense revenues of big corporations, it is people who produce and enjoy wealth. This is important to recognize and remember. There is a lesson in it. Despite the mantra that society is a vast collective, divided into smaller masses, the truth is that every individual is free to engage in producing wealth. Individual initiative, talent and energy are the basis of enterprise. It is the fuel of the engine that creates wealth. If people have vision and apply their talents to a purpose, they can acquire wealth, sometimes a great deal of it. Only government can interfere with the free exchange of ideas and goods.
Second, it is a reality that people’s circumstances differ. Some people start with better circumstances; it’s the nature of the world. Some people are born into better circumstances than others, in relative wealth or poverty. Their initial circumstances create opportunities that differ. But more importantly, circumstances change according to attitude, intelligence, talent, interest, education, effort, perseverance, and vision. These constitute the energy needed to create opportunities, which in turn create wealth.
Opportunities are not a static commodity doled out to a preferred few. Opportunities are made by people with will, perception, and perseverance. Even adverse conditions in one’s life or in society can be overcome. One important factor in overcoming adversity is education, which always involves personal responsibility. Anyone who goes to school, does his homework and pays attention will get an education. Central to the process of education is learning to teach oneself, so that schooling becomes the basis of an education that expands geometrically. Self-education disregards and ignores the prestige attached to famous schools.
The captains of industry who built the foundations of wealth in America did so with limited personal education, but great vision and energy. They created their own opportunities through their own initiative. This should make the issue of class moot. America has no hereditary class structure, no nobility, aristocracy or landed gentry. Anyone and everyone has equality in the sense that each person is free to pursue his goals. All he has to do is form and pursue them.
But most people do not seem to understand all of this, because they have been fed the notion that we are a collective society. They buy the mantra of class distinctions based on race and engage in endless misperception that minorities are being denied rights. No one denies the historical precedent. Many people have suffered from prejudice, blacks, Irish, Italians, Asians, immigrants in general, who had to struggle to assimilate into the melting pot culture of America.
This struggle still goes on in some minor ways, but the prejudice that once pervaded the nation and kept people down is now more an illusion than a reality. Black people, for example, have made enormous headway in every aspect of American life. What used to be a redress of legitimate grievances has become a cry for preferential treatment. While once minorities were denied opportunities, they now argue for greater welfare benefits. There is no inequality in the distribution of television sets or expensive sneakers, nor is there a legitimate demand for free health care or free food. Nothing is free. It is taken from some and given to others.
Moreover, such treatment is a disincentive to produce wealth. Welfare destroys motivation through chronic dependence. People are discouraged from work when they get free wealth. But, as Margaret Thatcher observed, Socialism no longer works when it runs out of other people’s money. The politicians know this and realize that without the continued production of wealth, they will have nothing to seize. Politicians practice self-interest. They are not statesmen, but snake-oil salesmen and the poison they vend is the notion that without effort once can live well. With this pitch, they buy votes to keep them in power. But Government would collapse without wealth to seize. Politicians knows this and make deals with cronies in big business, with the wealthiest not to stop producing.
The real problem now is not income inequality between classes. It is that government itself has replaced the old class system with a Soviet modelled bureaucracy run by an oligarchy of politicians working in crony concert with huge business interests. This is not free capitalism. It is managed competition, a concept first envisioned by J. P. Morgan, who coined the term. It means that government can regulate who competes for wealth.
But when government becomes so big and pervasive that it neutralizes individual initiative by collectivizing people, shunting them into false categories, minorities, collectives, interest groups, especially when it provides them with imagined entitlements, it has the power to withhold those entitlements with a flip of a switch. In its first hundred and fifty years, America disabused itself of notions of upper and lower classes, and in so doing elevated the great middle class to the highest standard of living in human history. Where once our nation was largely a meritocracy of individuals engaged in vigorous business, invention and achievement, it has now become a nation not of free capitalists who work for their own benefit and accomplishment, trading with each other freely without government interference in society, but a nation of different classes, one of dependence and impotence, the other of feudal corporatism.
|Posted on August 7, 2015 at 7:10 AM||comments (0)|
The Dictionary defines a theocracy as a form of government in which civil law is defined by religious dictate. In a theocracy laws are administered by a priestly order of agents claiming a divine commission to rule in that deity’s name. Therein lies the defining problem with theocracy. It is a closed system in which free will is subordinate to the will of those trusted to interpret the word of their deity. They decide right from wrong, and devise laws according to their interpretation of God’s word. While belief in God and Judeo Christian teachings are the fundamentals upon which Western civilization has been built, these fundamentals do not constitute a theocracy, because, in Western Civilization, principles are applied to civil law. In a theocracy, there is no attempt to apply this reasoning. Moreover, free will has no place in the practice of religion, because theocracies demand adherence, not acceptance.
Islamic Republics are an example of theocracy in practice. The slaying of Christians, Jews and non-conforming Muslims tells us that the expression of free will is not allowed. One must not merely act according to Islamic law, but think according to it. Historically, there have been other theocracies, some of which have been less cruelly rigid than orthodox Islam, but the same general idea persists. Law is dictated by God (religion) and meted out by his agents (priests, the Caliph, prophets). The fundamental difference between Islam and other religions, is that they are religions, while Islam is a total system, not merely religious, but political, civil and legal, as well.
Only when there is a separation between religion and civil government can there be free will, which is the central, organic component of freedom in a civilized society. In Christianity, when one sins by breaking a commandment, his soul suffers the threat of God’s wrath. His punishment begins with his conscience. If one breaks the civil code of laws, he suffers justice meted out by government which is separated from religion.
Secular government, however, does not mean that government is atheistic. In fact, most laws in civilized countries derive in one way or another from the last seven Commandments and the Golden Rule, i.e., from Judeo Christian fundamentals. In secular society, laws may be derived from divine teachings, but they are distilled and applied as civil agents of order and peace. Islamic theocracy can and does cause suffering among non-Muslims, Western Civilizations, tempered by the greater hierarchy of secular government and civil laws, allow the free practice of religion. Thus, they thrive in an atmosphere of free will, i.e., freedom.
Currently, American culture suffers regular atheistic assault on religious symbols under the guise of a demand for separation of church and state, i.e., secularism. But atheists are in fact theocrats seeking to impose their religion of no-God on civil society. When they succeed, as in Soviet Russia, people are forced to live under a theocracy masquerading as a civil system. But the tenets of Communism are as doctrinaire and dictatorial as the strictest religion, and, where any freedom is allowed, it is only where Communist orthodoxy has been lifted, as in parts of China today where capitalism has begun to allow people to acquire wealth.
True separation of church and state would mean that atheists have no more say than religious people in how their government functions. As a concept embodied in our founding documents, separation is necessary because it does not excise religion from civil government and society, but keeps it from replacing civil law with its own doctrine, to which the people must adhere by way of the dictates of a high priest, prophet or politburo.
Where there is no free will in a society, there is also a lower standard of morality. In a free society, if one is honest, he follows laws because they are just, not merely because he must. This is the nature of conscience in a free society from which all laws are supposed to grow. What governs the spirit of a free society is not merely the threat of authority, but civility itself. When Muslims cut the heads off Christian babies, they do so in the name of religion, not conscience.
Of course we need laws, because there will always be those who steal, kill, and do terrible things. But while the laws of a civilized society may be coincidental with religious doctrine, they are not religious doctrine itself. A religion that controls government imposes its will on people, whereas a civilized code of conduct can be justly and impartially administered by a disinterested secular authority. Laws are not always just, but when crafted and administered with conscience, they tend to be more so.
Not every predominantly Muslim country is a theocracy, of course. Some are tempered by secular government. In Gamal Ataturk’s Turkey and the Iran of the Shah, society moved forward economically and socially under a mostly secular authority. It is what brought those countries into concert with the civilized world. In both cases, literacy was high, women were in the professions and did not need to wear Muslim garb, other religions were allowed their freedom to practice, and the standard of living was very high. After the Ayatollah took over Iran, literacy rates dropped, especially among women, who were driven from not only schools, but from the professions, and from participation in many aspects of society. Freedom was lost to anyone who did not accept the orthodoxy of the ruling Ayatollah, who claimed exclusive authority. Separation of church and state no longer existed there, and it has proven tragic to many people.
Separation of religion from civil government is necessary in free, civilized society, and if the regions now dominated by ruthless Islamists are to be set free, theocracy must be disavowed and removed so that civilized authority may be restored. America is proof that, while civil laws may be derived from divine teachings, but they must always be tempered by reason and applied by secular agents of order. Otherwise, there can be no real freedom.
|Posted on June 29, 2014 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
The standards set up by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, represent the core tenets of Judeo Christian culture, but distilled in secular fashion so that everyone, believers or non-believers, have the same standard of ethics and morality. Common sense dictates decency, because without decency a society unravels. The last 7 commandments and the Golden Rule are actually philosophic concepts that have been codified by religious doctrine after they existed for thousands of years, before any of the religions that exist today were even conceived.
Good standards are always based in free will, because without willing participation in the precepts of civilization, there can be no society. Examining studying and understanding those principles strengthens citizenship. Consequently, all children should be taught these standards, encouraging good citizenship in the classroom, so that when they grow up they will carry those standards into the world with them, ensuring and maintaining an ethical and peaceful society, generation after generation, securing the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.
Religions teach rational standards for society by teaching the commandments. But they are not the only way to teach the standards incorporated in those commandments. The principles embodied in the commandments make sense outside the context of a religion. Thou shalt not steal, and Thou shalt not kill, are standards for rational and effective society and should be taught to children because they are good standards to follow. But they ought to be taught as philosophic standards, very simply, by explaining why it is wrong to steal or kill. Honoring thy father and thy mother is a good principle that reaches far beyond the dictates of any religion. It encourages observance of good tradition that lends cohesiveness to generations. The Chinese, whose culture is much older than ours, treats the family as a profoundly important unit in society, and elders are revered, as they should be, for their long years of experience. They know much more than children do, and children ought to be told to listen and respect them. Not even Communism was able to destroy the unit of the family in China. It is too strong to destroy once it is deeply rooted in a society.
Children ought to be held to standards of good behavior in the classroom because it is a good model for society. Being polite, peaceable and charitable to one’s classmates is good practice for being polite, peaceable and charitable to one’s neighbors and fellow citizens. Discipline is necessary to maintain order in a classroom, just as it is necessary to maintain order in society. But rules for classroom behavior and laws for civil behavior are not demands for blind obedience to authority. They, too, are a distillation of principles of sane, moral and ethical conduct, consequently the building blocks of good society and good citizenship.
Permissiveness in the classroom does not lead to greater freedom, because without a level of good conduct, no one could focus on learning, which is the purpose of the classroom. Instead, we should return to the traditional classroom, where good conduct and good citizenship are inherent in every class being taught, from arithmetic, to geography, to history.
These principles are not difficult to comprehend, although they may be more difficult to maintain where groups of children, with their natural tendencies toward less controlled conduct is a kind of norm. But they must be maintained, because without them, education is ineffective and the traditions of good citizenship which were once the backbone of American society will disappear.