What Does it Really Mean?
By Patricia Keegan
The challenges to President Bush in navigating and negotiating his way through the turmoil in the Middle East, the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, and the volatile stock market, while maintaining the war on terrorism, far surpasses challenges presented to Presidents of recent times.
In light of these unprecedented challenges, we are traversing unknown territory without a blueprint and with no clear answers. Unfortunately, one does not sense any grand vision that might help us believe there is a light at the end of this tunnel. We are told the war on terrorism could go on for generations, but nobody quite knows how, when, or what will be the significant sign that it is over. This is the reality that most of us are beginning to accept, and even the most powerful can’t wave a magic wand to make it go away.
In the meantime, what we could, or should be addressing is somehow withering on the vine. We sense a world out of balance, destabilized, that needs to regain its equilibrium. So what should we do?
In our role of 'super power ' we should come up with solutions that restore that balance, that not only give Americans a light to shine their way out of the doldrums, but that brings light to all corners of the world. Thus, we would be attempting to regain the earth’s balance by constructive means.
The war on terrorism cannot proceed as a single-pronged approach – all military might. It must address a more humanistic regard for our fellow travelers on this planet.
We seem comfortable with our 'super power ' title, despite its reference to a Cold War that ended more than a decade ago. That aged title belongs in the dustbin of history. What is at risk now is the entire living planet. As Americans, in a leadership role, we need to shift from a self-centered, reactionary perspective to a more all encompassing, compassionate viewpoint.
What if we changed our title to 'America: Protector of the Planet ' and broadened our vision to ask ourselves what 'super ' responsibility comes with being the richest and greatest democracy in the world? Yes, it means turning the accepted paradigm upside down to see the world not through the eyes of American power or largesse, but by meaningful, spiritual interaction and respect. It is an awesome challenge to contemplate. It would be a giant step in a new direction. It would give young people an inspirational base to build their dreams upon. It would give idealists, an endangered species, a chance to put their ideas back into operation. We must intercept with a new vision by seeing our world as a family living on a small planet where the roof is about to cave in unless we shore it up.
Let’s move away from the arrogance implied by 'super power. ' Let’s pause awhile to focus on what we, as Americans, have to offer. Why can’t we turn our leadership powers into a full commitment to protect all human life, and into nation building. Why can’t we leave behind old methods of arms as solutions and become 'Protector of the Planet, ' not as policeman of the world, but an equal partner with the world in beholding the intense pain and turmoil and helping in the healing. We must also find the courage and humility to speak out against blatant injustice, the imbalances to which we, Americans, are contributing.
One horrific example was July 22, when an Israeli F-16 fired a missile into a Palestinian Gaza City neighborhood during the night. The one-ton bomb killed at least 11 people and injured over 100, including sleeping children. Both warplane and missile were sold to Israel by the U.S. – to use only for defensive purposes. Many Americans, in full knowledge of the impotency of weapons to solve problems, see this action as only perpetuating the cycle of violence to new levels of insanity. The loss of life on both Israeli and Palestinian sides is tragic, frustrating and humbling.
If we step back and see the world as a small, vulnerable planet, beaten and battered by natural occurrences– – earthquakes, tornadoes, fires out of control, a melting Arctic and more – how can we keep increasing the havoc already wreaked upon it?
If we look at religions, they have been dividing and diminishing us along political lines. They have been falsely separating us from each other, not by major differences in what we believe, but by borders erected to make us believe that beyond the border lies the 'enemy. ' The success of all these imaginary borders has brought us to the current sad state in our history.
If the war on terrorism has brought any benefit at all, it could be that mainstream Americans are being forced to look at the bigger world. How we view that bigger world will make the difference. For people who have traveled, enjoyed some of the world’s extraordinary beauty, who have made friends among different cultures, this transformation will be easy. For those who settle for simplistic, insular thinking, never getting beyond the hyperbole – 'We are the greatest, and what is foreign to us must be feared ' – it will be difficult.
I have long believed there should be a White House role for a visionary/ethical philosopher, one who could help bear the burden that weighs heavily on President Bush. A person deliberately removed from politics with a vision of what is possible, what is positive in today’s world, and what we as individual Americans can do to help bring some light into this period of uncertainty. Someone with a depth of spirituality who can look at the prospect of bombing Iraq and come up with a more creative, humane solution. America is still the country the world looks to in envisioning the future. We have to come up with a fresh, new model for that future.
If we could precipitate a change, a deep and abiding change, from the White House down, or from the grassroots up, one that would engage Americans in transforming America from 'super power ' into 'Protector of the Planet, ' we would begin to feel a difference.
Hope of restoring world balance lies with the majority – individuals and families who want their children to grow up in a more peaceful climate, a more welcoming world. This is the time; instinctively we know it. A moral cleansing is taking place. Across the world, people are exposing corruption in institutions once regarded as stable and irreproachable, peering into their dank corners and demanding accountability. The pillars are being shaken – this is only a beginning. We are being called to action, to make the difference by peacefully bringing about a more nurturing image of America and helping to acknowledge its true spirit as Protector of the Planet.