Friday, August 17, 2012

Qualities of a positive role model

Which of the following principles makes a man a man, are characteristics of great leaders, in the United States today?
a) All people are sacred.

b) People do not lose dignity because of disability, poverty, age, lack of success, or race. The emphasis is on people over things, being over having.

 c) The human person is both sacred and social. We realize our dignity and rights in relationship with others, in community.  

d) We are called to respect all of God's gifts of creation, to be good stewards of the earth and each other.

 e) All people have a right to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities to respect the rights of others and to work for the common good.

f) The moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. The poor have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of any community. We are called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor.

g) People have a right to decent and productive work, fair wages, private property, and economic initiative. The economy exists to serve people, not the other way around.

h) We are one human family. Our responsibilities to each other cross national, racial, economic, and ideological differences.

i) We are called to work globally for justice.

 I chose these partial statements verbatim from "Principles of Catholic Social Teaching,"  at :

 In these days of me-first political division and personal attack, would you support a political leader of any persuasion who not only held the above statements as self-evident to the American dream but also acted on them, with public policy plans and decisions that reflected this Declaration-of- Independence- style social justice? How about leaders of any organization?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Where are we going?

 Have you ever watched a national trend going the wrong way?  In particular for me it's the descent of political campaigns into attack ads with falsehoods and half-truths going unchallenged. In general, it's the emphasis on dividing peoples. One aspect of "us and them" political divisions I especially dislike is if I want to belong in one group, I must fully agree with everything its leaders and financial supporters decide and say. There is no acceptable middle ground. In these difficult times I don't think separating our citizens is characteristic of great leaders of a democracy. Recent Tea Party election winners are reported to support  not less government, but no government: anarchy and the antithesis of governing by the people for the people. I don't hear these political challengers talking about what kind of future their stubborn divisiveness will produce.

 A religious example of this kind of leadership brought about  this week's meeting of Catholic nuns in America to discuss what it means to be a faithful Catholic.  Following Rome's interpretation as defiance that these nuns questioned  the church leaders' emphasis on opposing gay marriage and abortion, American nuns are faced with an overhaul of their organizations by three American bishops under orders from the Vatican.  The nuns are meeting to decide whether or not to cooperate, given that they believe their questions about social justice priorities are a form of faithfulness, responding to the signs of the times.  A cardinal, head of the church's doctrinal office retired, says from church leadership's view, "if they aren't people who believe and express the faith of the church, the doctrines of the church, then I think they're misrepresenting who they are and who they ought to be."

These and other religious leaders side with a political party on the gay marriage divide. And now entering the fray are the CEOs of Chick-fil-A and  General Mills. To "belong," political party members are buying the products of "their" man.  Already polls indicate a person's political persuasion can be highly predicted by which TV channel they select during evening news. Some people may want to shun me as not-one-of-them when I mention I read the above situation between the nuns and Vatican leaders in the New York Times. 

What's next? Sporting my political identity with the car I drive? The clothes I wear? My opinion of the opposite sex? Again no middle ground. A month ago, the Republican Party of Texas released its official 2012 Platform with a provision including what they now say was an unfortunate choice of words: opposition to the teaching of “higher order thinking skills” in Texas schools. They explained they meant a teaching technique that might lead a child to disagree with what their parents taught them. How does a man mature without learning to think for himself?     

Given the political and religious leaders I mention are all male, it looks like the centuries-old upper-class empire-building that  men have employed to control financial, political (military) and religious power. Those now seeking that control speak little of the nation's future and few specific actions they'll take to solve the problems of those not in power.  It is all about "freedom" for them, and I'm only given a little hope that things will somehow be better for the United States when they gain power.  Just a little hope, like that suggested by Donald Sutherland in his role as Coriolanus Snow, the president of Panem, in "Hunger Games. "

To what extent do gender equality issues underlie  the above Catholic and political divisions?  Do these men seek to maintain the old standards of gender discrimination?  

 An alternative to chauvinism is described by M. Scott Peck.  His ideas helped me understand relating to others. He defines mature love, and his vision of community among people of different persuasions. He describes the pursuit of personal dignity of all humans by elevating from a chaotic disorder of people focused on differences to an ordered  conversation of listening and understanding one another.  His communities arrive at resolving differences by accepting them with respect.  Both men and women have the capability of building mature relationships.    

 Although too late for this November, among others, former Senator Bill Bradley, an Olympic gold medal holder in a team sport, is talking without anger and threat of violence about a third political party in four years that supports the best of both sides of the stalemate.    He's a fresh, positive role model on what makes a man great, and what would again make our country a great democracy: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.  The president of Panem knew fear and intimidation could control the masses, but only as long as the people cooperated. It is time, not to get mad as hell, but to get involved.