Wednesday, January 11
We have a choice - to be inspired or to inspire, to dream and hope and care. Or, we can wallow in mindless, salacious, rote activities. We can take shortcuts and quick fixes, or we can concentrate, analyze, examine and weigh our options. How we invest our time shapes who we are. We can agonize or stay calm. There is no one set path, and yet with every word, every choice, we can actively work to improve life for us and those around us or we can simply subsist.
The choices are stark, as illustrated by this morning's headlines. Most television morning shows focused on an leaked report, unconfirmed, by a British intelligence officer doing opposition research during the US presidential campaign. The officer suggests that Russia has compromising information on Donald Trump.
President Barack Obama also gave his farewell speech in Chicago and that took backseat to the leaked report. Obama offered an example of the choices that we as society can make: "How can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on preschool for kids, but not when we're cutting taxes for corporations?"
Yes, our decisions every moment reflect our values and who we are as individuals and a society.
The president's speech focused on the state of our democracy and the requirements: a state of solidarity, the sense that economic opportunity and a good education are options for all, the endless battle in society against racism and bias, the need to be open to others who may not think like us but to agree on a common baseline of facts, and resistance to taking our democracy for granted.
Many are dispirited by the mean and divided state of politics. But Obama urged we resist that attitude.
Every individual has responsibility to protect our way of life, through active citizenship, through standing up for freedoms. "But protecting our way of life, that's not just the job of our military. Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear. So, just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are. "
We must resist the coarseness in our society, the divisiveness, the disrespect for science and reason and evidence, as well as the notions that ordinary people cannot contribute.
Fear. Bullying. Citizenship. Choices. Education that lifts and strengthens communities, and the yearnings for democracy and equality when those might seem so out of reach in our communities. Our communities can progress or decline. Those are the themes of Fear of Beauty, set in Afghanistan and a remote village that seems to be beyond all hope for mutual respect or democratic aspirations.
Yet the choices made everyday, by deliberate planning or courageous impulse, can transform an individual and his or her community.
The photo of a Morning Walk By Georges Seurat, 1885, is courtesy of the National Gallery in London and Wikimedia Commons.