Have it your way!

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A popular fast food organization used a phrase in an advertising jingle “have it your way” to emphasize to its American customers that they could expect their individual tastes in food to be served up, just the way “you” like it. Another line in the jingle goes like this; “special orders don’t upset us”. The implication in the jingle is that if our individual expectations are not met by one producer, we could experience satisfaction elsewhere, ad infinitum.

We Americans have grown to expect to have it our way; whether it is hamburgers, religious affiliation, political party, or the neighborhood in which we live. However, when having it “my” way results in “you” not having it your way (a win-lose situation) there proceeds disunity, unsettledness; and often anger, incivility, a clamoring for unilateral power (dominance), and legal intervention. One need not look far to see the results of have-it-your-way.

Just this morning, I read a blog entry on the MIT Community Innovator’s Lab: “Melt your snow anger. Sit down with the enemy”. In her entry, Christina Ruhfel tells the story of her husband’s hard work to shovel snow off of their family car as well as that of a neighbor: a seemingly nice gesture of neighborliness. However, shortly thereafter, the Ruhfels were confronted by an angry, uncivil neighbor that, while banging on the Ruhfel’s front door, insisted the snow was not shoveled into the correct place. In other words, the noble and altruistic motivations of her husband, shoveling snow onto the street where a plow could take it away, did not meet the demanding “have it my way” perspective of their neighbor. The neighbor was upset and, probably without consideration for Mr. Ruhfel’s intentions and labor, a meltdown ensued.

Yet, justice was served. Christina Ruhfel makes a wonderful observation that she connects with President Obama’s recent State of the Union address: changing our culture of incivility and domination (unilateral power-over others), requires unity (relational power-with others) while thinking globally and acting locally. The real glimmer of hope in the Ruhfel’s situation is this: Christina and her husband proactively took matters into their own hands by seeking relationships and power “with” others to create Polite People for Peace.  Perhaps this is the best way to “have it our way”.

Have You and Your Neighbor Read the U.S. Founding Documents?

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New Year’s greetings to you.

Over the past few days, some television news and written articles have captured my interest and motivated more research and reflection upon power and its uses and abuses with a special emphasis on U.S. Founding Documents

Over the Holiday weekend, I overheard a television newscaster mention that the entire U.S. Constitution would be read at the opening of the 112th United States Congress on January 5, 2011. I did not find this particularly unusual given the power vested in the Congress by the document; however, since this moral document holds such power and has been so frequently used and misused in political rhetoric, the news prompted me to get out my copy of the U.S. Constitution (including Bill of Rights), Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation, and to re-read them in their entirety: something that every American Citizen should do with regularity: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html.

What most strikes me as I re-read the U.S. Founding Documents is that current political rhetoric excerpts sections of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights to support unilateral power (“power over”), while other counterbalancing sections of the Constitution and Bill of Rights (“shared power”) often remain silent in political discourse. I’m not surprised. A similar thing happens when certain sections of the Bible are proof-texted to support a perspective of particular favor while counterbalancing sections are ignored. Here is one for- instance.

In the opening lines of the U.S. Constitution, the moral and beneficent role of government to “promote the general Welfare” – providing for the poor/poverty-stricken, homeless, foreclosed, uninsured, unemployed – was clearly an intention of the U.S. Founders and is asserted in our Founding Documents. The same morally sound perspective may be found in Deuteronomy 15:7-11 and other areas of Scripture.

However, often heard, particularly in conservative political rhetoric, is the dominate goal to downsize government and increase business revenues at a cost that “appears” to yield economic benefits (though history and public policy dictates that the benefits will be unequally distributed); while the same goals simultaneously bankrupt the moral and social fabric of our nation: counter to the letter and spirit of our Founding Documents and Scripture. If less government and more “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” public policies are the goals to which conservative government aspires; does this not mean abdication of the benevolent role of government?

Will less government, less regulation, more unregulated capitalism and individualistic consumerism, less access to health care, and more laws truly help and empower people and communities that have little or no power: no boots to pull up, no roof over their heads, no living wage jobs, no political representative that will seriously (sans rhetoric) take up the causes of the poor and downtrodden? Is unequal distribution of power that is achieved unilaterally the intended design of our Founders and Founding Documents? I think not!

Let’s all join with the U.S. Congress to re-read the U.S. Constitution (and Bill of Rights); and, while we are at it, let’s re-read the Declaration of Independence, and Articles of Confederation. Let’s also re-read the Sacred Texts that guide our spiritual and moral sensibilities. Finally, let’s re-consider morally sound, equal distribution of power, and re-calculate costs not just in economic terms but also in the social, political, physical and spiritual costs of both our actions and inactions.

I conclude today’s entry by pointing to a recently published article that further explores and exposes the issues about which I have written:

Consortium News article by Robert Parry, entitled We’re Headed for a Major Battle with the Tea Party Crowd over the Constitution Itself, published December 31, 2010 and re-distributed by Alternet.