Why We Need Safe Harbor

"The great malady of the twentieth century is... ‘loss of soul.’ When soul is neglected, it doesn’t just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning. Our temptation is to isolate these symptoms or to try to eradicate them one by one; but the root problem is that we have lost our wisdom about the soul, even our interest in it."
(Care of the Soul - Thomas Moore)

My beloved country has developed the soul of a turnip.

In place of aliveness, passion and connection, we have become empty and addicted to excitement.

The flood of adrenaline that pours into our blood when we are scared, shocked, titillated, has become as addicting as heroin. As we crave for more, for higher levels of arousal, we seek further into a world of fantasy: TV shows full of sadism and monsters, video games with blood spurting, news stories of kidnapping, rape and murder.

For most of us, thank God, this is not the world outside our doors. That world- the real world- is safer, filled with neighbors and people like us. But our inner world, our minds, increasing reflect the fantasies that pour in hour after hour from TV, newspapers and rage radio.

We are also addicted to outward form. Thousands of magazines back up the TV image of young thin sex objects, so unlike our neighbors in the real world. In our effort to compete we are preoccupied with weight loss and our abdominal muscles. Are we thin enough, sexy enough? is a national obsession. Most of us in the real world are not.

As a culture we are addicted to power and money. Testosterone runs our foreign and domestic agenda. Caring for people, compassion, has no place in a machine driven by testosterone.

In 1986, I worked for 2 weeks in a tribal village in Zambia in the heart of southern Africa. This little village had one radio, and hundreds of mud huts with thatched roofs. Inside several of them were pictures of John F Kennedy attached to the straw walls. It made me proud to realize that we as a country represented hope in this small desperately poor outpost. And throughout the world. In the 1960’s we offered hope to the world. No more!

9/11 created an opening. After the shock, we were ready to pull together, tighten our belts, and respond. We recalled John Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. But instead of asking more, our government advised us to continue functioning as usual, and cut taxes. The challenge of the attack faded, and was replaced by the same inner deadness we experience during a night of TV.

About Fear

In the world of fantasy, fear is king. It stimulates adrenaline. It sells newspapers. For those bored and needing another hit, it brings relief, something to talk about: a gunman, a kidnapper. In my town, for the last 15 years, no one lets their child walk to school. The newspaper told us 15 years ago that a seven year old child was kidnapped on the main street of town, in daylight. By a STRANGER. That did it. No one was safe! Those of us who knew the circumstances knew that it was no stranger, but the child’s fathers girlfriend. Of course the child was returned. But as far as anyone knew, KIDNAPPERS WERE ON THE LOOSE AND NO ONE WAS SAFE.

A few years later we all heard in the newspapers and on TV about the razor and the poison in Halloween candy. From that year, the easy sense of Halloween, with children roaming free in safe neighborhoods, ended. Now parents carefully guide small children thru the streets of my town and examine all treats received. Hospitals volunteered to X ray all items collected. By now it has become clear that the original story of razors was not true, and in all these years, no X-rayed treats were ever found unsafe.

My granddaughter, in kindergarten, heard a safety officer tell all her classmates about how to avoid strangers who might steal or hurt them. Just to be extra careful, he told all these five year olds to even be careful about policemen who offer to help, as they might really be STRANGERS just pretending to be police. She had nightmares about kidnappers for a year.

And then began the TV stories about lunatic baby-sitters and incest. Not that these things cannot occur. But we are teaching ourselves and, worse still, our children, that we live in an unsafe world, and not to trust anyone. All this may be good for selling TV shows and newspapers, but this is not how we want to raise this generation of children.

I do want to emphasize that for most of us, this fear is based on fantasy. The real world of my church, my friends, my neighborhood is truly safe. There is
never a kidnapping, there is never poison in the candy. The real world in which many of us live is quite safe.

Another aspect of fear mentality is thinking of the "good" (us) and the bad (them). It's become the basis of our nation's foreign ( and domestic) policy. All of us thought this way when we were 3 or 4 years old. But most of us have come to realize, as Pogo did, that "I have met the enemy, and it is us". We are all gray, and so are they. It is important not to demonize the world and then fear it.

Selling fear, is like selling poison. Children need to feel safe to have a real childhood. They need protection from the fantasy world we are pushing at them, the world of sex, violence and commercialism. My grandchildren have gone to a school where they are encouraged not to watch TV, not to play video games, and not to wear clothes with brand names. This may seem quixotic and out of touch with "the real world", but I would say, not only is this better attuned to the real world they live in, but it prepares them to be kinder, more compassionate, and more healthy than those cynically prepared for the next media sensation.

About Commerce

In the absence of soul, in the presence of an adrenaline, testosterone culture, there is no guiding light except the bottom line. What makes money goes on and gets fat. This culture of greed dominates our media, and it dominates our work environment. Corporations do whatever returns more money to the stockholder. CEOs are paid millions, as that's what it takes to get someone to fire a man two years before retirement. Or to continue pumping mercury into the air, causing infants brain damage. Or to arrange to pay no taxes on their corporation's huge profits. Basically these men sell their souls to enrich the bottom line.

All this money dominates our government. Two hundred million dollars donated to a presidential candidate is a small price for the gazillions of dollars this government offers in tax breaks to corporations, and to the wealthy. So our government says there is not global warming--keep polluting- there is no money for universal health insurance or education--lower taxes--our air is clean enough--Keep producing toxic materials--Keep exporting jobs to the cheapest labor force. As the rich get richer and the rest get poorer we become the Earth's richest third world country. The rich live in gated, guarded communities. The poor live in slums called AMERICA, with decaying schools, poor health care, closing libraries, less police and more crime.