Safety and Happiness

The rancor within the United States of America, which has been exacerbated these last four years, will only grow if left to the parties with the most political power. Politics is a process of decision-making, not an adjudication of ethics or the approach of justice. All manner of stated values covering actual intentions interact negatively.

Political processes are inherently messy and indispensable. Always there is the need for larger conversations to find the focus and limits of political processes.

When the titles of acts carry more political weight than their content, it is a measure of how vulnerable a common concern is to subversion by a political process (at whatever level— family, community, country, or world-wide body). Examples include: a bill for Blue Skies that encourages pollution or for Healthy Forests that privileges logging companies over Indigenous peoples or environmental standards. These disconnects between appearance and effect constitute a lying to oneself and an inability to honestly broker important differences. The same occurs when checks and balances are abrogated to enforce a single viewpoint, an authoritarian edict.

Tinkering with process is less needed than a review of founding principles and adjustment to process based on a new consensus that will reset the basic tension between intractable polarities.

Though the courts are bound by the limits of law, they do, from time-to-time, look at larger contexts than the letters of the law. This is a time when the whole citizenry needs a return to general principles more than arguing over process details, which are a surrogate for imposing one view or another on everyone.

I continue to think the conversation needed is a rebalancing of what the Declaration of Independence terms “Safety and Happiness” and the Constitution names as “Common Defense and General Welfare.”

Seemingly forever, the tension between these tied-together values has been unbalanced in favor of Safety and Common Defense. This privileging of protective services over securing basic rights for all (human and other-than-human) can be seen and measured in the dollars and cents of a budget.

Bankrupting citizens based on their economic status, false concepts such as race, or traditional limits on gender roles and family models to build the world’s largest nuclear arsenal with no way to deploy it without it boomeranging and destroying the Happiness and General Welfare of the citizens it claims to protect is all out of proportion.

A new Declaration of Interdependence is needed as we have bumped up against the limits of Independence. To be independent of the rest of the world (externally) or one another (internally) is to suffocate our core strength through privation of the many for the sake of extraordinary wealth of a few.

Such a Declaration will not escape the eternal tension between Safety and Welfare. Still, it may reset enough to find our way to rebalance our processes and develop a commitment to honor one another while negotiating differences.

Realistically, it is unlikely that enough people will be able to put down whatever perk they have or imagine they will have in the current political system without a narrowing civil war. Nonetheless, it is only some form of a Jubilee Year or Potlatch that will extend the world past the current rush to Fall over the pressure of my independence trumping yours and the inevitable outcome of greed.

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