2020

On the critical condition of ‘Duty, Honor, Country’

We gather here to hold with deep concern the principles of ‘Duty, Honor, Country.’ These three principles were once front and center in the declarations of persons who committed themselves to be of public service. These principles stood as guideposts to persons who sought to spend themselves in the service of the public good. They radiated from the halls of West Point and served as a constant reminder of the importance, of the necessity to put an allegiance to what is good and right before any desire for individual glory and the promotion of segregated entitlement. We remember them with gratitude, not because they always prevailed in their discipline of our public servants but because before they were always there to inform them, to inspire them, to remind them of their sacred charge. Now these three have been assaulted and neglected; they are suffering, almost out of sight, out of mind, struggling to survive.

Where once before persons elected to serve the public good embraced the principles of ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ and sought to serve with integrity and to protect the dignity of every resident of this country, now the individuals who occupy the highest places of our national government are silent before the face of injustice, even afraid to confront and expose incidences of misconduct when they see abuses of power and observe attitudes and behaviors that discredit the rule of law and the sanctity of human existence. ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ are now only faint memories, echoes, recollections of how majestic public service could have been, principles no longer presented as pledges to be obeyed and mandatory to be in the collection of attributes of human character worthy of aspiration.

Yet in spite of their approaching demise ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ still lives within the consciousness of some courageous public servants–subordinates, persons under the command of higher officials, individuals who embrace integrity and a sustained commitment to public service. They have not betrayed their oath to the values that constituted our Republic. The behavior of these national patriots puts to shame the conduct of higher elected government officials who are betraying the public trust.

Duty—an internal obligation to be faithful to a solemn oath and a promise to put the success of a mission before the safety of the individual.

Honor—a measure of the preservation of integrity and honesty in response to accepting the calling to serve a cause higher than self preservation.

Country—the nation and its values to which a position of public service is dedicated and representative of everyone who resides within its boundaries.

Duty, Honor, Country’ I applaud your idealistic challenge, your high ideals, your incessant reach for truth. Do not be content to be pushed aside, trampled under the feet of impersonators motivated by selfish aspirations. Become agitated, regain your strengthen, arise to call us all to servanthood, to the defense of all that is true and right, and to the quest of achieving the human potential.

Forty seven minutes past Jerusalem

Maybe you can explain this strange unsubstantiated proceeding:

pronouncements and behaviors that challenge the actions of individuals of Jewish linage routinely result in the culprit being labeled ‘anti-semitic’ while similar pronouncements and behaviors promoted by Jewish people toward individuals of Palestinian linage are not referred to as also being ‘anti-semitic.’

Semitic, adjective: relating to or denoting a family of languages that includes Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic and certain ancient languages such as Phoenician and Akkadian, constituting the main subgroup of the Afro-Asiatic family; and relating to the peoples who speak Semitic languages, especially Hebrew and Arabic.

Given this formal dictionary definition of ‘semitic’ one is rightly confused by the general understanding of the meaning of ‘anti-semitic’ and the way it is used in modern discourse.

I have lived in the West Bank, worked in Jerusalem and Hebron and the small Palestinian shepherd village of At-Tuwani. I traveled the route between At-Tuwani and Jerusalem many times, both by car and by bus. I have seen the manner in which Israeli soldiers interact with local Palestinian residents. I have seen Palestinian travelers ejected from the bus and others outright denied occupancy. I have seen road blocks indiscriminately erected and Palestinian travelers subjected to long delays and grueling interrogations, and afterward turned back. I have seen Palestinian workers stand in line for hours to get through Israeli check-points on their way to work. I have seen Palestinian shop owners intimidated and forced to leave their modest stores while they watch their metal shop doors being welded shut by Israeli army reservists. I have seen residents of illegal settlements hassle and assail Palestinian grade school students as they walked to their classes. I have seen Palestinian shepherds tending their sheep in ancestral pastures being attacked and assaulted by illegal settlers. I have seen residents of Palestinian villages form the dusty ground around their houses with cement so that the rain water runoff would find its way into their meager cisterns while they watch across the valley as irrigation systems spray water on the green grass and vibrant flowers that landscape the attractive Israeli settlement located there. I have seen Israeli travelers drive undisturbed along carefully planned and well maintained highways while Palestinian travelers are denied access to these same highways that run through their olive fields and pastures because they are directed to drive along worn out lengthy back roads in order to arrive at their destinations.

To observe that protests which describe the Israeli policy of occupation and disruption in the West Bank as unlawful and to work to end this oppressive system in all ways possible will certainly be labeled as behaviors that are anti-semitic while the actions of the Israeli government to continue dispatching young army reservists who have been told that every Palestinian is likely to kill them so they must endeavor to repress the Palestinian population in every way possible in order to subdue them, this proceeding is calmly regarded as a matter of national security–to observe this inconsistency fills me with bewilderment and consternation.

Can anyone tell me why the oppressive result of Israeli policies toward Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank is not recognized as being anti-semitic? I have wondered if it is because if you are already ‘semitic’ then by nature you cannot be ‘anti-semitic.’ Maybe only non-semitics can be anti-semitic. Perhaps this is the way it works. Yet you can still be cruel and mean whether you are semitic or non-semitic. It is a thing all humans can do, if they choose to do it.

On the art of misinterpretation

You have also wondered about this curious phenomenon: how so many divergent interpretations have been crafted by individuals who confess to understand the meaning of the same primary written source. The fact that so many different conclusions can be made when considering the intention presented in some reputable document causes serious alarm and calls for some satisfactory explanation about the reason for this disparity.

Take religious discourse as an example. The exact same sacred document has been the origin of varying and often contradictory teachings and dogmatic assertions. The presence of many distinctively different faith communities all of whom claim to be honoring the same sacred text causes one to wonder what may be behind their singular interpretations of its content. This confusion is evident in all of the major religions in the world. Followers of these faith communities are divided among many separate groups of worshipers, each one having a characteristically different understanding of the meaning of the sacred text from which the religion was founded.

And another example, that occurring in the law profession, more specifically in the judgement among attorneys of the meaning of the text comprising the founding document of the United States of America—the Constitution. On the supreme court there are nine seasoned and experienced attorneys, chosen for their past performance in deciding justice, pronouncing judgement. To read the varying explanations of what the statements in the constitution were intended to mean, how they were intended to be understood, the divergent conclusions from these nine law professionals is cause for serious alarm.

In each of these examples there is reason to search for the answer to this pointed question: what motivation is behind the individual interpretations of these texts that are pronounced; for what reason does such divergent explanations of meaning exist?

The most reasonable explanation is that the professionals who make these varying interpretations are not doing justice to the text but rather doing justification of the text for the sake of a more deeply held belief. The reason that such diverse interpretations exist is that the primary written source is used to justify a more devoted ambition than that of being faithful to the text in the document referenced. Rather the document is used to give credence to a preference so much so that thereby the resulting authoritative explanation can be used as a way to coerce others to conform to a preferred pattern of behavior.

More precisely these varying interpretations are intended to establish an advantage for a select category of persons, destined to provide the capacity for them to exercise power and advance a narrative that will ensure the privileged positioning of this ‘chosen’ group.  Claims emitting from some religious bodies of their being ‘elected’ because of some divine imperative represents a clear example of this kind of misinterpretation.

Actions of clerics and judges which pronounce interpretations of documents that elevate one distinct group above all other human creatures thereby giving them power over the behaviors of others assaults the foundational observable principle that diversity is a fundamental characteristic of human being.

Determining which of the diverse groups of human creatures is better or worse than the others is an exceedingly presumptuous arrogant assertion that gives evidence of the blatant bias and perverted discrimination at work inside the individual making this desperate assertion.  Desperate because such reasoning reveals a fear that promoting equality among human creatures will result in a loss of status or privilege that is interpreted as being a sign of value and worth.  And this need is created by a feeling of inadequacy, that being human in itself is not enough.

This factor should raise the concern of any human creature whose life is influenced by such justified declarations. Whether it is religious teachings or legal mandates, every one of us who cares about the dignity and integrity of human being should express great impudence, disobedience in the face of this travesty. We should and we must demand forthright proclamations. And the critique of explanations provided, answers given can be fashioned by the content from within the conscience of every individual.

It is in the spirit of this protest that all the great social movements to improve the human condition have been forged by courageous and visionary persons. In religion and in politics it was the individuals who openly opposed dogmatic pronouncements and discriminatory laws that assaulted human dignity, rising up in bold social and civil disobedience, these individuals have proven to be the voice of truth and the power of change.

We can no longer be silent and submit when we see pronouncements made and actions taken that claim to be deduced from authoritative founding documents but are in fact justifications for some preferred belief or dictated behavior designed to be forced upon those of us under the influence of imposters. In our spirits and our hearts we know what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong. Actions that honor what is true are the right choices. If we are to be persons of integrity–faithful to our humanity–we must believe in this; and we must act upon it.

On the privilege of being arrogant

Arrogant, adjective.  The definition of arrogant is someone who is full of self-worth or self importance and who tells and shows that they have a feeling of superiority over others.   At the same time the person longs to be admired and respected for their special qualities and great accomplishments.  An example of arrogant is when a guy on a date brags about himself all night acting like he is the best thing to ever happen to a woman.

Privilege, noun.  The definition of privilege is a right or immunity granted as a particular benefit, advantage, or favor, like a special prerogative such as a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office.  An example of privilege is taking a position that allows the individual to refuse to disclose information or provide evidence about a certain subject or to bar evidence from being disclosed or used in a judicial or other proceeding.

Arrogance and privilege display themselves as characteristics of behavior, and they reveal themselves in the ways an individual functions in relationships with others. In isolation arrogance and privilege are not necessarily problematic. When shielded from public presence an arrogant person does not disrupt community.  When shielded from public presence a person claiming special privilege is not a threat to orderly conduct.

I attended a college which had a large open field in the center of the campus.  Being a land grant school the institution was required to conduct military training for all male students.  The field functioned as a parade ground for reserve officer training for the Army and Air Force.  Several concrete pathways had been constructed across this expanse to provide suitable access to various classroom buildings that existed along the perimeter of the field.  And there were the usual posted signs requesting—directing—students to use the walkways rather than cut across the grass in order to attend their classes.

In time someone late for class would choose to ignore the signs and walk on the grass, taking a short cut through the field to arrive at a desired location.  Seeing the initial benefit of this practice other students interested in arriving at that same location would follow along.  Eventually a path was created, a depression that wore away the grass and resulted in a dirty, often muddy trail.  Avoiding the mud would cause the width of the trail to grow.   Seeing the result of this transgression the institution would construct another concrete walk way to make this trail more aesthetically appealing and safer.  This deviation occurred numerous times with the same results.  Afterward the site of the open field had been diverted from its original symmetry of pathways and had morphed into a bazar pattern of concrete tentacles that seemed to reach uninvited into the very soul of the campus.

An arrogant person would be one who ignores directives established to promote a healthy and equitably functioning society.  Signs requesting that members not walk on the grass would be an example of one of these worthy directives or rules. The feelings prompted by arrogance would result in the perception of a privilege that someone did not need to obey the signs.  Their feeling of exceeding self worth would produce an element of superiority that not only superseded the presence of other more modest persons but also concluded that the rules did not apply to them. And this dynamic would conclude that the importance of their perspectives was enough to violate rules and norms that had been established to benefit the function of relationship with others in the community.

Relationships survive only when all parties enjoy some benefit from the interactions. Open grass fields can become completely covered by concrete.   Remember the observation of Eleanor Roosevelt:  In the final analysis, a democratic government represents the sum total of the courage and the integrity of its individuals.  It cannot be better than they are.