America’s values are not my values

On September 11, 2001, I was shocked to learn how some people’s values could be expressed so violently even within our own country. The event changed my view of the world but did not change my core values. Back then I felt that the majority of Americans shared my core values as we collectively denied the haters their goal of changing our world toward evil.

Then fifteen years later on November 8, 2016 I was shocked to learn that so many people in this country do not share my most basic core values of selflessness, fairness and equality; the same values that have sustained me throughout all these years.

On this day it seems right to strongly reaffirm my core life values and plainly acknowledge that these are different from the beliefs of many Americans.

  • I will strive to put others’ interests before my own. I will not strive to accumulate personal wealth and power for my own benefit but will use these blessings for the betterment of others.
  • I will treat all people with kindness and empathy and respect, regardless of where they were born, their race, preferences, country of citizenship, where they choose to live, their personal or religious beliefs or whether they consider themselves friendly or hostile to me.
  • I recognize that the right to share the world’s resources, income, food, land, jobs or social benefits is not dependent on where a person is born, their citizenship, race or their religious or political beliefs.
  • If a person asks for help, food, shelter or money and I can offer it, I will, without judging whether they deserve it.
  • All lives are equal and I will treat others the same way as I hope they will treat me.

Of course, I did not create this value system. I am strongly influenced by many others who preceded me. These are the core beliefs of my Judaeo-Christian heritage that appears to be equally out of favor in America today. These are the principles of Rotary International. These are the same core beliefs that would have caused me to be a conscientious objector is the Vietnam war had not ended before my 18th birthday.

Walt Whitman expressed these beliefs powerfully in the preface of Leaves of Grass. Today I found it useful to read passages from many of these primary sources. Looking forward, I do not know how I will deal with this new realization that my core beliefs are so starkly different than the beliefs of so many Americans.

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