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THE NEW DEMOCRACY
by Jen Frankel

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THE NEW DEMOCRACY
Can you fill a moral vacuum?
by Jen Frankel


To hear former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton tell it, you'd figure that the only response the Bush administration ever conceived to any situation was to lash out.

He's able in a heartbeat to rationalize the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a necessity to protect America's interests abroad -- and only barely stops short of stating outright that oil is the crux of that interest.

While to some extent it's refreshing to hear someone formerly high up in Bush's White House admit that naked self-interest without regard to sovereign rights drove policy during the last eight years, I'm struck more by the immaturity inherent in such a stance.

After all, shouldn't the inability to cohabit peacefully with neighbors be something we grow out of sometime around the age of majority?

The wisdom to pick your battles, to be cognizant of responsibilities as well as your perceived rights, and to have your sense of entitlement in proportion are the hallmarks of a mature individual.

I can't help referring to a Zen concept of the stages of rebirth. In the spiritual journey through our life, we move toward greater consciousness and greater humanity.

An early stage can be compared to the life of a camel, who is bent under its master's whip and moves without complaint along its proscribed path.

When the camel becomes curious about what else life has to offer beyond another's pleasure, it becomes a lion. The lion roars, and resists, sometimes just for the sake of obstinacy. He is stubborn and aggressive, testing his limits by testing the limits of others.

But when the lion has driven away those who he wants to engage, and destroyed more than he has created, he changes again and enters yet another stage. Here, a childlike delight in the wonder of the world returns, but informed by all the knowledge and experience gained along the way.

When someone is unafraid, both of himself and others, he can truly begin to change the world. The camel can't, because it exists in the context of following the orders of another, and the lion can't because he thinks only of himself.

The world view espoused by Bolton and others of his ilk is the philosophy of the lion. It's a paradigm that seems on its surface to allow for constant growth and the acquisition of power and positive gain.

But we've seen, all too clearly, the natural outcome of the lion's path. After only eight years, the American economy is in chaos -- poverty and deprivation, crime and fear, these are the wages of rampant self-interest.

That's not even to mention the ruined infrastructures of Iraq and her neighbors, the deaths of thousands of innocents, the loss of hopes and dreams as society falls to pieces in a constant landscape of war and uncertainty.

The pursuit of America's interests in the Middle East has not been a sign of a mature and measured belief in doing good, but merely the out-of-proportion reaction of an adolescent country lashing out in anger.

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When someone pokes you with a stick, you walk away if you're weaker, and you take the stick away if you're stronger. You don't grab your own stick and poke back.

Let's hope America can grow up before she enflames more anger, more sorrow, and more lion-like behavior from her chosen and so-called enemies. Bolton claims that his administration opted for diplomacy 99 44/100% of the time... maybe we have a different definition of tact as well.

In the meantime, I'm pretty sure Bolton is more concerned about the sales of his new book than he ever was about the welfare of the average American.

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