IN MEMORIAM

For a Country and a Planet

The planet, a diverse paradise of oceans, rivers, mountains, forests, and plants and animals of unimaginable beauty, was the only one in its solar system inhabited by all these, and by sentient beings called humans, or people. Many of the people lived joyous, peaceful lives, yet some sometimes became ill with unfounded fears about each other that led to hatred, tyranny, and even wars they never learned to prevent even though each was more terrible than the last. Eventually their weapons became more ferocious, until they were so powerful they could destroy large swaths of the planet and all that lived on it. 

Despite it being clear that humans were imperfect and often made mistakes or became unbalanced, no one stopped the creation of the weapons and the use of materials that could make more of them. Neither did they stop creating smaller weapons that caused murders of many of the people by only a few individuals. It seemed that no one could stop them because powerful groups of people who were addicted to weapons would not allow it. There was more and more killing followed by crippling sadness in people who lost those they loved.  

Some of the most powerful people were so consumed with their own desires that they ignored the suffering of all others, including the people whose loved ones were killed in mass slaughters. It became clear many were killed mostly because they were not the same white color as most of those in power, or prayed in a different way from them. During this same period, many of the powerful also ignored the looming demise of the planet, as it grew sick from toxins created by the peoples’ industries, showing its grave need through increasingly dangerous fires, storms, deaths of species, and destruction of the natural areas that made it so beautiful. In the end the powerful people let the desperate planet struggle until it died, taking with it all living beings, most of whom had been innocent, kind, and good. 

The pieces of land called countries had looked for guidance to one country considered the greatest, whose founders had possessed great vision. But in this country’s latter days one of its temporary leaders, elected under murky circumstances never completely understood, began to talk of permanently extending the job he had already made into something like the reign of a king. Unlike his predecessors, he was mad and sick with power and greed, and devoid of the great human quality of empathy. He worked both openly and in secret to undermine every effort of those fighting to save the people, the country, and the planet from each other’s weapons and from the planet’s illnesses. 

He soon was acknowledged as the country’s first leader desiring to be what people called a dictator. These were the worst leaders in this world’s history, and always left suffering and death in their wake. Though already wealthy and powerful, he took advantage of his position to gain yet more, despite the cost to the country and the planet. To this end he put in powerful positions people who thought as he did or who would do what he commanded without question. 

The people began to suffer from fear and grief as they watched him destroy laws and rules that had protected them and their beautiful world, and make new ones that made them feel unsafe, causing endless worry and stress. They saw him align himself with other dictators, and with a growing group of people that, like some similar groups in the past that were responsible for murdering millions, spread hatred of all those different from them. They watched him befriend yet others who seemed to love weapons, and who, when grieving families worked to ban them, blocked their every attempt. It didn’t matter to the dictator or his allies how many lives the weapons took. Their turning away from the suffering created a well of sorrow in the country so wide and deep that an anguished cry for the country’s sake was heard throughout the planet. Yet they let the deaths and the mourning of the people, and the destruction of the beautiful planet go on and on. All that seemed to matter to them was wealth and power. The dictator himself believed he was all-powerful, as indeed he seemed to be.  

He and his associates came to symbolize to the people all that was immoral, unethical, cruel, and–in the end we would have to say–evil. Some who could have stopped him were afraid of losing their own positions, so remained silent and continued to obey him. They too became symbols of cruel indifference. The people began to call them all by a name reserved in their history for those they’d reviled the most: traitors. The powerful had betrayed with stunning heartlessness their fellow humans, the great country’s founders, and the beautiful planet with its marvelous creatures.

Who can say if there will ever again exist such a wondrous world, or beings similar to those of that planet, now lost to us? The creator or whatever force made it would have to find a way to make intelligence in each being a trait infused with abhorrence of hate, greed, and tyranny. All people including leaders would need to be born with generosity and the desire for peace ingrained in their very cores. Until such a marvelous thing occurs, all we can say further about this world that contained so much raw material from which could be made such a beautiful existence, is that we miss it, and we will long mourn its passing.

American Priorities

Susan Cooke

It’s wonderful to see the country fight back against the Trump administration–well–at least much of the country. I hope the others will someday come around to understanding that people and kindness coming first is part of what makes a country and a culture great.

No matter who is President, we the people will always need to remind each other about kindness, and then make decisions from there. Even protection from enemies can be engineered with the most kindness possible with some effort. Whatever we do that’s noble in this country will demonstrate to other countries what we’re truly made of. It would be good if they could see such values right now since many of them must be quite disillusioned with us.

In my forthcoming book Stress in the American City I write about kindness and a few other things that help to make our lives more peaceful, happier, and healthier in both mind and body. These include paying vastly more attention to mental health and what harms it, caring for and providing more nature for all (humans desperately need it, especially in cities, and it reduces crime), making sure Americans get help with reducing our increasing isolation from one another by providing more gathering places such as coffee shops in every neighborhood (feeling part of a community close to home  is critical for good mental health), and respecting the science that tells us we must save the environment rather than continuing to wreck our children’s future (that is, we need to get on with practices we know will help to keep global warming from being a permanent, irreparable tragedy).

There are many more practices and issues we need to take off the bottom of priority lists and move to the top, Without paying attention to the wellbeing of all living things on the planet and caring for the planet itself, tons of money won’t keep us from having the sicker and shorter lives now seen in many large cities including American cities. Enough money, or we could say adequate money, and more peaceful, less driven “success”-and-wealth-oriented lives for most of us will help everyone live longer, allay more anxiety and depression, and help provide some leftover funds to lift those at the bottom. Research shows that even the rich are less happy in a terribly unequal culture.

I ask government at all levels to put wellbeing and kindness at the top of its priority lists, and I believe everything else will fall into place in ways much better for all than what we’ve seen lately.