Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving and Thomas Jefferson

I traveled to Washington DC to spend with my family for Thanksgiving this year. Today we were fortunate enough to enjoy a crisp, sunny day, so instead of watching football or the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, I ended up going for a walk along the Tidal Basin with my family. When we came across the Jefferson Memorial, we walked up, and I was struck by how timeless Jefferson's words regarding freedom and governance were, and how they still applied today, particularly given the recent tragic events, where terrorists attacked several hotels in Mumbai, India.

The violence, while intolerable, begs a question "Why"?

It's too easy and simplistic to just attribute these evil and violent attacks to soulless individuals who have no regard to humanity. Certainly, they demonstrate a lack of respect for human life, but we also need to look at the root cause for their anger.

For too long, mankind in every society has been prone to marginalizing the humanity and equality of others. The idea that Jefferson proposes, in the Declaration of Independence, is truly inspirational and timeless:
"...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed..."

Despite differences in ethnicity, culture, or history, every race is looking for security, stability, and well-being. When society allows both social and economic inequalities, is it any wonder that we see such bursts of rage? If we are honest, when we turn our backs on the rights of others, on the humanity, and needs of others, we also have some share of culpability.

What brought economic revival in Europe was the Marshall Plan, the same approach needs to be applied for developing nations. When rich nations develop foreign aid packages to help invest in health care, education, and food production, the economic support will provide a greater and more meaningful solution toward fighting hatred and terrorism, than any missile defense system.

Moreover, even within the US, the effects of poverty, hopelessness, and inequality in our inner cities is evident on a daily basis in the news. We can do more to improve crime and violence in our cities, if we could focus more on improving the income inequality and education of inner city kids.

While it's always a good thing to take stock of what we are grateful for on this annual day of giving thanks, thinking of those who are less fortunate than ourselves is something we should do more often.
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