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Notes from the Apocalypse

Smart? Wealthy? Patriotic? Keep It to Yourself

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By Charles Morgan III

 

These are thoughts for our elected leaders (and anyone else this may apply to).

 

We live in a time of unprecedented confusion. Acrimony between political factions is off the charts. Our country is divided into more entrenched ideologies than ever before.

 

There is the evangelical right. Fiscal conservatives. Social liberals. States righters. Neo-Nazis. Those who are pro-immigration and those who are anti-immigrants. Anarchists. Wall builders. Pro-union groups and anti-union forces. People who believe everything they read on the Internet. People who believe nothing. And all of these views are broadcast on 24-hour cable news.

 

In these uncertain times, I have suggestions for anyone who purports to have our country’s best interests at heart.

 

If you are smart—truly intelligent, maybe even with a Mensa membership and a genius rated I.Q.—for God’s sake, don’t tell people how smart you are. Just show us. Act like a genius. If you’re a wannabe genius, just fake it. At least behave like you are intelligent. In the end, your intelligence is a determination best left up to others.

 

If you’re wealthy, really wealthy, don’t tell us—don’t throw it in our face. Behave like a wealthy farmer in Iowa. If they ever spring for a new pickup truck, you can bet it’ll be the same color as their old one. Because they’d prefer that no one knows they’re wealthy enough to buy a new vehicle. In our world, many people want you to think they are financially wealthy—that they have more money than they really do. That’s always going to be a bad equation.

 

If you are truly patriotic, show us—don’t tell us. It’s going to take more than the ubiquitous American flag lapel pin on your suit jacket, more than a raucous USA chant, more than a passing “Thank you for your service” to a tired soldier in an airport terminal.

 

John Prine sang many years ago, “Your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore.” He was correct. It’s also best to refrain from criticisms and demeaning statements about people from other countries and cultures around the world, particularly if you haven’t traveled and met those people. Most people, in most places, seem to be every bit as nice as we are.

 

If you are an evangelical Christian (and I’m reaching here because I’m not sure what that is), let us know about your faith by your actions—your commitment to family values, your concern for children’s well being after they’re born, your desire for peace and love and all things Christian in this world. Preaching the gospel—proselytizing—doesn’t carry much punch when it’s used to justify war in more areas of the world than we’ve ever known.

 

Over the past 25 years, I’ve developed an interest in Buddhism. I’m not a Buddhist—I was raised in the Episcopal Church. But I’ve read books covering all facets of the world’s sixth most popular religion.

 

The sole reason for my interest is that I have worked with a beautifully intelligent woman for more than a quarter of a century. She is a Buddhist. I have watched her approach to all types of trials and issues that we face in life. Through joy and sadness and conflict and celebration, she has been an inspiration to me and many others. My interest in her religion has had almost nothing to do with her talking about it. She’s a very quiet person. I’ve watched the way she has lived her life. She doesn’t talk bad about other people. She doesn’t wear her American pride on her lapel. She’s extremely intelligent and peaceful and wealthy in many ways.

 

But she never says anything about any of that. She’s very powerful, but she leads with a very gentle touch. She wasn’t born or raised in this country, but she is a shining testament for all that we should be.

 

And she makes great sushi.

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