You find out, if not who you are, what you believe by reading the thoughts of others.
Although there are still many, probably the majority, who don’t read beyond their discovery that the writer doesn’t share their beliefs, and then put the book down, with the result that too many go on believing what they believed to begin with. These many (and here I include our president and many of his hirelings) learn nothing new about themselves, that which could have added real substance and meaning to their lives, let alone in the case of our president direction to the life of the country, which at present does seem directionless.
I’d like to think that I’m one whose beliefs are not fixed for all time (btw, if they had been been where might they have originated? I often wonder about that.). But most likely in regard to my own beliefs, as well as to all the great variety of beliefs and opinions that are out there, it does seem sometimes the case that even my beliefs are fixed, walled off from dissent as it were, unchanging and changeless. Too many of us have stopped looking about, stopped being observant. And instead we go on simply adhering to liberal, conservative, or middle of the road opinions, however they may have come to us, and however they may be directing our lives in the wrong direction.
The problem is simple. Our belief systems, such as Islam, Christianity, socialism, capitalism and all the rest, all the myriad ideologies that so encumber and impede our thinking, stifle our freedom in so many ways, also, and most important, leave no place for evolutionary principles. This is our great mistake, a great crime against ourselves. In respect to the carnage and destruction we’ve witnessed during the recent past, in Europe, Asia, and now Africa, the rejection of evolution, that which demonstrates without question the common origin of all life, has meant the rejection of science, of man’s power of reason, such providing the very greatest means of improving our lot, and yes of restoring human dignity and human rights.
The leaders of nations, at war with one another or not, by rejecting evolutionary science, are committing a crime against humanity. For evolutionary science, when unencumbered by ideologues and ‘true believers’, communists, evangelicals, members of ISIS and Al Qaida, and the like is what has during the recent several million years of homo’s presence on earth accounted for the huge material progress we have made. And from material riches spiritual progress has followed, not as many true believers would have it, the other way around. Without his material needs being met, man’s spiritual needs have no chance. And science, not religion is what has improved his material conditions.
Religions and ideologies of all kinds have only stood in our way, making progress towards a better life much more difficult to achieve than it would have been otherwise. For we, as crazy as this seems, go on thinking and believing whatever it may be, in spite of the evidence of our senses to the contrary, that, for example, global warming is not the result of our actions, that the deaths of hundreds of millions of innocent, ordinary people like ourselves, caught in the crossfires and labelled collateral damage, that these deaths are not due to our adherence to false ideologies. Doesn’t it have to be a kind of craziness to hold onto beliefs that push us to go on waging wars? And for what realistic and honorable end? To make us capitalists, socialists, democrats or worst of all true believers? What war has ever achieved, by the slaughter of thousands, its intended ends?
I started thinking about these things after reading Brittany Hunter’s FEE article about Senator McCain’s own nationalistic dogma.
Hunter begins by talking about Senator McCain, who is with us in regard to his put down of Trump’s nationalism (while also being a war monger) and a nationalist himself.
Hunter: This modern flavor of American nationalism is exceptionally frightening. The sentiment all too present at the Charlottesville rally just a couple of months ago solidified any claims to the contrary: 20th century-nationalism is back in a big way, and it is a threat to individual liberty. But so is perpetual unjust war which Senator McCain almost seems to favor, although with good ends in mind.
McCain: We are blessed, and we have been a blessing to humanity in turn. The international order we helped build from the ashes of world war, and that we defend to this day, has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history.
Hunter: And what a blessing America and her foreign policy have truly been. Already in 2017, civilian deaths at the hand of American drone strikes have increased by 60 percent: emphasis on “civilian.” These were not ISIS leaders or even recruits. They were just people who happened to have been born within the “wrong” political borders. Their only real sin was not being born American, on American soil.
Hunter: Of course, these civilian deaths are disregarded as “collateral damage”: unfortunate, but necessary to protecting America’s foreign interests.
Hunter: When we assert that we have the right to invade and occupy foreign lands simply because we are Americans, it is nationalism.
McCain: We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil.
Hunter: This McCain proudly declared during his remarks. And again, he is partially right. Part of the reason America and its emphasis on individual liberty were so important to the course of human history was because it was a revolution of ideas. And while North America just happened to be the place many escaped to, America itself did not make us what we became. It was the individual efforts of many diverse and unique people that made America exceptional.
Hunter: America was a land where you could escape your past and build a new life. A place where access to opportunity was equal to all those willing to work – with the exception of women and slaves at the time, of course.
Hunter: Your past or where you were born should not determine your right to self-determination. All you need do to acquire these natural rights is be born, anywhere on this earth. That is the principle on which this country was founded.
Hunter: When Americans assert that we have the right to invade and occupy foreign lands in the name of expanding our own freedom agenda, simply because we are Americans, This is nationalism. Pure and simple.
Hunter: To make matters worse, this feeling of self-superiority has led America-first supporters to justify these acts as if they are our duty. If we don’t bring the principles of democracy to the uncivilized “savages” in the Middle East, we have not fully reached our potential as Americans, as some may claim.
Hunter: And, of course, if anyone voices opposition to “business as usual” in the foreign policy realm, they are cast off as unpatriotic, unwilling to do what needs to be done to ensure our own safety and the well-being of the world. Unwilling to put America first…
McCain: To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain “the last best hope of earth” for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.
Hunter: So while McCain is trying to cast his own prerogatives in a light contradictory to that of the new nationalists, his nationalism and that of Trump are branches of the same tree, acting under the notion that whatever Americans do is justified because they are Americans….
Hunter: But the only real moral obligation we have to the rest of the world is to let them be. To not let their fate be determined by the fact that they are not Americans. They do not deserve this.
Brittany Hunter is an associate editor at FEE. Hunter studied political science at Utah Valley University with a minor in Constitutional studies