Truth in an ecosystem of free will and moral responsibility

(Part II of III series)

“Truth entices us there on the frontier between fact and interpretation, and we strive for honesty in representing what is entrusted to us. We combine that honesty with a humility that comes from knowing beyond all doubt that whatever we believe, whatever we claim, whatever we know, the next generation will surely say, ‘That’s not good enough! We need to know more and we need to know better!’” – Sander M. Goldberg, distinguished research professor of Classics at UCLA, 2018.

“A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth—which love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.” – “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl, as displayed at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany.

Allow me to start with an anecdote about my 4-year-old granddaughter. I made a mistake of saying grandbaby, and she corrected me in a soft-spoken manner, “Grandma, I am not a baby anymore.”

She is not, as we delve into a dialogue on the eve of her 4th birthday. I greeted her at the door, singing a happy birthday song. She quickly dashed to the bathroom to wash her hands and then, sat in her favorite chair. She put one raspberry, one after another, then held her fork and elegantly dug into the ¼ cup of macaroni and cheese.

“Grandma, you are good,” she said, after finishing it all, in a very loving, soft voice. She continued, “Grandma, when someone says you are not good, that is sad, right?”

“Yes, Princess (her pseudonym), it is why you need to always tell yourself you are a good person so you will always do good actions to others.”

I really wanted her to know these instinctively: “I am a good person and you will only expect good actions from me.”

I was quite impressed that her four-year-old mind’s revelation comes from knowing what is good and how it makes her and how when one is told “not good,” it is sad. She did not say, I am sad, but “it is sad.” What if we carried that same consciousness that our actions can make folks happy or sad? Will we do good by others?

Our national truth

What if each business leader who goes to work each week read the passage, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32) and go back to the Sermon on the Mount, as Eric Butterworth writes in “Discover the Power Within You,” “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where thy treasure its, there will thy heart be also.” What would be the collective legacies of these corporate business leaders?

Will they keep improving the cost of providing service and in their efficiencies, reduce the rates of cell phone services, as an example?

Or in their transport efficiencies, reduce the cost of shipping consumer goods? Or in their manufacturing efficiencies, the prescription and generic drugs costs are decreased to the final consumer?

What if in the course of innovation and more efficient service delivery, the consumers’ interests are at the forefront and not profit?

Recall the recent news item about how Disney CEO Bob Iger’s pay soars 80 percent to $65.6 million, from a prior $13.12 million? In another news front, Disney announces an increase in entrance fees, prompting others on Facebook to post, why not decrease Iger’s compensation and keep admission prices low?

Okay, let us suppose this business leader went to work and had an epiphany? That instead of taking the 80 percent increase in his pay, he opted to find 50 dedicated staff, engineers, and creative designers and gave them his salary increase at $1,000,000 each? Would he not propel these middle-class workers to millionaires and secure their futures? But, better yet, he might motivate them and the entire organization to exponential heights?

This is a pipe dream, some would say, but really, what if all the super-elites as we call them, actually looked beyond themselves and considered that our intuition says to us, as Paulo Coelho wrote in “The Alchemist”: “that intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it’s all written there?” That our accumulated riches are not accessories to wear in our coffins, but an inheritance to our descendants for positive good.

Consider what Renee Stout observes, sensing all inequalities and injustices, as George Lipsitz in “The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit From Identity Politics,” quoted: “When I look at society, I see the emphasis on money and material things. Everyone is bogged down in competition. The reason I found objects in my art is to say to everyone, ‘Use what you have and be positive, whatever it is that you have, try to make something good from it.’ My relatives were always able to make any situation elegant and wonderful. They made ‘home’ a very secure and nourishing place physically and spiritually. I realize that I was taking objects from a painfully cruel environment and trying to turn them into something positive by creating with them.”

Instead of melting our differences down to nothingness, what about understanding diverse cultures so we can all derive a better understanding of one another?

Franklin Roosevelt’s example

I keep drawing inspiration from the examples of good American presidents. Consider Franklin Roosevelt who presided over a “house divided” yet, managed to reunify the house. He did so by telling the truth of what happened to the banking crisis and why American had to have rules to stop banks from speculations and unwise loans.

He called on the press to be his allies and conferred with them honestly with free-flowing questions and answers. He learned with the press, as they did, from him, in these press conferences, with honest exchanges of ideas, with respect and of course, jokes. He certainly did not call them “fake news,” nor did he resorted to throwing them out from press conferences when he heard questions that he did not like, unlike this current U.S. president throwing out CNN’s Jim Acosta, to which CNN took the president to court and won. Press freedom is as sacrosanct as other freedoms, like freedom of speech.

Roosevelt used the radio and an estimated 60 million people listened to his radio chat. He restored order to the banking crisis and when trading resumed, the stock market rose 15 percent, its largest rise in years. It was an interchange, as Doris Kearns Goodwin writes in “Leadership in Turbulent Times,” analyzing what went right for these four presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.

That is our America, able to come together, after being divided, moved by persuasion and reason. Will we see that manifest today, after an unnecessary shutdown since Dec. 22, 2018?

Furlough of 800,000 federal workers

Since Dec. 22, 2018, the federal government has been shut down, forcing 800,000 federal workers to be furloughed. It means air traffic controllers are at work but have no pay. It also means TSA agents, the security workers that we go through in the airports, are at work without pay.

Their insecurities were somewhat assuaged when a bill went through Congress and Pres. Trump supposedly signed it promising back wages to these furloughed workers.

Prompting us to ask: If that bill guaranteeing back pay was passed by Congress, assented to by the Senate and the White House – why not proceed to simply reopen the federal government? Where is the free will to do good from the U.S. Senate and the White House as House has already passed the bills to reopen the federal government?

Even former Trump’s economic adviser, Gary Cohn, who stepped down as director of the National Economic Council on March 6, was quoted by the Washington Post’s John Wagner: “I don’t understand what the outcome is here and I don’t understand where we’re going with it, I’m confused as to what the White House’s strategy is on this a little bit.”

The Post continued, “In the interview, Cohn criticized the shutdown as “completely wrong” and said the furloughing of thousands of workers “makes absolutely no sense whatsoever,” according to the Globe that they quoted from.

The shutdown has exposed America’s White House under 45th President Donald Trump to its egregious irrationality, taking hostage the paychecks of 800,000 federal workers. Assuming each is paid at an average of $5,000 a month, that is an estimated $4 billion that could go into paying their mortgages, rent, car payments, babysitters, groceries, gas.

That unnecessary shutdown is also depriving the economy, at an estimated loss by Goldman Sachs at $1.5 billion a week. Can you imagine a shutdown that is imposing suffering on 800,000 federal workers over no labor issue with the federal government? I cannot forget the sight of teary-eyed federal workers who are reduced to going to soup kitchens and food pantries to avail of free food and groceries for their families.

Free will and moral responsibility

The House has rationally acted, exercising their free will to be a force for good, and voted on bills to open the federal government, and sent these appropriation bills to the Senate. These bills are the same bills already approved and voted on by 100 Senators in December 2018, before the shutdown. If submitted to a vote in the U.S. Senate and passed, then, it goes to the desk of Pres. Trump. There would not have been a shutdown, had this process been followed.

But, Trump was influenced by two talk show hosts: Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, prompting MSNBC guests to say that these two unelected talk show hosts are now running the U.S. government, and not  Trump.

Have you seen such irrationality in any of the 44 U.S. presidents, ceding their executive powers to two talk show hosts?

I still remember a speech, with a banner, “Mission Accomplished!” when Pres. George W. Bush announced victory in Iraq, on USS Carrier Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003; yet, the U.S. occupying presence is now into its 16th year come May.

How much more irrationality can we tolerate?

A newly installed U.S. congressperson, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, spoke during her House inaugural speech, injecting some rationality into the national conversation: “It is actually not about a wall, it is not about the border, and it is certainly not about the well-being of everyday Americans. The truth is, this shutdown, is about the erosion of American democracy and the subversion of our most basic governmental norms. It is not normal to hold 800,000 workers’ paychecks hostage. It is not normal to shut down the government when we don’t get what we want. It is not normal for public servants to run away and hide from the public that they serve. And it is certainly not normal to starve the people we serve for a proposal that is wildly unpopular (the $5.7 border wall now referred to as slats or barriers) among the American people.”

The House has acted, now it is Senate’s turn to pass the same identical bills they already passed in December with 100 majority votes. Then, it is time to pass those bills approved by House, and hopefully consented to, by the Senate, whose powers are simply to advise and consent, and not to preempt the House from legislating, nor anticipate what the White House’s president will sign or not.

For all we know, the 45th U.S. president still has the capacity to exercise his free will to do good by the many and to be morally responsible. He took a presidential oath to protect the U.S. Constitution and to serve the American people. He certainly has the human capacities to do that, irrespective of his past conduct, move away from his past bad acts, as “it makes folks sad,” as my four-year-old granddaughter wisely observes.

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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 10 years. She also contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Costa Rica, Mexico and over 22 national parks in the US, in her pursuit of love for nature and the arts.

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