• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

Holiday Season, 2008

Peace on Earth.
Good will towards all.

Nice words— Peace on Earth. Good will towards all. It makes us feel good when we say them, as if they were magical incantations through which we could transform the world into the peaceful place that we yearn for in our hearts.

And then the real world intrudes. War in Iraq and Afghanistan. Genocide in Darfur. Massacre in Mumbai. Israel and Hamas at each other’s throats. A nuclear North Korea. The threat of a nuclear Iran.

And economically, as well. What peace is there for the millions who have lost their jobs … or their homes? What peace is there for the victims of fraud and deceit? Or those in retirement seeing their pensions disappear? What peace can there be for any of us, fearful that we are on the slope of the greatest recession in four generations?

These are the times that try men’s souls.
Thomas Paine

As we look back on 2008, we see far too little peace on Earth and far too little peace in our hearts.

When we look back on 2008, we see too much failure.

Our political institutions have failed us. The tragedy that was Katrina can be seen in retrospect as an early warning signal of failures still to come. The Government agencies that should have seen the economic downturn coming didn’t. SEC investigations that in hindsight seem obvious never materialized.

Our business leaders, too, have failed us. One need only look at the Presidents of GM, Ford & Chrysler flying to Washington in their separate private corporate jets to ask Congress for a loan … or the fall of Lehman Brothers, or Merrill, or the bailout of AIG and untold hundreds of banks.

Even our very understanding of the way the economy works has failed us. Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan admitted as much when he told Congress: “[I found a] flaw in the model that I perceived … defines how the world works.” This was not an obscure flaw like one might find in a near-perfect diamond, a flaw requiring a magnifying glass to see. Greenspan’s flaw — a failure to properly account for human greed — poisoned his entire model, just like a drop of cyanide poisons an entire glass of water.

In 2008, we learned that Wall Street’s Gordon Gecko had been wrong when he told us that greed is good. In 2008, we learned that greed is not good. In 2008, the house of cards began to fall, as We, the People, having raised greed to the level of motherhood and apple pie, finally began to reap what we had sown. Subprime mortgages. Bernard Madoff. This was the year our chickens came home to roost.

And like every year, 2008 ends with plenty of hate still in the world.

Thomas Paine had it right: these are the times that try men’s souls. These are times of chaos, times of danger, a time of fear. Peace on Earth seems very far away.

But we know that night is darkest just before dawn. And We, the People, have it in our power to cause the sun to shine. Thomas Paine knew that too.

We have it in our power to begin the world anew.
Thomas Paine

John Kennedy felt it profound that the Chinese characters making up the word chaos are the two characters: danger and opportunity.

The world may be more dangerous than it has ever been in human history. But then, the opportunity to transform the world — to make of it our dreams — has never been greater.

We are already seeing a massive economic stimulus to correct the fall of the economy. The President-Elect’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, counsels us not to waste the opportunity that the recession offers.

But our opportunity is not just economic. We have a second great opportunity, one that will pay even greater dividends than fixing our economy. And cost a lot less.

The greatest loss we suffered in 2008 was not our economic loss. It was our loss of trust. We lost trust in our institutions. We lost trust in our economic models. And — most of all — we lost trust in each other.

The American spirit was hurt in 2008. And it needs to heal, not just for the hurts of 2008, but for the hurts of Katrina. And 9/11. And the myriad of other hurts that We, the People have suffered, some going back to the split of the 1960s, others that go all the way back to America’s founding, some hurts that others did to us, other hurts that we inflicted on each other.

To every thing there is a season
and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

So let us make 2009 a time for our hearts to heal, a time to witness a rebirth of trust, a time to once again work together — to revitalize the Spirit of Liberty — for the common good.

The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded.
Judge Learned Hand

My beliefs are probably the antithesis of evangelical Pastor Rick Warren’s. I doubt that we see eye to eye on much. But, even as we disagree on so much, I deeply appreciate his wisdom when he said “You don’t have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable.” On this Rick Warren and I see eye to eye.

This is the road to peace. Peace in our hearts and peace around the globe.

Let this be the road We, the People, travel in 2009. The road where the Spirit of Liberty thrives. The road where the dream — all of us created equal — endures. The road where lives Lincoln’s truth that we are not enemies, but friends. The road on which trust begets trust. The road that leads to that shining city on the hill.

And let us not just walk haltingly down this road in 2009. Let us seize our opportunity and make 2009 another giant leap for mankind.

Let Freedom Ring.

Copyright © 2008. Stan Stahl. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay in its entirety provided its source is identified asThe Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org and this copyright is included.

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