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|Changing the World for Good||05/06/2004|
We are at a critical time in the history of our country and, indeed, our world. As America and her allies attempt to reshape the social and political landscape of the Middle East, we must define the standard by which we measure success. How must we conduct ourselves as the major superpower on the planet? What are our objectives in places like Iraq, Palestine and North Korea? Is our mission simply to create democracies, or is there a higher calling?
First, we must define America's position as a leader of nations. Certainly, America must be strong -- very strong -- but it is critical that America also be good. The Soviet Union demonstrated how a powerful state without a moral compass is doomed to fail. But how do we define "good"?
Goodness transcends human philosophies. In order to rightly understand what is good, we must first grasp that the answer lies not in ourselves, but is derived from something greater than us.
Chester A. Pennington said, "No amount of good deeds can make us good persons. We must be good before we can do good." Goodness is more than an act; it is a condition.
Often times, evil can be clearly defined, making it easier to define goodness. For example, some societies, both past and present, elevate the state above the individual. Consequently, the needs of society are fulfilled at the expense of ordinary people -- sweatshops abound, healthcare is an afterthought, and human rights are non-existent.
In other societies, religious fanaticism rules. Power is held by a select few, and many of the laws make little sense to the population. Women are treated poorly, independent thought squashed, and non-believers are punished or killed.
Since evil is clearly seen in this indifference to the real value of people, we can safely say that goodness values every person, whether tall or short, black or white, male or female, young or old, healthy or infirm, simple or intelligent, and so on. In a good society, people matter more than ideas, beliefs or creeds.
Goodness defends individuals and their rights. Liberty is cherished, not in the sense of a license to do whatever one wishes, but the freedom to live within the self-imposed confines of a peaceful society. This is why we hail our members of the armed services as heroes. They are not conquering land for personal gain; they are eliminating evil oppressors so that we, and others, may live in peace.
At the same time, while seeking to change other parts of the word for good, we must realize that internal changes must be made (as illustrated by the recent mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners). The fact that such abuses even occurred indicates a need to re-establish a fundamental goodness throughout our own society. Thankfully, every American leader has been quick to condemn the mistreatment in the Iraqi prisons; quicker, in fact, than some leaders to condemn such acts as suicide bombers and the murder of women and children in their own countries.
As we go into other parts of the world and attempt to eradicate evil, we must remain vigilant to ensure that we are serving a cause higher than ourselves. Our actions and motivations must be pure, or we will simply become crusaders for democracy, attempting to shape the rest of the world in our image. Historically, such a strategy has always failed miserably. It is important to note that majority rule is not always best if it lacks a principled foundation.
We must first be "good" in order to effectively make a difference in our world. It is then, and only then, that we can change the world for good.