The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It


This morning I awoke at four o’clock a.m., realizing that I had experienced a dreadful nightmare as I slept.  Perspiration lay on my face and body despite the cool temperature in the room.  I remember thrashing a bit as I awoke from my dream.  Gracie lay next to me, raised her head to see the cause of the commotion and then lay back down to complete her rest.  Apparently I had not shared my miasma with her.

This week I have been re-reading and thinking about some of the ancient philosophers as they debated the subject of ethics.  It amazes me that people actually sat and discussed these issues.  I contrast that with where we place our focus for discussion in today’s America – and in the world generally.

Sadly, I had combined this with a re-read of Orwell’s, “1984.”  It’s been a long time since I perused that work – at least ten years.  It was more chilling than when I read it the last time because we have moved much closer to having a society which resembles the one that author describes.

I thought about my nightmare which I remembered vividly and realized that the source for my unease was an offshoot of the Roe v Wade decision.  For those who feel the world of politics can be reduced to a single issue, this is probably the one which finds more partisans than any other. 

The question of whether it is “acceptable” to abort a fetus lies in our definition of what constitutes a human being.  Most mainstream Christians believe the embryo is a person from the moment of conception.  The teachings of Judaism say that until the child is able to breathe independently outside its mother it is not a person.

Both sides believe that their position on this issue is ethical.  Given the fundamental assumptions that the two sides hold I would have to agree that within their respective belief systems they are indeed both acting ethically.  But my nightmare came from the potential for extending the Pro-Choice position far beyond its present limitations – into a world of “1984.”

A quick review of the 20th century world suggests that sometimes people rise to great political power who do not share our generally-accepted concept of ethics.  Adolph Hitler was one – to cite an obvious example.  His vision of the world was one in which humanity had been purged of all those who were inferior.

He was magnanimous in extending that definition to people whose skin color was different, to the Jews and Slavs, to homosexuals, and to people who had been born with deformities.  These were all “lesser people” to his way of thinking.  Purging them from the earth was not only ethical – it was a responsibility.

His programs included the sterilization of members of these groups and the elimination of those who had already been born through the gas chambers in the death camps.  Who knows what our world today would look like if he and the Axis powers had prevailed?  And it was that vision that was the source of my disquietude as my mind thought about it in my nightmare.

If we are able to define someone as being non-human or at the least sub-human because of something as trivial as skin color or ethnic background, how big a step is it to start extending that definition to other aspects of our humanity? 

I pictured a world where the political powers had finally achieved their ultimate goal – total domination.  These were the true 1% – the rest of us being the 99%.

It was a world in which there was no Constitution, no Bill of Rights – no individual rights at all but to serve the will of the leadership of the state – that not being a right but a mandated obligation.  It is a world into which we are rapidly transitioning.

If we start with the premise that a potential mother has the right to choose not to become one for any of a variety of reasons – how big a step is it for us to take that the state might determine that she ought not to bear a child?

If we are to have a “productive” society, does it not make sense to ensure that those who have lived unproductively in poverty for generations not be allowed the right to bring more of their kind into the world?  That was the thought that motivated Hitler’s sterilization programs.

With our scientific achievements if we cannot already determine the potential intelligence of an unborn child – it will probably not be long before we can.  Then what do we do with an embryo who has a low IQ expectation?  At this moment, the mother would have to make a decision about whether she wanted this child.  But what if that decision were taken from her and lay in the hands of the state?

By further extension, with our present or futuristic scientific capabilities, what if we decide – that in the interest of a more perfect and uniform society – we refuse to allow those with “undesirable” physical characteristics such as hair or eye color or height or body type to be born?  Once we start down the slippery slope there’s no telling how deep lies the abyss at the bottom of the cliff.

Over the years I’ve known people who are both Pro-Choice and Pro-Life.  I find it fascinating that almost all of my Pro-Choice friends oppose the death penalty, while their counterparts almost universally endorse it.  I have never understood what I view as an obvious inconsistency in these views on life. 

I have also never understood why my Pro-Choice friends have not considered the possible scenario I outlined above – or why my Pro-Life friends have not incorporated these arguments in their dialectic against what they view as the most heinous “crime against humanity.”  Perhaps thinking about these sorts of things is too terrible for most of us to handle.

If that is the case then there is, at the least, hope.  That hope springs from the fact that we have found a common ground for our ethical standards on which we can build.  And I hope we indeed do build on that foundation.

I don’t want to experience any more nightmares like the one I just had.

Comments on: "MY NIGHTMARE" (21)

  1. You always make me think. I like how you consider both sides. I hope you sleep much better tonight. I wish I could say things are going to be okay, but I don’t really believe that. And thank you so much for commenting on my blogs! You’re too kind. I try to keep up with you but you publish so much! And EVERYTHING you write is interesting! Thank you for thinking so much and putting it down to share with all of us.

  2. You are a brave soul to take on such a controversial topic head on. There is no reasoning with two sides divided. As long as we choose to live in a world of duality, we will continue to have conflict. We will continue to have those who think their beliefs are superior to others. As you say a dialectic, will always ensue in a dualist world. Your dream is not that unusual, as throughout history there have been cycles just as you describe, form the inquisition to a post WW II world all that has changed is we have given over our belief to science, instead of religion, but in the same way we are abdicating our birthrights. Until people with consciences start realizing we are letting our world be run by psychopaths then things will not change – there is a lie in believe.
    But you know life is for learning … Look at HG Wells “The Time Machine” ….

    • Ah, yes the “wonderful world of the Eloi” as Wells described it. Willing to accept the immediate gratification of today’s handout in exchange for the sacrifice of their young lives.
      (I read to much “science fiction” as a child).

      I appreciate your elevating my writing as being brave. Two earlier posts, “Invictus” and “On Cowardice” should dispel that belief. Actually, I feel that I am the crier on top of the city’s walls warning that the barbarians are at the gate. Meanwhile most of the citizenry is oblivious to the warning as they are busy watching reality TV. The reality is at the door – waiting to make a grand and life-changing entrance.

      • Have you ever visited They have been dedicated to telling the truth of what’s happening in a historical perspective for many years. It’s not for everyone but worth a look if you are a voice in the wilderness.

  3. Thank you for your nice comments, Jennifer. It’s a pleasure to comment on your blogs – and I’m looking forward to trying the crock pot chicken dish you listed!

    I try to look at issues from all sides because that is really the only way for a person to come to her or his own conclusions. And then I remember a profound truth my dad taught me, There are three sides to every story – yours, mine and the truth. We should never give up searching for the third of those.

    • Yours, mine, and the truth. Your father was a wise man.

      • Yes, dad truly was.

        But there is one optimistic point I would like to share with you. A lot of what I post is light, stories about growing up, my love and relationship with family and my canine companions, etc. They are generally warmly received.

        When I offer a post like this I expect little reaction. But interestingly there have been a great many comments – which tells me that there are people out there who are thinking about things that are really important – and that gives me (and I trust you as well), hope.

  4. Yes there are some startling inconsistencies we as a human race are capable of generating. Like pro-lifers bombing an abortion clinic, or animal righters killing people because they believe an unborn, or an animal has the right to live. I could never figure out that belief system. And while we are at it, what about those on two opposing sides in a war who pray to God to defeat their enemy? I suspect God is not on either side or they would not be at war with each other. But then, I’m just one of those simple souls who militants in power would probably find a way to obliterate.

    • We are indeed complex – or is it that we indeed have a complex – the God complex? Contrary to Galilean astonomy, many of us do not believe the earth revolves around the sun but that the universe revolves around us individually. The only way past this is to have a little humility – and with that may come a little humanity.

  5. Thank you Grandfathersky for suggesting I didn’t know the site before you mentioned it but I took a quick peek and I will definitely be reading through their listings. I always try to get new perspectives on important issues as it keeps my few remaining brain cells powered up. Thanks for the information.

  6. We all make choices based on our level of spiritual evolution…and the reap the consequences, I reckon. Peace and luv, Eric

    • Reaping the consequences – particularly if they are negative can be some of life’s most educational events. But sadly, we have taken a different path from accepting our failures and resolving to be better, learning from our mistakes. Instead, we choose to find someone or something else who really was “at fault.” It’s like the liar who is successful in telling a lie. He tells it so often that he becomes quite convincing in his delivery. And having repeated the lie so many times begins to believe that it is the truth. And for him it is.

      • You are so very right, dear.

        I always say, when something goes wrong – look in the mirror for answers. But most look out the window. Yes, he is to blame, or, yes, he made me do it…

        Peace, Eric

  7. My apologies. It should be “…and reap the consequences…”

    • You are right, Eric. What we do to avoid momentary embarassment unfortunately compromises the growth we might experience if we admit to our mistakes and learn from them.

  8. Nicely written! Man’s perceptive abilities are hindered by his experiences. One of my favorite allegorical stories that demonstrates this best is from India:

    “Six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.

    A king explains to them:

    “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned.”

    This tale is used to illustrate the principle of living in harmony with people who have different belief systems, and that truth can be stated in different ways.

    Many different religions and cultures lay claim to some version of this tale, and I first heard it from my mother who is a Baptist Minister. She tells this story to people who are intent on ‘damning’ others to ‘hell.”

    None of us has a ‘heaven’ or a ‘hell’ to put anyone in. What we all think of as the one, true and only way and therefore others must perish if they are at odds with this vision; is just as perceptive and thus foolish as the blind men holding various parts of the elephant.

    Each part is valid but it takes the sum of the parts to make the whole. We need to remember this and the fact that we are all human and we all reside on planet Earth. Not like we can escape or run someplace else. So, we must find a way to coexist to ensure that all can benefit, survive and flourish.

    Good post indeed! ~ Ayanna Nahmias

    • Thank you for your extensive and thoughtful comment. I appreciate your taking your time – and I particularly appreciated the story of the blind men and the elephant. I had not heard it before but it is truly profound.

      I have met people in life who approach the world in a very dogmatic way. I guess that if you have defined how everything and everyone should act it makes life simple. Everything is either “right” (their way) or “wrong” (any way which isn’t theirs).

      It is simplicity itself. But sadly it is exceptionally limiting. What a wonderful universe we all share – and they are missing all the wondrous possibilities that exist in it.

  9. As usual, you have presented a complex issue in a thought-provoking way. I was intrigued by your point about the contradiction in view of both Pro-Life & Pro-Choice proponents. It would seem they both believe a certain type of death is acceptable if it serves to support their cause. But this is the case in so very many other areas of morality; we believe what we believe until a situation arises that threatens our belief, and then we act in a way that is the opposite of our belief in order to support our belief. And this makes sense to us at the time! Go figure…

    • I was on my grammar school and high school debate teams. One of the first things that we learned is that for any debate to proceed, the parties had to define and agree on the meaning of the terms they would use. Once those were defined the audience and judges could evaluate the logic we employed in our debate.

      You are exactly correct in reference to the observation you made, If life is “sacred” it is just that – sacred. If life is “expendable” it is just that – expendable. While this is a very complex subject, what is clear is that both sides of this issue argue from the standpoint of emotion – and as we all know – emotion is almost never logical.

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