This I Believe

Caroline - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on December 6, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

This year I decided to gamble my imagination and participate in the “National Write a Novel in a Month” contest. I started this with no plot in mind. I had just one character, and I decided let her go where the winds would take her. To my shock, she slipped through a hole in time landed on a southern cotton plantation during the 1840’s.

I had to do some homework to catch up with her. So, I began digging through published diaries left by those living in that time and place of American history. This also led me to uncomfortable subject of African American slavery. Histories of the suffering slavery caused are not difficult to find. But, for the sake of my character, and even though it really felt horrible, I had to lend an ear to the contemporary justifications for not ending slavery.

I got another shock. The words of nineteenth century politicians echoed of the same words I hear today to justify inaction toward protecting our environment or the use (and abuse) of overseas labor to manufacture cheap goods.

“It will hurt business.”

Over and over again I read words plainly reflecting how antebellum landowners’ logic mirrors that of modern corporations. The rationalizations for failing to make tough choices and truly live up to our Constitution have not evolved in over 150 years. In every era treating with dignity one’s land or worker’s, the sources of earthly wealth, has posed costly risks to the bottom line that no one is willing to take.

If the logic that prevented our country from abolishing an institution as morally unsound as slavery can work the same magic and excuse our failure to protect the planet, then something is seriously flawed with our reasoning. It’s not reasoning at all. It is just plain fear. Fear busily resurrects nebulous boogeymen from the dark past while lending no imagination toward creating a better future. It invites apathy and inaction and every day it keeps us making choices to do nothing about elements of our society that we say we don’t like.

But, I don’t believe in fear. And I don’t believe that our social ills would disappear if every person had a pile of money. I believe in creativity and I believe it is our innate creativity that can see us past fears toward more just and honest ways of treating our fellows, seeing our world and creating our lives.

Surveys say that most Americans believe in God or a Higher Being. Do we really think that this divine creator put us on this planet just to pay bills, to maintain the status quo, or cope? Do we think our creator is so lacking in creativity that our purpose for living is our bottom line? No, we trade in our innate creativity for the delusion of short-term security and acceptability.

But I believe it is time, never too late, after all, to dust off our innate creativity and imagine a world that serves all of us justly and will be worth handing over to our children and grand children. If we dare to let ourselves imagine a world without money as and excuse for bad behavior, then we can surely create it.