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By David Podvin

Imagine the kind of nation America would be if the people who love fought as hard for their beliefs as those who hate. Allow yourself to dream of how much good would be accomplished if the rational citizens were as adamant as the superstitious ones, and how much bad would be avoided.

Imagine if living humans were considered to be at least as important as frozen embryos. This approach would permit research to cure many dread diseases, thereby alleviating great suffering. And the best part is that we wouldn’t have to hurt the embryos even one little bit, because they are already dead. Those Americans who are alive would enjoy an improved quality of life, while those who are dead would maintain a constant quality of death. This is known as “win-win”.

Imagine if family values meant loving your relatives instead of hating homosexuals. Fundamentalist ministers who were a little less obsessed with intra-gender affection would finally have time to rail against real abominations, like spousal abuse. One out of every four American women has been beaten by her husband, so here’s a new family value worthy of consideration: Don’t hit Mom. Honoring this avant-garde principle would fortify our collective moral fabric infinitely more than discharging gays from the military.

Imagine if the numerous parts of the New Testament where Jesus commands his adherents to aid the poor were not written in ink that is illegible to right wingers. According to Christ, poverty isn’t a manifestation of vice any more than affluence is an affirmation of virtue. When religious conservatives start emulating their Holy Savior Who Reigns In Heaven instead of their Fat Junkie Who Lies On Radio, America will become a better place.

Imagine if we aspired not to be the most powerful country but the most humane. Think of how people in other lands would react if instead of telling them what to do, we asked what we could do. Viewed from a purely self-serving standpoint, our country would garner more influence by saying, “We’d like to help” than by screaming, “Surrender or die!” Of course, it’s much harder to plunder when you are not kicking ass, but at the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I have come to the conclusion that plundering may be overrated.

Imagine if our concept of heroism involved sparing lives rather than taking them. Society would honor those who did not drop napalm on children, meaning that the vast majority of citizens would get to wear really cool medals, and the others would have a lot of explaining to do.

Imagine if torturing people by having them raped were once again considered a greater moral trespass than committing adultery, and that restoring honor and dignity to the Oval Office did not involve authorizing the mutilation of suspects who had never even received a trial. Would the United States really be more vulnerable if our leaders were less barbaric?

Imagine if our energy policy was formulated by patriotic Americans instead of multinational profiteers. The United States would be self-sufficient, the environment would be cleaner, and oil-producing countries would be much, much safer.

Imagine if democracy meant everyone got to have their vote counted, even if they didn’t vote Republican. Despite the protestations of corporate pundits, real democracy is considerably better than sham democracy, although the latter does provide lucrative executive positions for those who are otherwise unemployable.

Imagine if the American people paid as much attention to Washington politics as they do to Hollywood gossip, which would render demagogues incapable of manipulating clueless voters into surrendering their liberty and wealth.

Imagine if journalism consisted of reporting unembellished facts instead of parroting establishment lies. If the truth really does set you free, American reporters currently reside in the world’s most opulent dungeon. Only when journalists are allowed to communicate honestly with the public will the phrase “freedom of the press” finally become more than inadvertent satire.

Imagine if our judiciary had a sense of proportionality, so that those who snort cocaine into their noses received less prison time than those who dump industrial sewage into the water supply. It would also be worthwhile to rewrite the law so that stealing a loaf of bread to feed your family carries a smaller criminal penalty than murdering two thousand people by selling defective products. Society will be less dangerous when membership in the Chamber of Commerce is no longer a license to kill.

Imagine if we discovered saner reasons to stigmatize people than immutable characteristics such as gender or ethnicity. Here’s one now…cruelty. What if being cruel suddenly became socially unacceptable? Would that necessarily negate the ethos on which our society is based? And if so, isn’t it a sacrifice worth making?

Imagine if sex were not considered to be filthy. That sea change would enable adults to discuss the topic without giggling, smirking, and otherwise behaving like mental defectives. The Puritans amongst us have succeeded in turning a perfectly natural desire into something sleazy. Our deeply repressed culture always produces bull markets in substance abuse and violent crime because self-loathing people either implode or explode. If we want to have a healthier nation, we can start by no longer teaching little kids that their bodies are a source of shame.

Imagine if creative people were not vilified for refusing to honor the arbitrary standards of uncreative people. How much additional great art and music and literature and cinema would there be if those who are talented could express their skills without being attacked as subversive? Of equal importance, how much less lousy art and music and literature and cinema would there be if conformity were not encouraged more than originality?

Imagine if we spent a little less time congratulating ourselves for being generous and a little more time actually being generous. There is plenty of food in this country to feed the entire globe – a comprehensive nutritional program combined with a responsible contraceptive effort could end world hunger once and for all. That would be a legacy for the ages: The Generation That Ended Starvation. And it can happen any time we choose, just as soon as we find the will.

There is more to life than idealism, but life is not worth living without it. Hopefully, one day most Americans will accept that being kind is not the same as being weak, and that caring about others is virtuous rather than contemptible, and that a person’s intrinsic worth is unrelated to his or her net worth. Until that time, the idealists will be outnumbered by the cynics who are now busy remaking the United States in their own immoral image.

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Last changed: December 13, 2009