Why I'm Not Happy... an open letter to my mother on my birthday


If I bought The Left Hand of God for you, would you read it? It’s a book by Micheal Lerner, a Jewish rabbi that describes how U.S. conservatism has distorted the Jewish and Christian scriptures, and religiosity in general, in pursuit of essentially selfish and purely economic interests, when the reality of the scriptures, as you and many other important institutions, like the schools and the free press, taught me is the scriptural emphasis of every religion is essentially love, charity, tolerance, equality and justice.

I listened to Rabbi Lerner, the book’s author, on CSPAN this morning and I sincerely believe that Rabbi Lerner is absolutely right: the Bible and the Torah say far more about the jubilee (forgiveness of debt every 7 years, equal redistribution of wealth/land every 50 years, love, fairness, peace not war) than railing against homosexuality or for individualism, nationalism and the necessity of war.

Furthermore, I believe that Biblical/Torahical Israel was never as much a nation as a people, even occupied by other nations, but retaining unwavering purity and solidarity in its faith. In short, Rabbi Lerner contends, and I agree, that ours is one world, shared by all living things; that our nations and individualism are too rapidly destroying our world far faster than our technology and present political and economic structure can compensate. And for many reasons, which George Bush and his administration seem to symbolize for we on the Left, the present U.S. government could very well represent a turning or inflection point for our world.

For example:

There was a CNN poll this morning: should the U.S. close the “terrorist” internment camp at Guantanamo Bay Cuba. 79% of respondents (myself included) favor closure as we favor immediate U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.

A recent Pew Research Center study/poll shows how much income and politics play into “happiness.” In short, those with family incomes in excess of $150K/year report far greater levels of happiness. Republicans/conservatives report significantly higher levels of happiness than Democrats/liberals and independents. Frequent church goers report far higher levels of happiness than non-goers.

But frankly, my (i.e. “Liberal”) contention is that to be happy -- in the face of an unending war, massive poverty and disease, ecological disaster and essentially our unsustainable “American” way of life, whereby 82% of this world’s resources (e.g. fossil fuels) consumed annually are consumed by 21% of its “richest” people -- seems frankly more mass-delusion than reality. In other words, I ask, can we rationally justify personal happiness when life for the vast majority of humans is getting worse and more stressful, despite rising longevity? As you know, I just turned 44 years old. And while I am an amalgam of contradictory ideas, ideals and behavior, I can clearly recognize this (worsening) truth. And it disturbs me. It keeps me awake at night; mostly because, on our present human course, I see essentially no likelihood or possibility for improvement.

So if there is life after death, as so many American believe, I would think that God, the creator, if benevolent as most religious persons believe, will have many, many questions for every one of us, but perhaps especially for those professing “happiness.”

Questions like:

Why didn’t you personally do more?

Why was improving your individual and family social and economic status more important than improving your neighborhood, town, nation, species and planet?

Why was emphasizing the social and cultural differences between you and others, mostly to the detriment of civil discourse and human tolerance, more important than emphasizing commonality, like the necessity for clean air and water, collective economic improvement, and free, unbiased education for all?

How could you have possibly professed “happiness” in the face of so much very real suffering? Especially when it’s likely that greater sacrifice and better, simpler, more easily justifiable ethical choices by you and your elected governments might very well have increased the greater good for the larger majority of past, present, and future species cohabiting planet Earth?