Before I go forward, I would like to say that I have absolutely no idea what it takes to run a country as mammoth as the United States of America. I have no inkling about the ins and outs of worldwide public relations. I do not comprehend the apparent need to send our troops to establish democracies or facilitate peace in foreign lands – especially lands wherein the natives do not wish us to be there.

I have a faint understanding behind the thought of establishing democracy worldwide. However, call me stupid, but shouldn’t the country who is fighting for others in an attempt to establish democracy in that land already have a grasp of democracy in their own land?

Democracy. What does that mean? I was startled to realize that I didn’t really know what that word meant. I knew it had something to do with “we the people” and being balanced “for the people, by the people.” But I didn’t really know what it meant. So I looked it up. I love the dictionary.

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary: democracy – (noun) Government in which the people hold the ruling power either directly or through elected representatives; rule by the ruled…

Interesting. It actually said that, “Rule by the ruled.”

The definition that really caught my eye was number four: the principle of equality of rights, opportunity, and treatment, or the practice of this principle.

Our country is set up on the principle of equality of rights, opportunity and treatment. Again, I am struck by the wisdom of our founding fathers. They had the vision and courageously followed it. They fought for that vision. And it is there that I get stumped.

Our country was built upon the graves of those who have fought throughout the ages. Many willingly. Others drafted in against their wishes. But, to gain our freedoms and independence, it was imperative, according to my history lessons, that we fight tooth and nail to the bloody death. I, in no way, shape or form, want to discredit or devalue the amazing bravery of our soldiers and the gift they have handed each of us – and continue to hand us daily. As I have said before, I am more grateful than I can express to be living here, in the Land of the Free.

However, I do not believe in fighting for peace. I have heard an oft-repeated phrase which has no known origins, “Fighting for peace is as effective as screwing for virginity.” It’s true. How can we fight for peace? That, in and of itself, is a complete oxymoron.

I look about me here in the Land of Zion and am startled by the many homeless people, those who are unsheltered, unfed, unsafe. The other night, I had the saddening misfortune of driving down 400 West and observing at least one hundred people who would be having to fend for themselves on the street that cold winter night because there was no more room at the inn. That homeless shelter was full.

I glanced into some of their faces and felt, oddly enough, a bit of shame that I was driving to my own warm, safe place. It isn’t much, but it is home. It is safe. It is warm. I was curious at my own feelings. Why should I feel shame? I work hard at a job that is not my passion, but pays my bills. I do everything in my power to make sure my daughter and I are clothed, fed and warm. I work for it. My home and food are a priority. So, why should I feel shame?

Upon examining the feeling more deeply, I realized that it wasn’t shame. What I was feeling was an acute awareness of all that I do have in my life and for all that I am. It was an awareness of the consequences of my choices, in contrast to the results of their choices and/or life circumstances. I experienced an uncomfortable sense of division.

I am living in the Land of the Free, where all are entitled to equal rights, opportunities and treatment. Why then were those hundred people – and the hundreds of thousands of others across the land – left out in the cold that night? That thought ate at me for a few days. Then, I saw the youngest “homeless and very hungry” person I had seen in a long time, standing alone at the bottom of a freeway exit I frequent daily. His downcast eyes and uncertain demeanor tugged at my heart. He was either sincerely downtrodden or an expert actor. And, on either account, I realized, I wanted to help him.

I stopped at a nearby grocery store and purchased him some water, a sandwich, an orange and a candy bar. A small token in the mound of groceries I would be taking home for our own fridge. I stopped the car under the viaduct near where he stood and waved to him. Timidly, he approached as I lowered the window a bit and we handed out the bag to him.

“Yay! Yay! Thank you. Thank you.” he exclaimed, like a child opening a present. Then he looked me right in the eye and quietly said, “Thank you so very much.”

We drove away and I glanced back at my daughter. She had a big smile on her face and tears in her eyes. “How do you pick the ones you help, Momma?”

“I wish I could help them all, honey,” I said, swallowing hard around the unexpected lump in my throat. “Right now, though, I help the ones that I can and I follow my heart.”

“That was the best thing I have ever done! I feel so much joy. I feel like I could burst!” She said, her eyes shimmering.

My heart rolled over and I swallowed hard again. “Me too, honey. Me too.”

I helped a fellow citizen. One person helping another in one moment. I fed him, giving him a small meal to stave off hunger for maybe a day, if he rationed it out wisely. I did what I could in that moment. I played a small part in creating peace.

I am only one.

He is only one.

You are only one.

We each are only one.

But, together? Ah! Together, united? That is indestructible. I wonder what our world would be like if the United States of America was led by someone who believed fighting for peace is as useless as screwing for virginity…

©Angie K. Millgate 11/27/06

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