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The Statesman

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The Statesman

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    Wisdom from a Juice Box

    Two and a half thousand years ago, the ancient philosopherConfucius developed a comprehensive set of ethico-political teachings in anattempt to find a solution to the social decay and political instability thatexisted in China at the time.’ These teachings were expressed orally andhis students collected their recollection of the great teacher’s wordsposthumously, in volumes such as The Analects.

    Confucius hoped to convince the ruling elite of China toadopt his philosophy.’ Little did Confucius know that over two millennialater, a young man in the wilderness of America would be taught some of hiswisdom via a child’s juice box.

    This weekend, as I was sipping on an 8.45 oz. carton ofSsips Original Lemon Iced Tea, I saw a quote from Confucius on the side of thebox.’ He reportedly said, ‘To know what is right and not do it is theworst cowardice’.

    At first it seemed quite silly – not the quote – but themedium through which it was conveyed.’ But then upon further reflection,the fact that a children’s juice box had a quote from an Eastern philosopher onit reminded me of two trends occurring in our society.

    The first trend is that decency and the promotion of ethicsand values is dangerously declining in products geared toward children, and thesecond trend is that the corpus of American values is becoming more inclusiveand increasingly internationalized as new faces are becoming visible across theAmerican cultural landscape.

    In addition to Ssips carton, another example of the secondtrend is the fact that the 2000 presidential campaign, President Bush–aborn-again Christian–constantly referred to America as being a’?Judeo-Christian-Islamic’ society.

    These changes are part of heated debates over the questionsof ‘?Whither American society?’ and ‘?Whither the Americanvalue system?” There has been great talk over troublesome trendssuch as the decline of the ‘?nuclear’ family structure, andincreases in things such as teenage sexual activity, violence, and drug abuse.

    Many social conservatives argued for the promotion of’?family values’ through public agencies and increased governmentalprotections against vice; it’s no surprise that Hollywood became a great targetof theirvalues, war

    But another target has been non-European immigrants.’ Some on the right, like Pat Buchanan, argue these individuals threaten thefuture of Western civilization, and many buy his hole-filled argument.’ His book, The Death of the West: Dying Populations and Immigrant InvasionsImperil Our Country and Civilization was aNew York Times bestseller.

    What’s rarely noted in these ideologically colored debatesis that immigrants can play a positive role in the revival of moral values inAmerican society.’ Immigrants bring with them the vestiges of culturesthat value the extended family, filial piety, education, and humility. Not thatthese values are alien to the United States, but immigrants can help restorethese lost virtues.

    A major source of values are, of course, religioustraditions.’ Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish clergy must reach out totheir Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist counterparts and engage in serious dialogue.

    Catholic and Jewish leaders, in particular, can discuss thehistorical development of their religious communities in America and how theirrespective communities have become incorporated into the American religiouscommunity.

    Political issues should not dominate the discussion, butreligious leaders must develop a consensus on issues such as the family,violence, moral depravity in the entertainment industry, and the just groundsfor the use of military force.’ But a prerequisite for this cooperation isthe subtle changing of the tones of the message preached by these religiousfigures; those outside the tradition should be treated with respect anddignity, and not as heathens or potential converts.

    The leaders of the so-called ‘?Moral Majority,’to a large degree, have accurately diagnosed the symptoms plaguingAmerica.’ But their remedy is wrong and counterproductive.’ The vitalcontributions made by religious institutions are enhanced by the fact that theyare protected from the interference of the state.’ Moreover,inter-religious dialogue, not jingoism, will help restore the lost virtueswhose loss many or most Americans mourn.

    Religious distinctions can and should remain; but throughinter-religious dialogue, each tradition will benefit from the wisdom ofanother, and together, will restore our moral fabric which has been rippedapart by chauvinism and moral relativism.

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