Tikkun Magazine, September/October 2010
ESRA: An Opportunity to Reshape the World
by Dennis Kucinich
It is so necessary to bring spiritual principles into this world as a means of elevating this world, of enlightening this world, of helping to transform this world. Rabbi Lerner, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity over the years to work with you, and to continue to try to use the platform of a seat in the United States Congress to advance the principles that you and everyone in this room have been brought together over this weekend in Washington to celebrate.
We have been discussing how we can get members of Congress involved in an Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the Constitution (ESRA). And so what I did over the past few months was to look at the principles and to draft a resolution. The idea is this: we take the principles in the ESRA, and we put them in a congressional resolution asking members of Congress to support the principles, and from there we can work to draft specific legislation for a constitutional amendment.
The structure of our government ends up informing who we are. All of reality is socially constructed and culturally affirmed, and every element of our government right now reflects an awareness—a consciousness—of one hundred, two hundred years ago. But as Thomas Jefferson understood, and as is emblazoned on the Jefferson Memorial, these institutions that are created by the human mind have to have the capacity to evolve as the human mind evolves. And so it is our responsibility to help our government evolve to get to the place that we know it can be, to be more than it is or better than it is, as a reflection of who we are as a people.
So much discussion in our country over the last twenty years has framed government as apart from us, rather than as an agency of us. When we buy into that view of the government as something external instead of something that is a manifestation of us, we come to a point where we actually reject ourselves. And that is part of the schism that is going on in this country. Then the whole idea of government of the people, by the people, and for the people does not even exist; it is a figment. But if government is through us, with us, and in us, and is an expression of our higher state of mind and being, then that government can lead us to that shining city on the hill and help us infuse into our everyday lives the moral and spiritual principles that will be the underpinning not only of our own lives, but also of generations to come.
I am absolutely flabbergasted about the apparent inability of Washington to seize the moment of this cataclysm in the Gulf of Mexico to take us in a new direction. For it is one thing to do the forensics—to say: "OK, we now have a good part of the Gulf that is dead; we do an autopsy, and how was it killed? How is the aquatic culture damaged for generations to come?" We know that. We knew that before it happened. It is another thing to understand that the path forward has to be connected to the deeper nature of what it means to be a human being, and to not separate ourselves from the rest of the world and from nature itself. And it is the separation from the natural world wherein we have abandoned Eden, abandoned every good thing that exists on this planet: the purity of our water, the cleanliness of our air, the beauty of our land, and what lies beneath our land. All of that is being stripped away and cartelized and being made part of wealth accelerated to the top and away from the great mass of the people. That does not have to be.
Ever since the oil spill happened, I've been thinking about what would be the appropriate response. And I think that this is the time that we need to rally the American people for a new era of sustainability and really look at the choices that we make with respect to the products that we use, the food that we buy, and how we get around—really look at our own individual responsibility. We can all, certainly, do better. We are all children of this consumer society. But we also see the limitations of it. We also see the impact of it on the globe. And that growing awareness, which we have right now, is something that we need to catalyze. I think that the American people are ready to respond to a new call, a clarion call for environmental responsibility.
The kind of the thing that you are doing in your call for, literally, a new constitution—not just an amendment, but a new approach to the way we live in our country and the world—is an opportunity for us to refashion our world. And it is not just about one person; we sometimes get in that trap where we put our faith in one person. It's about faith in ourselves as individuals. About each one of us being a president of his or her own life and having the kind of agency that we have to use our talents and our abilities to focus on what is happening in our own lives at the moment, in our own neighborhoods and our own block, and to really use that energy to clean up America and clean up the world. There is so much that we are capable of doing, so I never lose hope in these kinds of circumstances, because I think that we still have, within our own hands, the power to reshape our immediate environment and, collectively, to reshape the world.
You have taken the principle of tikkun olam to a point of activism; to a point that ennobles each one of us and enables us to see our higher abilities to effect change. I came here to thank you for doing that, and I came here to let you know that I look forward to continuing to work with you.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) chairs the House Domestic Policy Subcommittee. He was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in the 2004 and 2008 elections. His many principled actions in Congress have included bringing articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and voting against the Iraq war.
Source Citation: Kucinich, Dennis. 2010. ESRA: An Opportunity to Reshape the World. Tikkun 25(5): 43