Liberty and Justice for All?

This past weekend was the 4th of July, Independence Day holiday in the U.S. It is meant to be a celebration of liberty, equality, and opportunity. But instead of celebration I feel deep mourning and pain.

The American mythology is that liberty, equality, and opportunity are for everyone. Yet from the formation of this country and to this day it seems, these needs have been for some at the expense of others. Our country began with the brutal robbery and genocide of Native Americans and slave labor of Africans. This theme has continued on through the generations in various forms, including how we have related to other peoples, countries, and the natural world and environment.

I struggle with finding empathy for the magnitude of all this, for those who want to maintain this way of relating, and for those who cling to the mythology. I also struggle for empathy with how the objectification, implicit biases, and seduction of privilege live inside of me. I at times cycle between intense anger and despairing disillusionment with all of humanity. And then, as I struggle to find the words to write to you, a Shakespeare love sonnet fills my mind and heart:

“… Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.” (sonnet 29)

Shakespeare’s “thee” for me is the spirit of empathic connection. I see this spirit awakening and arising in so many people around the world now. But what are we awakening from?

The concept of the human Ego has for a long time been unclear and unhelpful to me, but suddenly now it opens me to greater understanding and compassion. For now I see the Ego as the part of all of us that believes we are completely separate and therefore cut off from the love, security, and wellbeing of connection with shared humanity and the wholeness and sacredness of Nature, Life, Reality. Ego sees the world as a continual life-or-death struggle for survival and battle over scarcity.

Fearful and insecure, carrying personal and ancestral trauma, I see the Ego at the root of any beliefs or behavior that are not loving, caring, and cooperative. It helps me tremendously to see and remember this. I am moved to want to connect empathically with this frightened and isolated aspect of me and others, and then refuse to cooperate with it from a compassionate place.

This is how I see that we bring liberty, justice, and opportunity to All – all humans and all life of the ecosphere. Will you join the great work of our time of supporting one another to remember this empathic response and act with compassionate noncooperation?


  1. Chuck Webb on July 15, 2020 at 3:47 am

    John: Thanks for your post.

    When I read especially this, what came to my mind was the word “behavior.”
    I also thought about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. All of us are “in the same boat” meeting those basic needs, of safety, security, trust, food, warmth, shelter. Meeting these basic needs is an ongoing, never-ending, basic survival need /requirements.

    Historically, it seems to me, like when more of those basic needs are met, the person, organization, state, country, nation, then is able to be more compassionate, to be able to, then “give to and understand, the other.”

    However, until those basic ongoing needs are met, it is difficult for anyone to be more compassionate, to give, to another. I wonder if this is what is taking place in terms of all humans. .Maybe the conservative right, in all countries are now more scared fearful of not being able to “keep what I have,” and thus are even more worried of maintaining their basic needs; not necessarily to give their behavior, approval, but to “understand” more, their unmet needs?

    When one’s basic needs are met, then can’t other new needs, higher needs for one, socializing, growing, reciprocating even more, can be met.?? (I realize meeting needs, is not linier.)

    Historically, this has always been the case with mankind? My understanding, is that, the more all get their needs met, will be a part of what enables “all” to be able to begin to be more compassionate with others. NVC, I think, helps the individual, 1st, have their needs met, then it can spread to oneself and one other person, and morph from there. This might be what Marshall and envisioned in the future going from any 2 groups, any 2 states, any 2 nations, etc.

    I am wondering if your pain, hurt, and anger feelings may also be reflective of your wish, judgment, demand, request, hope, for mankind to respond quicker for more fairness and/or justice?


  2. John Kinyon on August 27, 2020 at 7:07 pm

    Thanks Chuck for pointing to people’s more fundamental needs being met perhaps before they can be more open to compassion for the “other.” And yes, I do sometimes feel impatient for this to happen faster 🙂

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