I trust you will agree - freedom is a fascinating word. It actually means everything to me as I live in what we have come to know - at least talk about, the "land of the free and the home of the brave." I know the latter to be true as I have often visited our national cemeteries where I have observed the rows upon rows of grave markers, testimonies to the bravery of each one whose body has been interred below. Many of us visit those places at least once a year on a holiday and I wonder, are we to rejoice at their passing or perhaps, even shed a tear?
I have a good friend, most of you who read these utterances will recall her name - Karen, and I want you to know, she is more than just a good and faithful friend, she is my stimulator.- she has a wonderful ability to cause others to think about life - as it really is. Yesterday, she wrote an article for our local Herald-Citizen newspaper with this title, "Where's the Golden Rule? and she went on to recite the "golden rules" to be found in the writings of those who have written to formulate the religious teachings of the world; from Baha'i to those who follow Zoroastrianism and it seems to me as I got to the end, there is hardly a whit of difference among them - we are constantly reminded to do to others, what we would have others do to us.
I have visited many jails and prisons in our nation and when I think of them, the word incarceration comes to mind - a place where some will be confined; that means they lose their freedom for a specific length of time. And when I visit them, I come face-to-face with guards and their supervisors and realize they have a place of employment because there are armies of police officers, and the legions of specialists who take the evidence supporting the accusations and place all of it in the hands of all of the attorneys - those representing the State and others representing the accused, their supporting staffs and finally, we get to the courts and the judges, the stenographers, more guards and the media. All because a disenfranchised citizen decided to pocket a candy bar, or a can of beer, or worse, used a gun and attempted a robbery. Of course, as you examine all of the claims, you will come to the truly "bad" guys and gals and occasionally, even the good guys and gals who were falsely accused.
Please don't think I am exaggerating the numbers as according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as I write this, there are 6,937,000 offenders under the supervision of adult correctional systems at years end, 2012. Notice that the report before me reads - adult, and uses the word, systems. That means that they are not reporting on the juvenile systems. If you were trying to estimate the costs involved in maintaining all of penal procedures and systems, this report is not going to help. The total costs will be recorded in the BILLIONS of dollars - is my estimate.
Why did I come to this, you ask. Recall that I started out talking about the rules, the so-called golden rules and as I recorded, they appear to be part of all of our religious systems. We know about them because most of them encourage their followers to embrace the concept of actually, loving one another. Doing what you would have others do to you.
Let me explain, at my age, I must report that my"doing" has not always followed the recommended course of action. As a matter of fact, I lived the first 45 years of my life, doing just the opposite.
I had a real problem. I had heard the rule, but I had begun the believe that others had also heard the rule, but chose to ignore it. There is another rule, the "street" rule, as the crowd goes, feel free to join in. Believe what you want to believe or ignore what you choose to ignore.
Finally, I came to understand, there was another rule I had never heard of, apparently. That word was - repent! "Change your ways. I don't think I can. Try it." And so I tried it and with God's help, it worked, not only to my amazement, but also, to the amazement of others.
Why have I come to this conclusion? I wanted to remind you of the total costs involved when we do not concern ourselves with the "rules", the "golden" rules. Those costs come out of your pockets and mine. How do we stop this waste of our resources?
This is what I discovered and I hope, indeed I pray, you will try it. The very next person you meet, wherever, whenever, actually treat them as you would be treated and - don't stop! Keep doing it and soon others will see how well you are doing and try it themselves. Again, don't stop. If there are legions in Hell, they will oppose you. Nevertheless, keep going and you will discover, the angels in heaven will recognize the armies you have created and they will join in to support you. I know. I have seen them. They are everywhere, believe me. Many - just waiting to see if you and I have the courage to act as we ought to be acting.
And the day will surely come when you will proudly proclaim that we are - in fact, "the land of the free and the home of the brave."