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As a Buddhist, it is not possible for me to believe in accidental developments in our universe. It’s the law of Karma that the Buddha taught so long ago. Having been on this earth for over 40 years and dealing with people for most of that time, I am constantly reminded of what appears to be a “grand design”, without which only chaos can exist. To be sure, there are those who do not see the edges of that design and push to, “do it anyway”, only to suffer, sometimes a fatal outcome. An example of this grand design is the simple guideline “be respectful of others.” It calls on all of us to hold our tongues and be patient…..indeed words hurt often without people even recognizing that they’ve hurt you. Choose your words carefully or you risk a tear in the fabric of civility. These teachings stem from the Four Noble Truths and are practiced in “sila” or “Right Speech” in the Eightfold Path toward the cessation of suffering. But this simple guide calls for more than restraint, I believe. It is calling us to understand and appreciate each other. It is challenging us to ask why things are as they are. It is pointing the way to cooperative behavior that makes some places restful and others full of fear. It is so clear to me that society is moving away from this basic truth, and at times, I am alarmed. Will my friends’ great-grandchildren be able to live and travel in a free society or will they be under siege in a jungle environment? The changes I have seen in my life suggest a quickening pace toward an unraveling of the “grand design” despite islands of hope. It seems that dichotomies spring up everywhere overnight and never with the desire to compromise with the opposition, but to crush the opponent. I rarely see the desire to join forces and build a better world for us all, but rather to never give an inch while attacking with full force. Can we possibly continue in this direction? Will it not lead to a world-wide frame of reference that is now played out daily in the Middle East? Powerful influences driven by questionable motives toward equally questionable goals make the individual’s effort seem impotent by comparison. However, despite what I see, I believe it is not only necessary to stand up and speak out against this change, but that it is required of us if we expect our free society to be available for the generations to come. I believe we could all benefit from toning down the rhetoric and taking a minute to ask ourselves,”Is there a better way to say what’s on my mind?” What I enjoy of this American life rests on the shoulders of those who came before me who knew and accepted the simple principles of respect and cooperation. These ideals guided their actions within families and among peoples and nations. There were dramatic exceptions to be sure, but again what ultimately bound us together was and is the need to get along with each other and live unmolested. I believe we have the ability to work together as families and as nations when we screen our thoughts through the fine fabric of respect for ourselves and others.