Imagining a world where we can live as one

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This week's news from National Public Radio carried more heartbreaking stories about our suffering planet: new landslides and deaths in China, ongoing devastation in Pakistan's flooded countryside, continuing concerns about Russia's vital wheat crop in the wake of record heat and drought, and the need of Haiti's people to rebuild their earthquake-torn country.

As I gaze out my window at the mist rising from a river, the words of John Lennon's great song "Imagine" come to mind:

...Imagine all the people

Living life in peace ...

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people

Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one

I hope someday you'll join us

And the world will live as one

With these overwhelming human tragedies we face today, the cry from the heart of the poor is for all of us to do more for them.

The rebuilding and resettling that must be done in Pakistan and Haiti is more than those poor nations can do by themselves.

And yet ...

Just recently it was reported that the continuing costs of America's military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with our ongoing "defense needs" were in the multiples of billions of dollars annually!

And the US is certainly not the only country expanding its military budget in defense of its own interests. Meanwhile, the devastated poor of the world wait with outstretched hands.

Must it be this way? Have we lost our ability to imagine other ways to live?

In 1945, following the most destructive conflict in the history of the world, the victor nations created the United Nations. Both China and the United States were signatory countries to the founding document.

Some portions of the preamble to the UN Charter are worth recalling in our own times:

We the Peoples of the United Nations Determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small,and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

And for these Ends to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security,and to ensure by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest,and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.

Were these, then, just words? Or is the higher vision, the nobler angels of our natures, still with us?

Are we capable of working together in order to help those among us in desperate need? Are we still able to imagine another way of living with each other?

You may say that I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one.I hope someday you'll join us. And the world will live as one

(The author was a member of the Iowa state House of Representatives. He also served in the Iowa executive branch. He retired in 2004. The views are his own. Shanghai Daily edited his article.)

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