03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Neglected Gifts

Observing the septic rantings of Rush Limbaugh and the senile and hollow cruelty of Pat Robertson, it fills me with utter amazement that humanity's better nature seems to be confined to the fringes, while the base, cruel stuff comprises the majority of what passes for acceptable interaction: scams, fraud, backstabbing, greed, special interests, tribal division, obfuscation, the elevation of the most deplorable instincts to prurient entertainment -- all are embodied in our broken economy, our perverted government, the nefarious reach of corporations and the pathetic state of our media.

In a world where the gulf between haves and have-nots becomes ever wider, the coin of the realm is indifference to the disadvantaged, genuflection to those ugly yet persistent qualities which seem to pass for standard behavior. But no amount of myopic pursuit of affluence can erase the fact that there are too many people who suffer for lack of health care, who struggle to put food on the table, who bend under the weight of a thousand burdens and unwarranted obligations created out of the mad chase for profit or power, both of which propel too many of our leaders, too many of our actions and undermine too many of our hopes.

It is mercy which needs to find purchase in the slick cynicism which defines the day to day business of being American; cherishing needs to become an essential activity.

To regard fellow human beings as soulless competitors, usurers, chumps and rivals for scarce food and fuel -- based upon the pap ladled into our gaping skulls every day -- that's the America we are being encouraged to live in, encouraged to be.

And still there are gifts to be had, though they pile up neglected and undistributed like relief for disaster victims hoarded by a craven government agency in heavily guarded warehouses:

Wisdom -- wrought by a reverence for history
Care -- the result of an abiding, simple humility
Sanity -- the consequence of an adherence to truth

All these qualities are given precious little bandwidth these days. It is all kinetic speed and frantic action and Now Now Now Now and no thought to all that once was, all that is supposed to inform and temper the present.

How can we allow this destructive mentality to find purchase again after so many glaring examples of failure? When will people -- Americans -- evolve to that next increment, when will that one tooth on the cog click into its complimentary notch, thus ensuring real progress in the pursuit of happiness, a pursuit that is our most basic motivation?

Careening faster and faster down the road casually labeled Progress, but which seems to be a greased slide to a Dead End, we are missing the essential qualities that would actively  raise us above our cruel predecessors and indeed carry us as a nation, and as a people, into a wiser, warmer world.