The depth of the American crisis poses unavoidable questions. Will the nation survive as the republic created by its founders? Will the country be torn apart by the anger and frustration we all feel? Or, will the American people have the vision, fortitude, and grit necessary to learn the lessons and to reaffirm the vision and principles that will lead to a genuine American renewal?
If we are to prevail, how will we pull it off? Do we have the patience and wisdom to engage with one another in good faith, to rebuild a national unity that transcends the very real differences that divide us? Or, to put the question in another way, will we succeed in remaking the United States of America stronger and more mature than ever before — based on what we learn from the lessons of the past?
Early in 2008 Peggy Noonan, a widely read conservative columnist and one-time aide to President Ronald Reagan, addressed this question eloquently in her collection of essays, Patriotic Grace, What It Is and Why We Need It Now. She wrote during a season of bitter political back-biting, and, as we all know, things soon became very much worse:
“I believe we have to assume that something bad is going to happen, someday, to us. Maybe it will be ten years from now, but maybe not, maybe sooner, much sooner. We have to assume, I think, that it will be a 9/11 times ten, or a hundred, or more, and that it will have a deeply destabilizing effect on our country; that it will test our unity and our endurance, our resourcefulness and faith.
“We all know this, I think, deep down. I don’t know a major political figure in America to whom all this has not occurred, and often…. And yet in some deep way our politics do not reflect our knowledge. It’s odd. Stunning, actually. We keep going through the same old motions in the bitter old ways. Even our cynics are not being realistic!
“Man has never developed a weapon he didn’t ultimately use,” Ronald Reagan once said in a conversation in the Oval Office. He spoke, in his soft voice, of the great horror of modern warfare, that civilians are now targets. Once they weren’t. Now they are. It worried him. It worries me.
“And that is only the external threat. The domestic ones are all around us, in the air, and we know them well: Will the banks fail, is the system built on anything but faith, and will the faith hold? Will we keep our coherence as a country, will we hold together, can we continue as a sovereign nation at peace with itself?”[i]
Most of us never expected to see the United States in the condition in which we find it today. Many of us never expected to be in the personal trouble in which we now find ourselves.
Ultimately we face a uniquely American crisis, yet one that is unfolding in the midst of an extraordinary global turning point. I will attempt to address the primary questions on these pages, those questions we must be clear about deep in our own hearts if we are to stand up for America and fight the good fight. It is addressed to those of you who are ready to stand by your country “come hell or high water,” or who truly wish to be ready.
We will attempt to cut through the emotions and complexity of a monumental moment in history to argue that we must unite to remake and renew the United States as a viable model for a free, stable, and prosperous world.
[i] Peggy Noonan, Patriotic Grace, What It Is and Why We Need It Now, pp 36-7. HarperCollins, 2008.