We have a choice. We can acknowledge the things that divide us, address them in a respectful manner, and unite to strengthen the nation and protect the civil order that allows us to do this. Or, we can let the vision and the treasure slip between our fingers like sand.
Some may say that it is too late. Or, that their principles are too important to be compromised. My response is that the United States was conceived in the midst of intense controversy, and that the unity of vision that overcame the chaotic circumstances confronting the founding fathers has been built on the recognition that strength in unity can be founded in diversity. Indeed, it will be argued here that diversity is an essential foundation of strength. The United States Constitution is a visionary assertion of this belief.
Given our extraordinary diversity, what exactly does it mean to be an American? We will be returning to this question throughout the book.
Today we find ourselves confronted by one of the great tests of history for the concept and meaning enshrined not only in the Constitution of the United States, but in the coherence of the American vision that has been maturing over the past two hundred years. Perhaps we have lost our way for periods of time, stumbled, gotten sloppy. But now it is time to pull together, to reconsider the national vision and purpose, to engage with our strengths.
I am not talking about a “recovery” from crisis in the normal sense. Rather, I submit that we stand at the threshold of a rare turning point and opportunity to reaffirm the national purpose, to reassert our unique and multifaceted identity, to reconsider our approach to the new and unexpected challenges of a rapidly changing world, and to make fundamental transitions, both pragmatic and ethical, that would have been impossible to think about prior to this crisis. That is, I propose that a creative process is now possible that would not otherwise have been possible.
A tough lesson like this can correct weaknesses and imbalances that led to the crisis, but it must be founded on the time-tested principles that have been instrumental in making America a treasured model for the downtrodden of the world.
In Chapter 4, Freedom and Order, we will consider the foresight with which the Constitutional Convention of 1787 designed the system of protections, the checks and balances with which this nation is graced. First, we will consider the reasons why diversity is an essential aspect of American strength – not as a nice idea, but a practical necessity. And then we will look at the visionary thinking of the founders in guiding otherwise destructive forces toward an ultimately generative symbiosis.