A Severe Choice

The confluence of crises confronting the American people in this new century represents a profound turning point in the nation’s history, and for each of us personally.

In the turbulence of multiple crises it can be easy to forget the unique stature of the United States and the role it has played and will continue to play in the progress of an ever-advancing civilization.

The American Idea has been a beacon of hope for the world, however imperfect the reality might be. America has been an intense source of intellectual and creative vibrancy, and has served as a model of political freedom, social diversity, and economic vitality.

Many new readers have started following this blog, particularly on the Facebook page. So, I will pause this week to clarify my purpose.

I have been presenting ideas concerning the motives and principles and discipline I believe we will need to successfully rebuild the foundation of the United States as a free and democratic republic. During the holiday period I will be focused on the importance of ensuring that our means are consistent with the ends we desire.

Some of you will find these ideas familiar, especially those who are rooted in a religious tradition. However, I will propose thinking that I hope will be meaningful to everyone, religious and non-religious alike.

The opening words of this post were lifted from the first chapter of the book I am working on, and I offer more of the same passage below.

The United States has entered the fiery test of a crucible in which the forces of crisis will burn away the self-centeredness and sloppy thinking of the past to forge an American identity we can feel good about.

Or, if we fail to rise to our calling, the social violence arising from failing institutions and human suffering will incinerate our children’s future and turn a great vision to hopelessness and anguish.

At a time of extraordinary existential threat we are confronted with a severe choice.

Will we return to the founding principles of these United States as the bedrock on which to build a free, ethical, and comfortable future? Will we defend and protect two hundred years of commitment, hard work, and sacrifice by generations of Americans who have given their lives to this unprecedented vision?

Or, will we give way to the emotions of uncompromising partisanship – and allow a great trust to shatter and vanish?

Infrastructure, systems, and services we have long depended upon are going to fail in the coming years. Problems will have to be solved without many of the tools and supports to which we are accustomed.

So, let us set aside partisanship and sectarian differences when necessary, in the interest of stabilizing and rebuilding the nation. Panic neither serves nor becomes us.

This nation has progressed gradually toward maturity, dedicated to the cause of liberty built upon the foundation of unity within diversity – diversity of nationality, religion, ethnicity, and, most of all, political philosophy.

We possess wide ranging distinctions and differences, but together we share an essential inviolable common ground.

Let us pull together, reorient ourselves to the originating principles upon which this country was built, and step forward to reassert the vision and secure our communities.

I submit to you that something far better, far nobler, something perhaps beyond our present capacity to imagine, will emerge from the present turmoil.

If, however, we cannot work effectively to build safe communities with people we are not in complete agreement with, then we will be condemned to the only possible alternative: a collapsing civilization characterized by fear and violence, a nightmare for our children, and a land where no principles, no values, no stable order can be realized.


Next week: First Principles