If we are to rebuild the foundations of this nation in a manner consistent with principle, it will be wise to employ means that lead effectively to the ends we seek. Let us proceed with wisdom and foresight rather than emotion and ego.
Nothing will cause greater destruction to our purpose than a combative attitude that alienates the very people we need to win over.
If we avoid allowing our differences to tear us apart, we can choose to cooperate in addressing the structural problems that threaten the safety and security of our communities. And, it is only in the context of personal relationships tasked with essential responsibilities that we can come to understand and influence one another.
As long-time readers know, I have urged that we turn away from the dysfunction, dishonesty, and deceit of national politics to the extent possible, and join with one another to rebuild America in our local communities.
I have described three essential elements – trust, dependability, and constructive action – which will be necessary to regain stability and to move us forward. These elements will only be found in communities where neighbors rise above their differences to serve a higher purpose.
I have chosen the term “constructive action” to describe the means by which we can realistically progress. And I have explained in recent posts why a shared sense of purpose will be required to guide constructive action.
Shared purpose, I wrote, is a lens through which the challenges of necessity can be brought into focus. The efforts of diverse personalities can be coordinated. Purpose provides a standard by which to determine priorities and judge progress. In short, forward motion is essential; yet it is impossible without unity of purpose.
So, how can we understand constructive action?
Constructive action is action based on the refusal to do harm. It is action taken in a spirit of respectful kindness, a spirit founded upon the refusal to fight, to kill, or to damage. The principle here is the refusal to hurt – by impatience, dishonesty, hatred, or wishing ill of anybody.
I submit to you that this is the first principle upon which all other values, principles, and purposes depend.
Please do not misinterpret constructive action as merely a negative state of harmlessness. Quite the contrary, while constructive action in its purest form attempts to treat even the evil-doer with good-will, it by no means assists the evil-doer in doing wrong or tolerates wrong-doing in any way.
The state of constructive action requires that we resist what is wrong and disassociate ourselves from it even if doing so antagonizes the wrong-doer.
There is a close relationship between the positive spirit of kindness, respect, and trustworthiness that characterizes constructive action and the moral integrity of the free society we wish to build. The two are inseparable.
Constructive action is the means. Unity of purpose, grounded in the truthfulness of moral integrity, is the end.
Western political thinking has always considered means to be either an abstraction of tactics or simply the character of social and political machinery. In both cases means are considered only in their service to the desired ends, or goals, of particular political interests. We will approach our understanding of means in quite a different way, replacing an end-serving with an end-creating function.
Such an approach to means is necessary if we seek to apply traditional American values to rapidly changing circumstances.
This is the reason for my insistence on the meaningful engagement of all Americans in this endeavor, despite our vast diversity. A genuinely American future can only be realized in the context of our differences.
I believe this is what America has always been about. Is it what we want now, or not?
We have a clear choice to make. Either we choose to recover and reconstruct the fundamental meaning of the American Idea, or we can walk away forever from the safety, stability, and meaning of an America we can trust and believe in.
A note to readers: The next several posts will explore the meaning and implications of this “first principle.” I will take a breather for the holidays, so please look for the next post on January 2-4: “The Second Amendment, Then and Now”.