I cannot imagine an American renewal without a meaningful dialog concerning values.
Can we rise above our differences as Americans to agree on the most basic of shared values? Will a courageous few stand together to agree on a unified starting point – a common American “center” that transcends culture, religion, politics?
Will the center hold?
It is difficult to visualize how this can happen, yet I believe we can do it and will do it. I believe it possible in part because it is not necessary to begin with large numbers. A small unified core of determined Americans can make this happen, citizens with the tenacity and open-minded compassion necessary to assert a powerful moral presence.
If we are willing and able to present a vision for the future with a generous and welcoming spirit, it will be immensely attractive to a nation desperate for the feel of solid ground beneath its’ feet.
I believe the vision of a civil order based on trust and responsibility will draw Americans to it from every walk of life – from every religious faith, from every economic condition and political philosophy.
And, yes, this begs a question. How can we agree? We have substantial differences. This is the hard part.
What is essential is not that we agree on every aspect of personal belief, but that we join with one another to restore the integrity of a civil society that allows for constructive cooperation, engaging with one another respectfully, so that we can secure the safety of our families and the productivity of our communities.
If this is our priority we cannot allow America to disintegrate in unrestrained acrimony and hostility. We will have to choose our battles. Some will have to be fought on another day.
James Madison fought to have slavery abolished in the Constitution when it was first drafted in 1787. It was painful for him to walk away from that vision, but he realized it threatened to kill the entire project. It took decades of determination for abolitionists to finally get the job done.
Today, however, agreement on certain principles will be immediately necessary. What must these be?
What are the core principles that will put America on the road to a dynamic future? Not the core principles held dear by each of us personally, but the essential principles required to pull a diverse people together as a nation.
Each of us will have to decide what we can accept in a healthy, diverse, pluralistic American society. Each will need to consider the extent to which we are prepared to engage in meaningful dialog and debate concerning this question.
I have suggested several principles in these blog posts that I consider essential. In addition to a firm defense of the Constitution, I have written of the necessity for trustworthiness, for responsibility, and the concept of constructive action – action based on the principle of refusing to hurt or do harm, whether by impatience, dishonesty, hatred, or wishing ill of anybody.
(See especially September 26, Foundation of Trust; October 12, Bringing Light to Darkness; October 17, Finding Courage in Crisis; and December 12, First Principles.)
Now I would like to hear from readers. What principles would you ask your fellow Americans to commit themselves to? Please contribute your comments.
And, what of those who remain hardened in attitude, closed-minded, or confused? What of those who simply refuse to accept any kind of responsibility?
We must stand firm in the midst of chaos and not be moved from our choice of principles or our determination to rise above our differences.
A fully American vision can only be reached through thoughtful consultation – by discussing our hopes and beliefs with one another in good faith, exploring the fault lines where we can find common purpose and a higher calling.
A valid vision of the future will require genuine engagement and understanding. Only then can we start working together on real problems and real needs.
We are either all in, building a free, fair, and productive society, or we are each on our own in a devastated world.
A note to readers: Please share your thinking about principles and fundamental American values in your comments.