Working together toward a future we can respect will require that we understand the structural change that is taking place around us. And we will have to think clearly even as we are confronted by the immediate challenges of meeting local needs.
As I acknowledged last week, planning for the future when we are fighting for survival might not seem realistic. However, the attitude and skill-sets needed to survive the present might not be so different from those required to reconstruct the future.
I think it clear that resolving local problems, some of which pose serious threats to our safety and well-being, will require that we learn to live with one another with dignity. This is a fundamental priority. There will be no security for our families, friends and neighbors without working relationships that are trustworthy and dependable.
Consequently, the way in which we manage relationships and address problems will be the first priority in our endeavor. A right attitude for dealing with an immediate crisis will probably be the right attitude for working with one another to reclaim our destiny.
I can see no means for moving forward without a serious commitment to collaborate with one another despite our great differences.
Because the ends we wish to achieve will inevitably be determined by the means with which we pursue them, our strategies and tactics must be determined through an open and honest consultative process.
With ends and means in harmony, a pattern of positive change will emerge over time that represents a genuine American vision and reflects the strength gained from lessons learned. And, it will be a pattern generated by the creative initiative of a diverse people working together in safe communities.
Readers are aware that I will not prescribe solutions. Rather, I will identify questions for consultation and propose ground rules for collaboration and decision-making that can allow a truly American vision to emerge from the rich soil we have inherited from the past.
Community-building for the purposes of survival in crisis as well as civic coherence and unity of purpose is of critical importance. While I do not propose an entirely decentralized future, Americans should know that decentralized examples of governance have been a significant part of our national heritage.
There must be a balance. At the present juncture it is difficult to imagine a limited central government managed by mature adults who are responsible for protecting both our freedoms and our security. But, that is what we need. Without law there can be no freedom.
Yet, the clear thinking needed to overcome the threat of disintegration can only come from the local engagement of citizens who understand trust, moral responsibility, and constructive action – and who recognize the very high stakes involved.
Americans are committed to the extraordinary vision, etched in immortality by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg: “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The Constitution is our handle on stability, and the re-emergence of a healthy civil society will restore balance and character to the vision that sustains us. Let us rediscover the model of governance that works for us.
Naturally, we will disagree often; we are a contentious lot. Yet, our strength comes with diversity and our readiness to rise above our differences to build an open, welcoming and free-spirited society. The day will come again when Americans will be known, as we have been in the past, for generosity of spirit and an enthusiastic civic engagement.
Our personal endeavor must begin with a genuine and curious interest in understanding one another and discovering which values we actually hold in common. We must protect the integrity of our personal beliefs in our hearts even as we come to understand those of other Americans who, however different in experience or perspective, truly share our loyalty and commitment to this nation.
Building honest relationships that we can depend on will be of critical importance in a time of hardship and danger. The pattern of the future will emerge from the patterns we form in our lives together as we struggle to team up and conquer the difficulties of a long crisis.
Next week: Decentralized Governance, An American Heritage
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