If we are to regain our self-confidence with the vision and values of the founders, it would be useful to employ means that can actually lead to the goals we seek. Let’s proceed then with careful deliberation rather than emotion and ego.
No American responds well to abuse, verbal or otherwise. Nothing will subvert our purpose more quickly than a combative attitude that alienates the very people we need to win over.
Will we allow our differences to tear us apart?
We have choices. We can choose to join forces to tackle the practical problems that threaten the safety and security of our communities. We can choose to distinguish ourselves with common decency and cooperation in the interests of a well-reasoned and purposeful future.
It is only in dependable personal relationships tasked with essential responsibilities that we can truly come to know and influence one another.
We live in an era of dangerous instability. It is a time to refrain from antagonistic words; a time to refocus our creative energy away from the dysfunction of partisan politics, so to secure the essential needs of our local communities.
I have described three essential elements that make community possible – trust, dependability, and constructive action. These elements will only be found in communities where neighbors rise above their differences to serve a higher purpose. And, for a self-respecting people, purpose must be something more than “survival.”
As regular readers know, I have chosen the term “constructive action” to describe the positive means by which we can realistically engage with one another and progress. And, I have explained why a shared sense of purpose is helpful in guiding constructive action.
Shared purpose, I wrote, is a lens through which a community can bring the challenges of necessity into focus, and coordinate the efforts of diverse personalities. Purpose can provide a standard by which to determine priorities and judge progress.
So, how can we understand constructive action?
Constructive action is based on the refusal to do harm. It is action taken in a spirit of respect and kindness, a spirit founded upon the refusal to do violence to fellow citizens.
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 essential first principle upon which all other principles, values, 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 grace, 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 civil society we wish to build. As means and ends, 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 goals of particular political interests.
We will approach our understanding of means in quite a different way, replacing end-serving goals with an end-creating purpose.
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 vital and energetic future can only be realized by leveraging our differences in knowledge, skills, perspectives. And, the closer we work together the greater our opportunity to influence, attract and inspire.
Again, we have clear choices to make. Either we choose to recover and refine the fundamental meaning of the American Idea, or we can walk away forever from the safety, stability, and purpose of a future we can trust and believe in.
Next week: The Second Amendment, Then and Now.
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