The severity of a deepening crisis raises unavoidable questions. Will the country be torn apart by anger and frustration? Will the nation survive as the Republic created by its founders? Or, will the American people have the vision, fortitude, and grit to learn the lessons and reaffirm the vision and principles that will lead to a genuine renewal?
If the Republic is to prevail, how will we pull it off? Do we have the patience and wisdom to give priority first to the stability that makes problem-solving possible, to rebuild a national unity that transcends the very real differences that divide us?
Early in 2008 Peggy Noonan, a widely read conservative commentator and one-time aide to President Ronald Reagan, addressed this question eloquently in a collection of essays, Patriotic Grace, What It Is and Why We Need It Now. She wrote during a season of bitter political back-biting, and, as we all know, things soon became very much worse:
“I believe we have to assume that something bad is going to happen, someday, to us. Maybe it will be ten years from now, but maybe not, maybe sooner, much sooner. We have to assume, I think, that it will be a 9/11 times ten, or a hundred, or more, and that it will have a deeply destabilizing effect on our country; that it will test our unity and our endurance, our resourcefulness and faith.
“We all know this, I think, deep down. I don’t know a major political figure in America to whom all this has not occurred, and often…. And yet in some deep way our politics do not reflect our knowledge. It’s odd. Stunning, actually. We keep going through the same old motions in the bitter old ways. Even our cynics are not being realistic!
“…Will the banks fail, is the system built on anything but faith, and will the faith hold? Will we keep our coherence as a country, will we hold together, can we continue as a sovereign nation at peace with itself?”
Peggy Noonan’s little book radiates a much needed spirit. I recommend it. Most of us never expected to see the United States in the condition in which we find it today. Many of us never expected to face the personal hardship in which we increasingly find ourselves.
Ultimately we face a uniquely American crisis, yet one that is unfolding in the midst of an extraordinary global turning point. I will attempt to cut through the emotions and complexity of a monumental moment in history to argue that we must unite to regenerate and rebuild the United States as a living model for a free, stable, and prosperous world.
This nation has progressed gradually toward maturity for 200 years, dedicated to the cause of responsible liberty and 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.
We are all Americans. The promise we all hold dear can only prevail if we have the courage and forbearance to rise above our differences, to address our problems shoulder to shoulder, and to do what must be done to make our children safe and our communities secure.
We have the inherent capacity to move forward despite the mistakes and tragedies of the past – and the mysteries of the future.
Our future hangs in the balance. Let’s pull together, reassert our common ground in the vision with which the nation was built, and step forward to forge a future shaped by fairness, trustworthiness, and moral responsibility.
I submit to you that something far better, far nobler, something perhaps beyond our present ability 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 defined by fear and violence, a nightmare for our children, and a land where no principles, no values, no stable order can be realized.
Next post: Cooperation or collapse?
A note to regular readers: As I announced in late June, I have shifted to a new schedule and will now post every two weeks. This will allow me more time for completing the book. I will continue to post on Fridays and hope to publish the next blog entry on or about July 22.