The first step is ours to take. We can address one another with dignity and join with our neighbors to resolve problems and address local needs. Or, we can accept a world of hostility, disorder, and ultimate collapse as our children’s inheritance – and let the vision and the treasure of the American idea slip away.
The road to security is built with civility and paved with trust. To make it so will be difficult. It is, however, the only alternative to disaster.
The argument that the future can only be built on the foundation of dependable communities is as old as history. It follows from the rational perception that conflict is a condition in human relationships and can only be understood and transcended in and through human relationships.
It is in the struggle with interpersonal relationships that direct and honest communication can take place. The means for making this fractious process effective in the context of American history is the subject of this blog and forthcoming book.
Some may say that it is too late. I say that Americans are courageous, resourceful, resilient. The United States was conceived in controversy, and the pragmatic vision of the Founders came with recognition that wisdom and strength are found in diversity.
Indeed, it will be argued here that diversity is the foundation for strength, and that the United States Constitution is a visionary assertion of this belief. The Founders gave us structure. It is our responsibility to make it work.
Our answer to crisis will determine the shape of our future. We find ourselves confronted today by one of the great tests of history, a challenge to the intent embodied in the Constitution and the coherence of the American vision that has been gradually maturing for more than two hundred years.
Perhaps we have lost our way for periods of time, stumbled, gotten sloppy. But now it is time to pull together. It is argued here that this must begin in our local communities – the historic home to pure democracy and the seat of civilization.
In a free society stability cannot be imposed from above. The kind of strength we seek is grounded in trust and the dependability of personal relationships.
I am not writing about a “recovery” from crisis in the normal sense. Rather, I submit that we stand at the threshold of an unprecedented turning point – a dangerous crossroads, yet one that offers us a unique window of opportunity to affirm and uphold our exceptional and multifaceted identity as a nation.
In navigating through an extraordinary confluence of sequential crises we will be forced to renew our values, think on our feet, and make both pragmatic and ethical adjustments. A creative process is now underway that would not be possible otherwise.
An assessment of shared values is in order, and reconsideration of the generosity of spirit that once made America so attractive to the world.
In September we will consider the foresight of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that led to the system of protections, checks and balances that make the American structure of governance what it is. First, however, we will examine the reasons why diversity has given America a dynamic strength – not as a nice idea, but as a pragmatic imperative.
If American communities are to emerge into a vibrant matrix of local and regional networks, they will depend on citizens with diverse skills and varied perspectives who are capable of teamwork and practical problem-solving.
Resistance to diversity often involves our discomfort with those we perceive as “outsiders”, people who look or think differently than we do, or who come from unfamiliar cultural backgrounds. Yet, in crises, many differences will allow critical problem-solving that we can ill afford to do without.
It is important to feel confidence in our own ideas and values. Yes, but why should we be afraid of different ways of thinking?
Aristotle said that “it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
The opportunity to explore the world through the eyes of others different from ourselves is a blessing and a gift. And, in the event of social and economic collapse – it may be the key to survival.
Please watch for the next post on or about August 19: The unexpected wisdom in diversity – how it happens and what makes it work.