The United States Constitution holds a unique place in history. The framers stepped away from the customs and tyrannies of the past to devise a new model for governance envisioned for a free and civilized people. It has endured for more than two hundred years.
Are we willing to overlook the subsequent missteps and mistakes, the rude and selfish behavior, to consider what is truly of value to us? Are we prepared to step forward to defend what we wish to preserve?
If we let this inheritance die, what will we have lost?
The record has been rough-hewn, but how could we expect anything like perfection when we have gathered the human race together from across the world into the managed chaos of a democratic republic?
We are blessed with a brilliantly conceived structure for governance that has channeled the energies and creative genius of the world’s people into a dynamic force for capacity-building and prosperity.
As I tried to illustrate in the previous post, the founders made an effort to see the end in the beginning. We now stand at another profound turning point in history, a moment requiring a visionary maturity from Americans of all colors, stripes, and viewpoints.
I do not suggest the impending election is such a turning point. I speak of something far greater and more profound, a shift in attitudes and thinking that will require at least a generation to comprehend and internalize.
In the coming years we must find our way through a sequence of social and material crises that transcend partisan politics. These troubles are the consequence of foolishness, mistaken assumptions and a lack of responsibility and foresight over the course of many decades.
Shamelessness and iniquity have walked together on this land.
There are those who think 200 years is a reasonable age for a democratic republic to reach its’ natural demise. However, the United States of America remains an extraordinary model of spirit and governance, despite the blemishes.
I think it more reasonable to understand 200 years as the age of maturity, shaped by experience and illuminated by the affairs of a disturbed world, when this nation must necessarily come of age.
We have responsibility for a trust grounded in the heritage of the American idea. Indeed, it is the responsibility to provide a faltering world with the vision and stability to support the next surge forward by the human race.
This is a trust that no other nation has the vision, the strength of will or the generosity of spirit, to embrace. Brought into focus by the creativity of the American founders, it shines even now from the darkness, a beacon amid dangers and hardship.
Human imperfections remain. Those who point to the evils and injustices of the past and present are serving a necessary role. Certainly we must not forget the ignoble or wrongly conceived. It is not useful, however, to condemn the vision and good will that give character to what the world has admired.
Questions also remain. Thoughtful citizens will reconsider the requirements that liberty imposes in the way we handle our civil discourse, our disagreements and decision-making.
Surely there can be no freedom for thought, for creativity, for social and economic advancement in the absence of the civility and self-discipline that allows us to engage freely and without fear.
Recognizing the necessity for the social stability upon which all else depends, a practical reality confronts each of us every day. Have we matured to the degree that we can represent our personal views patiently, listen with understanding, and, when necessary, live with our differences?
The crisis-fueled tensions of the early 21st century leave us wondering.
Ultimately, stability and prosperity depend on our ability to engage in meaningful problem-solving, and to accept our differences within the supporting constraints of shared principles.
If we fail we could lose everything.
Please look for the next post on or about November 11: Standing together for the American idea.
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