To speak of rebuilding the foundations of the American Republic is certainly not to suggest deficiencies in the Constitution. On the contrary, the founders created a structural bulwark for stability that must be defended vigorously.
The foundation that concerns us today is built with the integrity the Constitution requires of us: The responsibility, trustworthiness, and cooperation that transcends differences among citizens.
A reader commented that, “America is at a tipping point because every tenet [and] moral fiber of this nation has been diminished, so that no one is held accountable. [There is] no moral compass because the foundations are removed.”
We do not have to agree on the details to recognize the truth in this view. And, we cannot wait for somebody else to fix it. It is time to stop complaining and join with those around us to secure the safety and well-being of our local communities.
Changing our attitude about this does not mean changing our opinions or compromising our principles. Not at all! To address people with dignity and kindliness will win their respect and loyalty. Harsh and derogatory words will estrange and alienate.
If we wish to be heard – to share our views and represent our principles – we need to work with others in a way that makes this possible. Communication will not be easy until we are ready to work shoulder-to-shoulder, to meet the needs we have in common and make things right.
No, this will not be easy. Many of us have serious differences. But addressing shared problems is the way mutual respect begins and interest in listening becomes genuine.
We will talk more about this later, but the important thing to recognize is that when the going gets tough, relationships count. I don’t just mean with our next-door neighbors, as important as they are. If we find ourselves under threat, directly or indirectly, the last thing we need is neighbors down the road or over the hill who are an unknown quantity.
And, we are not simply talking about making acquaintances here. This is not about borrowing a cup of sugar over the back fence. To make our communities safe and to rebuild the nation we need dependability. And that means trust.
Yes, well, in the midst of this crisis we find that trust is not something that Americans know much about. Mostly we do not believe in it any more. This is a big problem.
We cannot simply start trusting people because we wish for it. The reality we live in is decidedly untrustworthy. Most of the people around us do not have a clear concept of what trust means, much less an understanding of why it is important or what to do about it.
Change will take time. The effort begins with the courage to be patient and accept differences. Let us not deny ourselves the maturity of forbearance and kindliness.
If we wish to be heard it is usually necessary to first convince others that we are actually hearing them. Only then will we be heard. In his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“, Stephen Covey wrote:
“If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. So why does this happen? Because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand.”
Building dependable relationships with our neighbors requires grit and determination. We will win a few and lose a few, but the ones we win will move the nation forward – and might save lives.
The loss of trust has accompanied the loss of civil order and security in this country. Solutions to these most serious and fundamental problems begin on the path back to trust.
Trustworthiness is the foundation of security. Without trust America faces existential danger. And, without forbearance and cooperation no trust – or progress – will be possible.
Please look for the next post on or about August 12: Finding our balance in the storm.