I have proposed that a small unified core group of determined Americans could generate a powerful moral presence in the United States – by defining basic values clearly and projecting a vision for the future with a positive spirit.
This would be immensely attractive to a nation desperate for the feel of solid ground beneath its feet. However, it raises emotionally charged questions.
How will Americans determine those essential values we can agree on? And, how can we then work together to resolve problems and meet shared needs despite the differences we cannot agree on?
We know we have values we cannot compromise. Yet, we all wish for a safe, reliable, and productive civil order which can keep its balance as a pluralistic society.
Many of us have been feeling hopeless about the divisiveness and dysfunction we feel all around us. But when we think of abandoning hope we are confronted with the prospect of a future that is far worse.
A nation collapsed in antipathy would be a nation where it is impossible to share our thinking or disseminate our ideas and beliefs. And, social chaos would be a briar patch ripe for the predatory intentions of totalitarian despots.
A totalitarian America would, by definition, not be America. It would be a dictatorship where liberty has vanished, questioning is forbidden, and the independence of the human spirit is crushed.
Is this our choice?
Primary values are never negotiable. So, when we are confronted with a collision of values that cannot be reconciled, what is to be done?
Our choices are limited. For any group or authority to force a particular vision or interpretation of reality on others would be a violent denial of the principles that make a free society.
Would we destroy liberty in order to defend it?
We are left with the necessity for negotiating a state of cooperation and collaboration that permits a functional civil society, yet allows us to express and disseminate our values and our views.
We all need to stand firmly for what we believe. But, to rise above our differences so as to secure the safety and well-being of our communities is not to compromise our beliefs.
Aristotle is quoted as saying “Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach.” And, if we are confident in our knowledge and understanding, we are able to entertain diverse thoughts without accepting them.
A wise man named Walt Disney once said: “Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards – the things we live by and teach our children – are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.”
What is essential is not that we agree on any aspect of personal belief, but that we collaborate to restore the integrity of a civil society that allows for constructive cooperation. The safety of our families and the economic well-being of our future depend on our ability to engage with one another with dignity.
We cannot allow America to disintegrate in unrestrained acrimony. Our challenge is to establish conditions in which we can sustain freedom, seek change, and attract others to constructive action.
In so doing, I propose general acceptance of the following shared values. I expect we can also agree on others. In this way we can claim the moral high ground and attract a growing number of Americans to join us.
First, an uncompromising commitment to defend the Constitution and a respect for the rule of law.
Second, that we embrace the following values as the foundations for unity: Justice, equity, truthfulness, honesty, fair-mindedness, reliability, trustworthiness, and responsibility.
These are universal values and must be understood.
However, if we are to gain a hearing, we must first engage people with compassion and a willingness to actually comprehend what they see and think – and why. Then the real work can begin.
If no one can hear us, we will have no influence over the future.
Dear readers, I will be taking a short break. Watch for the next post on or about August 9. You can support this blog and the book project by suggesting that your friends and associates take a look.