Once again I want to ask readers to consider the values and principles we should rely on during the long crisis ahead. We want to survive tough times and come out the other side better than when we started. And surely this means doing so with moral integrity and self-respect.
This is a crisis that has been a long time coming. The many challenges we face are complex, fluid, and unpredictable. At times it will feel like the ground is shifting beneath our feet.
Perspective is easily distorted in a crisis. The horizon we depend on to stabilize our vision and judge progress may be veiled. Decisions we are forced to make on the fly will depend on the attitudes, principles and courage we have already internalized in our mind and soul.
These are our most precious possessions. There may be times when they are all we can count on.
We have entered a great turning point, a crucible in which the strength of the American identity will re-emerge in clearer focus.
I would like you to distinguish between moral values that guide our personal lives, and the broader principles that can guide a stumbling nation back to stability and take Americans forward into a future we can respect and believe in.
Certainly, these are closely related, but how do we prioritize in the interests of the nation?
Let’s keep some basic realities in mind as we do this.
First, at the present time our local communities are the only place where we have the freedom and the immediate opportunity to stabilize our lives. Here we can seek safety and security by working together.
However, we can only succeed if we are willing to join forces despite our differences.
How do we feel about conflicting values? What principles do we need to agree on to allow local collaboration and problem-solving?
Second, this nation was founded on the basis of principles that are represented by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. These are not in question here. One of those principles is freedom of religion. Americans have the precious freedom to practice our own religion unhindered, but are discouraged from imposing our beliefs on one another.
There are some who view religious principles as limiting to their principles of personal freedom. Others believe that true freedom is only possible when guided by the constraints of moral integrity taught by religion.
There also happen to be a number of religious concerns that have significant social implications.
One familiar example would be the importance of honesty, trustworthiness and good will in politics, as well as in personal and business relationships.
Another would be the termination of human life before physical birth.
Still another would be the enforced imposition of principles of social responsibility on those of libertarian inclination who have not agreed to such principles.
I could go on. Many Americans do not believe that such questions have anything to do with religion despite their metaphysical qualities.
So, again, let’s distinguish between 1) those religious or philosophical values that can best ensure a good and responsible personal life, and 2) those broader principles necessary to knit the social and economic fabric of the United States back together.
And, let’s remember that the pluralistic tradition in American history and culture allows us to grow, change, and influence one another of our own free will rather than by force.
We can only attract interested consideration of our own views when we treat one another with dignity and respect.
The bottom line is both simple and challenging. We know we will never agree on many things. Americans have always been a contentious lot. Yet, we have chosen on many occasions to unite, to defend the Constitution and the inclusive character of the nation when these have been threatened.
And so I ask: What is required to allow us to pull together as a nation now, while yet allowing each to remain comfortable in his or her own views and beliefs?
I expect your comments to be wide ranging. Please be direct and to the point, which will be helpful as my book progresses.
A note to regular readers: I have returned from my travels and intend to post regularly. Please remember to check in! A project description and an introduction to the book are available on this page, as well as full drafts of several chapters.