Americans today face a critical moment in time, arguably as profound as any in our history. Freedom of opportunity, social and economic justice, and the preservation of our ability to seek personal goals are all at stake. The character of the nation appears to be in question. Our sense of identity as a people has been shaken.
We are all aware that this crisis is far bigger than an unexpected viral pandemic. The causes of social degradation and political disruption overshadowing recent decades have been making themselves felt for a long time.
We are experiencing the present adversity as an American crisis, and it is. But it is taking place in the context of a great turning point in the human story, a period of time when an unprecedented number of monumental crises are converging across the globe.
Our own crisis is inextricably intertwined with the affairs of the world. Never has there been a greater need for the stability of the American vision.
I have proposed a simple, yet demanding course of constructive action for Americans, which can allow for survival, safety and functional coherence in local communities.
This will be extremely difficult for us to carry off. But we have a choice. Without a willingness to engage with one another in this a way, we have to question whether the nation can survive as a democratic republic.
We must find our way with both grit and grace, navigating through complex, sequential and interacting crises. We have entered a transition that will dominate the course of the 21st century.
For Americans the outcome will depend on our character as a people, and our understanding of the unprecedented structural change that will confront us every step of the way. Necessity presents us with stark, uncomfortable choices.
We can give free reign to anger and disillusionment, allowing ourselves to be dragged down into demoralized helplessness. Or we can determine to stand firmly together as a people, rising above our differences to address the immediate practical priorities that confront us.
Are we prepared to preserve core values as we forge a genuinely American response to evolving conditions and a converging series of crises? Will we have the vision, courage, and fortitude to commit ourselves to principled means and to engage responsibly in constructive action?
I will not offer political philosophy, nor will I speak of ultimate goals. Fundamental values and shared purpose must be agreed upon by the American people. Rather, I am proposing a way forward that calls for qualities of character, attitude, and responsibility that transcend conflict and controversy.
As a first step, I ask that we begin by turning away from the dishonesty and deceit of partisan politics to respond to the practical needs and problems in our local communities – which, in microcosm, embody and exemplify the challenges facing the nation as a whole.
However, make no mistake: Consolidating local communities is only the first step. This will create a platform for democratic engagement and a base from which to confront the oncoming forces of disintegration and disequilibrium.
The ultimate vision of the future will be up to you, the American people.
Essential lessons involving physical needs and social order must first be learned in the crucible of crisis.
We must discipline ourselves to abstain from deceptiveness, deceit, or manipulation. Genuine virtuousness and a constructive attitude are called for, however dark the prospect.
I ask that we rise above our differences with the conviction that however immense the tests we face, however the world changes around us, however diverse our personal circumstances, this nation must not be permitted to abandon its founding vision and ultimate purpose.
You may watch for the next post on or about June 2.
Note for new readers: A project description, introduction to the coming book, and several chapters in draft can be found at the top of the homepage.