Whatever our personality, philosophy or religious belief, the individual person has an unavoidable choice to make. Either we retreat into a defensive posture, or we step forward as mature adults, patiently seeking to engage life with a generous and responsible spirit.
At a time of existential crisis for the United States this choice takes on great importance, not only for ourselves but for the nation and the world. The American model has served as a beacon of hope for people everywhere. And, the world is watching.
If we are to protect our families, organize the means for safety and security among our neighbors, and recover the promise of this nation, we must interact with one another constructively. And with dignity.
In the previous post I emphasized that expressing our views is necessary for a healthy society. But nothing will subvert our purpose more quickly than a combative attitude that alienates the very people we wish to influence—or need to work with.
As regular readers know, I place great value in local community as the foundation for a dependable, coherent, and prosperous American future.
Are we capable of making this possible? Americans have little experience with genuine community. Many of us are barely acquainted with our neighbors.
Why is community a basic element of civil society and a foundation for civilization?
There are several important reasons.
Perhaps the foremost concern at the present time is our need for safety and security in a time of severe multiple crises. Without neighbors we can depend on and trust, the immediate future appears bleak.
Safety is essential. But it is not everything. A community meets needs that are fundamental to human nature.
Human beings possess a deeply felt urge to belong, whether it be to family, a place, or a community where we are valued. Americans are no different from any others in this regard.
To be fully human we must belong somewhere, to a group, a nation, or a coherent historical stream.
As Americans it is essential that we find our way back to this sense of identity, and to the flow of ideas, relatedness, and continuity which may have become distorted or gone underground, but is not lost.
And, if we care about liberty, the experience must be local. Communities are the basic unit comprising human societies, the structure in which justice, responsibility, and cultural awareness are grounded.
It is in community that the individual finds equilibrium and belonging; where we are encouraged to express our unique identity, character, and creativity.
So it is that community, when endowed with the full engagement of its’ citizens, becomes the substructure for freedom and security. No other institution is capable of serving this purpose.
In the absence of community there can be no foundation for the diversity of associations, institutions, and organized functions that form a healthy civil society.
Without such diversity of association Americans have become disengaged, disoriented and set adrift. And, it is in just such a state that human beings have been most vulnerable to dishonest, despotic and predatory influences.
Needless to say, this is of crucial importance as we confront the social disruptions and pervasive loss of ethical integrity that characterize the 21st century. To hesitate here is to react as victims rather than to respond as Americans, to choose loss over promise, helplessness over responsibility.
The responsible, free-thinking person will sometimes struggle with the contradictions between freedom and necessity, or may be intimidated by extreme circumstances, but we must never give in to helplessness.
I do not suggest that this is easy to do. It is not. What I am saying is that we have no choice. Either we rise above the challenges of personal limitations or we will join an inexorable slide into chaos.
There will always be difficult people to test our patience. Choosing to take control of the future will require that we exercise tolerance, perseverance, and self-control.
Achieving an honorable destiny will come one step at a time.
What is imperative is that we each take initiative, that we step forward with a constructive attitude—come what may.
You may watch for the next post on or about June 30.
A project description and introduction to the coming book, along with drafts of several chapters, are linked at the top of the homepage.