A New Way of Seeing

The deterioration of social order in America has been led by the loss of trust over many years.  It was happening long before it was recognized by the institutions of civil society or leaders of thought.  This is not simply a symptom; it lies at the heart of our difficulties. 

We must try to understand this.  In the present moment, however, we must recognize that the profound loss of trust can foreshadow civilizational collapse.

Trust is essential to the integrity and well-being of any society, and trustworthiness its first requirement.  Without trust no family or community or nation can survive. 

At the present extraordinary turning point in history, we are confronted with a broken society in which trust has been steadily degraded.  The meaning of trustworthiness has ceased to be understood.

Trust is learned over time through our experience with active interpersonal relationships.  Civilization depends on it.

We face a multi-layered challenge.  Building trust in personal relationships depends on genuine dialogue and our lived experience with one another.  But we rarely find this possible in our lives today. Clearly, it is necessary to re-establish trustworthiness as the foundation for the character and prosperity of American society.

Learning to trust is most possible in functional local communities—because this is where genuine interpersonal dialogue and loyal engagement is most possible. When the going gets tough, local communities are where trustworthiness truly matters. 

When we build trust in important relationships, we gradually bring it to life in ever-widening circles and relational circumstances.

Trustworthiness becomes real as we experience its dependability.  We will want it because we need it. Yes, this will take a long time.  There are no shortcuts.  Building a stable, prosperous society will take as long as intelligent and determined people need to make it so.

This is the first challenge on the path to creating safety and resolving problems.  To seek interpersonal dialogue where distrust and alienation prevail, requires courage and foresight.  Only then will solutions follow.

Kind words can open doors and penetrate hearts, but making this effort requires steadfast patience.  An interest in genuine understanding, and the willingness to be the first to listen, makes many things possible.

Even the most stubborn attitudes can be penetrated with curiosity and generosity of spirit—however long it might take.  When we encounter pain or defensiveness in others, respond compassionately.  Make it clear that you have heard and tried to understand.

When others are not ready to listen or respond, leave them to themselves.  We must keep moving on. 

But remember: Personal integrity and trustworthiness live and grow through interactive engagement.  They are created in thoughtful relationships. Relationships that accept the mystery of differences and diversity need not be threatening. 

The greatest tests on this rocky road are those that call for grace, constancy, and generosity of spirit.  No one is asking us to change our views and our values, but only to seek dignity for others as well as ourselves.

This is indeed honorable.  But we are called to something greater.

Trust can grow from the smallest of beginnings.  People want to be able to trust.  And the light we bring to their lives can be a great gift. The integrity that takes root in dialogue—in the honest engagement of interpersonal relationships—soon spreads to implant itself in the character of the world around us.

A nation led by fear is a nation destined for tyranny.  The choice between freedom and fear, between empowerment and defensiveness, presents us with a fork in the road to the future.  This is the choice that leads to safety; the understanding that makes loyalty and cooperation possible, whatever the hardships and challenges we are made to endure.


Note to readers:  You may watch for the next post on or about July 1. 

Past and Future

Americans have an extraordinary history and heritage as a nation—a vision and exemplary model for governance which are unprecedented in the world.  As citizens, it is an honor to be responsible for this.  We are called to ensure a future that is free, just, and constructive. 

We are also challenged by the shadow of a violent and contentious past, and now the looming threat of a multitude of crises.  We can easily lose ourselves in self-doubt and endless recrimination—forever relitigating the details of a very human past.  But learning from the past is made real by living our best intentions into the future.

Americans cannot afford to compromise a commitment to an honorable future.  While it is quite true that responsibility depends upon truthfulness, the future also depends on the maturity, understanding, and generosity of spirit that will enable the United States to secure civil order and a free society.

We are Americans; we can do this together.

As individuals, there is but one way forward—personally and without constraint–and this is within our own local communities.  It is for this reason that I have challenged us all to rise above our differences, to engage with one another in the authentic dialogue necessary for problem-solving.

The necessities of shared needs cannot be compromised.  Safety and survival will soon require that we think about what we can accomplish by working together.

Doing this effectively will allow communities to address the future constructively.

We find ourselves confronted today by extraordinary circumstances, a multitude of dangerous and deepening crises.  And yet, this narrow place in American history presents an unprecedented opportunity.

We must rise to the next level, having no choice but to turn to the future with clear-eyed intentionality.

Herein lies the importance of knowing and understanding our neighbors; listening to one another with genuine interest despite our differences.  The failure to engage constructively will threaten the future as threats grow.

The number and diversity of crises confronting us is unparalleled.  Most of us know that something has changed.  The experience of normalcy has evaporated.  Our lives are disrupted and the end is nowhere in sight.

The world is experiencing dramatic structural change.  The rapid development of digital technology without accountability, exponential population growth, the loss of farmland and access to clean water, unprecedented weather—all this imposes on our lives even if it is happening elsewhere.

This is inevitable and no one’s fault.  That it has generated confusion and divisiveness is hardly surprising.  It is natural to look for someone to blame, but this is not useful.

Will we pull ourselves together as Americans did during World War 2, to make America whole?

In the midst of rapidly changing conditions, in a world confronted by hardship and awash with fear, we are forced to discipline ourselves as responsible, trustworthy people. 

The foundation for well-being is trust.  This is the secret of integrity in inter-personal relationships, in communities and in nations.

Dependable neighbors may soon become our only source of security.  We need to know how to make this work, and it begins with ourselves.  We might need to be trustworthy even when no one else notices or reciprocates.

It is true that trust lives in relationships.  It cannot exist in isolation.  And, yes, good-will is helpless if the relations between us remain unchanged.  However, trustworthiness is personal and in fact begins with ourselves!

To establish true community, we must turn away from the impersonal collectivism of mass society—to represent our real selves in authentic relationships.

We prove ourselves ready for community by living genuinely with others as dependable, trustworthy co-workers and neighbors.

Each of us is responsible independently.  No one can do this for us.


You may watch for the next post on or about June 4.

A note for new readers: A project description and several sample chapters from the forthcoming book are posted in draft at the top of the homepage.

What Is True Leadership?

How can responsible people respond to the multiplicity of crises confronting us?  How can we best protect our families and strengthen our communities?  We have been discussing the growing need to create safety in the face of deteriorating conditions.  You don’t need me to draw you a picture.

What does it mean to take initiative?  I invite you to think about this constructively.  We will need to rethink our assumptions about the nature of leadership.

We see examples of assertive, self-styled leadership on the news every night—people who want us to think they have everything all figured out.  I think most of you know this is not what we need. In a rapidly deteriorating social order, safety and security are actually local concerns.  To think and act responsibly will mean engaging effectively with our neighbors, regardless of our differences.

I do not think we will get very far if we depend on those we see parading themselves self-assuredly on the evening news.

In the oncoming confluence of crises, effective problem-solving will depend on our neighbors. And it will only begin when we engage with respectful sensitivity in every interpersonal relationship.

Taking initiative does not, and should not, be associated with leadership in the usual sense. We have never imagined facing such extraordinary circumstances.  It is understandable to doubt ones’ own capabilities.  But there is work to be done.  Needs must be met and conflicts averted. 

As individual citizens we are called to recognize and respond to immediate local needs as they present themselves.  None of us can resolve the great questions and complexities in today’s world.  But necessities will confront us each day with real consequences.

We are not helpless.  Words can be misunderstood and people can be manipulated, but consistent responsible action speaks for itself.  It will never be too soon to initiate dialog and foster collaboration.

I will share a few thoughts here on personal initiative and collaboration.

When forming relationships with neighbors you may find your efforts appreciated by only a few.  Do not be disheartened!  Even a small number of those ready to listen will allow productive endeavors to take root.  A nucleus of thoughtful citizens can consult about local needs, begin to plan, and build trust.

Your initiative will be appreciated by perceptive neighbors.  Indeed, some may project a leadership role on you against your wishes.  This could become problematic.  You will not be happy with the consequences of such assumptions.

With the nation in a devastating downward spiral of dishonesty, delusional behavior, and pervasive fear, true leadership has never been more needed.  But, never has it been perceived with greater suspicion.  Responding effectively to clearly apparent needs will not be possible if we present ourselves as lightning rods.

Responsibility and constructive action are integrally related.  We can invite others to join us in exploring how this works.  Leadership is best shared and understood as grounded in the community itself.

In authentic community, true leadership assists us to overcome fear and hesitation.  It encourages responsibility and fosters trust.  Effective leadership can see the end in the beginning, and understands the road ahead when others only see stumbling blocks. 

Leadership remains calm in the fog of uncertainty, and unperturbed by the anxieties of others.  It patiently gathers frightened or troublesome people to unite in response to practical necessity.

This kind of leadership proceeds with a self-effacing demeanor and a low profile.  It often goes unrecognized, and this is as it should be.

When a genuine leader has been effective, a community will feel they have been assisted to take on challenges and win success for themselves.  And, when a truly great leader has been present, people will say only, we did this ourselves.


You may watch for the next post on or about May 1.

Where the Future Begins

In today’s world we cannot wait for the future to come to us.  Constructive action begins with us, in our own neighborhood, and it begins today.  The small steps that form the basis for safe, dependable communities can begin any time today or tomorrow.  And the small steps are the most important.  If we seek a future we can respect and believe in, our first responsibility is to know our neighbors.  This is the foundation of dependability. 

If we are serious, we will gradually cultivate the relationships that get things done.  Each of us is capable of dignity and civility and a concern for local problem-solving.  We do not need to agree on everything—only about what needs to be accomplished.

Given the prevalent atmosphere of distrust and alienation, this will call for steadfast patience and determination.  Some of your neighbors will welcome your initiative, while others may perceive you with uncertainty or outright suspicion. 

There are many ways to reach through these barriers.  Practical initiative is best served with compassion, generosity of spirit and an open attitude.  But self-discipline must come first.

Where remnants of alienation persist, we must tread respectfully and make our goodwill clear.  If someone asks to be left alone, we can assure them of our respect and readiness to respond in time of need. We can also maintain occasional contact without becoming an irritant.  The simplest gestures can break the ice, even after long periods of time.

What is important is that we sustain dependable relationships with as many of our neighbors as possible.  When crises loom, this can save lives.  We cannot wait for what’s coming.  We must prepare for it.

The character or attitudes of neighbors can become a liability when we least expect it.  We cannot afford exposure to unknown perils, whether they are next door or down the street and around the corner.

While genuine relationships are the goal, we should not to rush into intimacy.  Ask questions, listen well and be compassionate.  Prove your dependability through attentiveness and responsibility—but tread carefully.

Avoid saying what does not need to be said.  Some will press you about personal beliefs.  We can respond deferentially while expressing a concern for good will and dependability. When differences become obvious, it will always be helpful to express a readiness to respond supportively in time of need.

In the beginning, you may find your initiative appreciated by only a few.  But don’t be disheartened!  Only small numbers are needed for discussion, planning and problem-solving.

With the nation in a devastating downward spiral of dishonesty, delusional behavior, and pervasive fear, true leadership has never been more needed.  But, never has it been perceived with greater suspicion. So, tread lightly.  Responding to clearly apparent needs with initiative and effective organizing will not be possible if we present ourselves as lightning rods.

Genuine leadership is exercised subtly and with humility in the world as it is today.  I am not talking about modesty.  This is a practical concern.  Taking initiative does not, and should not, be associated with leadership in the usual sense.

Under such conditions as we face today, each of us is called to respond to needs as they present themselves.  We have never imagined facing such extraordinary circumstances or being challenged in these ways.

It is understandable to doubt ones’ own skills and effectiveness.  But there is work to be done.  Needs must be met and conflicts averted. 

As individual citizens, what does this mean?  The challenge is personal.  None of us can have assurance about resolving the great questions and complexities we now face.  But necessities will confront us each day with real consequences.

We are not helpless.  Words can be misunderstood and manipulated, but action speaks clearly.  It is never be too early to initiate dialog and to foster collaboration.


You may watch for the next post on or about April 2.

Note to readers: A project description and several sample chapters from the forthcoming book are posted in draft at the top of the homepage


Human civilization has deep historical roots, and stories that teach us of both its values and its failures.  But, are we in danger of losing it?  Civilization does not wait for other people to “do something”.  It does not depend on government, or on “leaders” who promise to save us.  And, if we allow hotheads to tear civilization down—out of fear or foolishness—it could be centuries before it might be rebuilt.

Surely we know a free and prosperous society can only be sustained when we take responsibility for it.  Civilization depends on each of us to take action in our own communities.

Freedom requires responsibility.  This is a personal choice, and it can only express itself in action.  There can be no safety, no problem-solving, and no accountability without cooperation. 

Everything we need and everything we do depends on some form of cooperation.

We all need to live in a place where our neighbors and fellow citizens cooperate in ways that keep us safe and make things work.

Reclaiming the future will require a willingness to work with our neighbors to meet shared needs and resolve local problems—despite our differing values and views.  This has always been what America is about.

It will take energy and a positive attitude to get us there. 

The way forward is challenging because we need to understand the people around us, and to have the patience and forbearance to bring them along.

Working with other people can be one of the hardest things we ever do.  Our differences come from differing life experiences and personal hardships.  Yet we share many of the same hopes and fears.

What makes cooperation possible?  How different are we, really?  Everyone needs to feel safe, and we all need to believe in the future.

We need to learn how to be good listeners.  We have talked about this here before.  Most of us are used to listening for reacting and arguing.  This is not practical if we want to live in a safe community.

How then should we listen?  If we want to work well with others it is necessary to actually understand them.  There really is no alternative.

Understanding does not require agreement.  No way!  Understanding allows us to know our neighbors and to negotiate effectively.

When we open lines of effective communication, it becomes possible to make decisions involving specific needs.  It opens the door to constructive action.

There will always be some who refuse to cooperate.  We can expect this.  So, why should we try to help neighbors who see no purpose in engaging with us?

Why?  We are living in a society that is coming apart.  The dangers are real.  Institutions are crumbling.  Mental health is breaking down.  Fear and confusion reign.

The effort to make communities safe will encounter many who are distrustful.  Safety requires that we stay connected with them.

However, there will also be thinking people who care about the future.  We need to find them.  We might need to look under a few rocks, but they are nearby—wherever we are. 

And we must take action.  We cannot wait.

We need to know all our neighbors, and to maintain friendly relations to the best of our ability.  In a crumbling social order, we cannot afford to live with alienation next door—not down the street or around the corner.

Humanity is discovered through authentic dialog.  Safety is gained through cooperation.

Nothing will happen if we sit on our hands.


Please note: You may watch for the next post on or about March 1. An introduction to the forthcoming book, and several chapters are available at the top of the homepage.

The Ground of Freedom

We value our freedom despite the constraints and responsibilities that come with it.  We would like to do as we wish without interference.  And the feeling stays with us because, unlike any other creature, we possess free will.

Free will can make us aware of any imaginable possibility. We can choose to be kind or ugly, constructive or destructive, good or evil.  Whatever we choose to do, we could just as well choose not to do.

Without choice there could be no morality.

We make choices every day.  Some are very important to us—activities and relationships, intentions and goals which will influence or constrain future opportunities.

The choice of career, of a love-mate, and the decisions to have a family, to stand by a friend, or to embrace a religious faith—all of these determine (and limit) future choices.  If we are adult people, we find our choices constrained by our sense of responsibility as members of family, community, and society.

If we wish to strengthen relationships or succeed in an endeavor, we will act with “response-ability”.  Because our “ability to respond” will have consequences.

Without responsibility we remain essentially isolated—denied the sense of belonging that defines our place in the world, measures personal integrity and enriches perspective.

It is for this reason that thinking people recognize the interdependence of freedom and responsibility.  Genuine freedom is simply not possible otherwise.

Understanding this allows us to live with purpose.  It informs us of the contours of justice that give structure to human reality.  It provides the context in which freedom can be sought and actualized.

Family, friendships, community, and society—these provide the context in which personal identity becomes conscious.  Together they form the reality in which freedom can be found and exercised. If we are to know who our friends and neighbors really are—their dignity, their hopes and fears, and the experience that influences them—we need to engage in authentic dialog.  We need to know how to listen for the purpose of understanding.

Ethical standards and respectful behavior concern order and relationships.  Both safety and comfort depend on this.  Civilized life is relational and can only be secured by engaging in meaningful dialog.

Making morals and making community are, it has been said, a single dialectical process.  Living in the world calls us to understanding, commitment and responsibility.

Yes, working with people can be the most challenging thing we do.  But, creating a free society—and a safe, friendly neighborhood—can make it very rewarding.

If we wish for constructive lives, we will surely seek the freedom that is our birthright.  And we will recognize the foundations for freedom in the finite limitations of existence.

We are finite beings living in a finite world.  This is the nature of reality and the ground of freedom.  The social order in a civilized society serves a similar purpose.  These are givens.

Without structural limits, which include our own moral values as well as the civil constraints of an orderly society, we would have no capacity to exercise intelligence and direct our energy, to explore new ideas or undertake new ventures.

For the individual, the ability to exercise discipline overcomes the limitations imposed by nature and society. The discipline to leverage our inspiration against the constraints we encounter provides the power to actualize our freedom and transcend material challenges.

We cannot leap without a firm foundation beneath our feet. We cannot fly without wings.

Discipline and limitation are, indeed, the ground of freedom.


You may watch for the next post on or about February 1.

Finding the Door

The need for safety, and the urgency to secure food for our table have become paramount concerns.  Our many problems are not simple.  We find ourselves facing the onslaught of multiple crises and unprecedented complexity.  Never before has humankind encountered such challenges. 

Our lives depend on a complex global economy, a fragile supply chain, and an international monetary system based solely on confidence.  We watch apprehensively as the world’s population explodes exponentially, even as food production dwindles.  And, hidden in plain sight, the interdependent digital systems which manage and coordinate almost everything we need, can be easily disrupted.

Long-time readers will recall my concerns about the capricious unpredictability of complexity.  This is a new threat we have never before encountered. Already confronted with personal hardship and civil disorder, we must also brace ourselves for the threat of complexity—the shockingly unexpected.  

The hand-holds to stability are loosening even as we reach for them.  As the horizon darkens, where can we find the door to stability?  How will we build a future we can accept and believe in?

My argument that dependable neighbors are essential and that safe, functional communities can actually be created, has usually fallen on deaf ears.  Sadly, this is difficult to imagine in today’s America.  Yet it is something we have had before.  America was built on the foundation of coherent local communities, and we can learn how to do this again.

The wholesale destruction of communities by the industrial revolution, and the subsequent domination of a faceless corporate society, has had major consequences.  The loss has blind-sided Americans, and I believe it to be the primary cause of growing distrust.

Throughout history, local communities have been the place where human beings develop our personal identity and where we learn what it means to belong somewhere.  This is where we build relationships and gain confidence in our ourselves as individuals.

Americans are intelligent and quite capable of thinking rationally.  But for many generations we have been enveloped in mass society—a corporate-dominated reality.  And, mass society has its own impersonal interests which are not our own.

Today true community very rarely exists.  We don’t know what this is.  Political community is often the only community we have, and partisan politics are defined by division and conflict.

Most of us barely know our next-door neighbors.

Few of us live in a neighborhood that provides the safety and organized coherence that communities have provided in the past.  While we may not be aware of everything that has been taken from us, we certainly know the uncertainty, insecurity and alienation that the loss of community has caused. 

Hurtful experiences are common in this uprooted reality, especially among young people. The natural consequences of resentments and alienation are often misconstrued as disrespect or disloyalty or worse.  But blame gets us nowhere.

Any of us might behave just as desperately if we were faced with similar insults and injustices over long periods of time. Let’s think before we draw conclusions.  If we are ever to understand people, we need to ask questions, and to listen with the intention of understanding.

Nothing I am saying requires us to alter our personal values or views.  But a civilized future can only be built with civility, respectfulness, and responsibility.

We learn that people are trustworthy and dependable by allowing ourselves to know them as friends and neighbors. The best way to learn what people are made of—and to actually build trust—is to work with them shoulder-to-shoulder, meeting shared needs and resolving local problems.

This is the door to safety.  Each of us is capable of walking through it on our own, without regard for the confusion or misbehavior of others.

Yes, building safe local communities will be challenging.  But we can learn this skill, just as we have many others.  Practical guidance is available, and I intend to assist.

However dark the future seems, each of us possesses a lamp we have the power to light. Even the smallest lamp will dispel the darkness, which has no existence of its own.


Note to readers:  You may watch for the next post on or about January 1.  A project description and several sample chapters from the forthcoming book are available in draft at the top of the homepage.

To Seek an Authentic American Future

The challenges we face in communicating and understanding one another are formidable.  Americans have always been politically contentious, as one would expect in a democratic republic.  But, as we all know, something has changed. Public discourse has been stifled and personal relationships degraded by an atmosphere dominated by fear and distrust.  Alienation has degenerated into open conflict and hostility.  Our differences are many and they are significant.

The failure of meaningful dialogue has obstructed communication, suppressed perceptual sensitivity, and closed the door to understanding.

The observations offered in the first half of my forthcoming book reflect on the American character and the past—ideas and perspectives that transcend partisan politics.  We have a responsibility to reflect on the history that has led us to the place where we now find ourselves. 

No one has a window to the truth.  Our knowledge and perspective are influenced by personal experience and investigation.  Nothing is ever quite what the human mind and imagination make it out to be. And in this extraordinary time, we are confronted with rumor, misinformation, and manipulative politics—all of which degrade our ability to perceive things accurately.

If we are serious about seeking a future we can live with, where freedom is protected and prosperity has a foundation in civil order, we must overcome the forces of disintegration. No enduring solutions will be found where there is alienation and destructiveness.

The United States was conceived as a nation of laws because prosperity is not possible where the subversion of trust dominates the social order. Law can be debated, negotiated, altered.  But the rule of law is a fundamental principle of human security which cannot be subverted without the eventual collapse of human civilization.  Once it is gone, there will be no safety and no easy recovery.

A future that affirms the constructive vision embedded in the Constitution might not be in the interests of a few.  But the vast majority of Americans clearly desire to see the possibility for civility, cooperation, and dependability in the future of this nation. 

The challenge we face in defusing distrust calls for authentic dialogue and a willingness to engage in working relationships.  This is fundamental.  Nothing will otherwise be possible.

So the question before us is whether, and to what extent, we are willing to accept the conditions and discipline it requires.  As demanding as this might appear, it is a project with clearly defined requirements and available means.

To begin, communities will need to sit down and agree on guidelines that make respectful communication possible and constructive action possible.  OK, listen now!  This is not a normal situation. We are hovering on the edge of collapse.  So, acceptable language and rules of engagement must be defined and agreed upon among neighbors, in communities, and in business relationships. 

This is essential.  The necessity for creating secure conditions for mutual assistance and collaboration will have to be taken seriously.  If we want this potential to come alive, we will have to respect and protect it.

As I have repeatedly said, engaging with diversity does not mean altering personal views or opinions.  Diversity is a form of wealth.  It provides us with knowledge, experience, and the learned skills that allow us to meet shared needs and resolve local problems. 

There are many places in this world where we can express our views, and can do so every day.  But in the local community, let’s do this with objective concern for the reality at hand.  In other words, let’s not inflict strong feelings on others in a manner that compromises working relationships, safety and trust.

The truth about people who differ from us is not what the politics of conflict want us to think.  Rather it is what they actually think, believe, and wish for.  Without this information we are flying blind. 

Understanding is only possible when we listen with the intention of understanding. 

In a collapsing civil order, we can set aside our personal philosophies provisionally.  Because safety will require effective communication, graceful collaboration, and dependable relationships.


You may watch for the next post on or about December 4.

Note to readers:  An introduction to the coming book, and several sample chapters are available in draft, linked at the top of the homepage.

Why Trustworthiness?

Several of the American founders warned us that self-government depends on citizens governing their own behavior.  Among them, Patrick Henry, George Washington and James Madison all emphasized the importance of virtue.  I have observed here that truthfulness is the most important of the virtues because all the others depend upon it.  And trustworthiness is the sister of truthfulness.  Human civilization cannot survive without them.

How can we rebuild a foundation of trustworthiness in America? 

Well, this is after all a personal responsibility.  We cannot control anyone’s behavior but our own.   Like morality, trustworthiness is only possible with free-will.  It is a choice.

Sometimes I wonder how many of us truly understand the necessity for trustworthiness in a world worth living in.

Each of us is in a position to build trustworthiness with our families and in our communities, even if all the rest of the world succumbs to disunity and degradation.  Trust becomes possible through genuine, unpretentious engagement—honest interpersonal relationships. And yet many of us are possessed by the illusion that trusting relationships are impossible with people we disagree with. This is a problem.

Trust grows through the experience of good will, dependability and patient kindness.  It has nothing to do with opinion. We can begin to experience dependability in working relationships.  And when we get to know people through experience, we discover who they really are and put aside our imagination.

Authentic relationships depend on authentic dialogue.  And in the dysfunctional society we live in today true dialogue is rarely tolerated. Conversations between disinterested or self-indulgent individuals are little more than disconnected monologues.

We cannot understand each other when we fail to listen with the intention of understanding.

Americans have always been a contentious lot.  Yet, we enjoy one another while watching professional sports together over beer and pizza. Some of us have experienced the absolute trust required in the military.  Certainly, soldiers do not agree on everything under the sun.  But they do not question the necessity for trust.

The time will come, as society continues to break down, when personal comfort and possibly even survival itself will depend on trustworthy neighbors.

Can we see that the world is coming apart?  There is no longer time for foolishness.  Cooperation is becoming necessary to resolve local problems and meet shared needs. An inability to engage as neighbors and fellow-citizens committed to dependability, will become increasingly dangerous.

In the last post I wrote about the means for decision-making in communities and small groups where substantial differences exist.  A regular reader on the Facebook page commented: “You are right, but given everything that has happened in the past and is happening today, this is a tough elephant pill to swallow.”

I responded to her: “Hi Caroline. Do you think we have a choice? We are facing a major transition. In my view, a small number of determined Americans can form communities among themselves, and new people can be added gradually–if they are ready to adopt a realistic perspective and discipline. I think you know what I mean: Trustworthiness, dependability, a respectful attitude and the acceptance of differences. You need only to find a few to initiate dialog and begin to sow the seeds. This can take place in scattered locations across the country–wherever good will and rationality survive.”

Engaging with the people around us can be challenging.  But we need not convince them of anything politically or philosophically.  We only need to win them over as good neighbors, with kindheartedness and determination.


You may watch for the next post on or about November 2.

Trust and Dependability in a Dangerous World

What better to think about on Labor Day weekend than how to best work well together—in our families, our communities, our workplace?  Relationships are a part of human life.  We are social beings.  We need relationships to be constructive, to discover meaning and find satisfaction.  And they can easily be stressed or disrupted by aggravations that come from poor communication, or differing perspectives and unrecognized assumptions.

These are natural challenges.  They can be addressed intelligently, respectfully, if we care enough to do so.  However, relationships become far more complicated and charged with emotion when they involve power and vulnerability.  This is true in businesses and institutions, and certainly in governance.  And nothing can disturb a marriage faster than false assumptions or the unjust use of power.

We cannot understand each other when we fail to listen with the intention of understanding.

In the degraded society we live in today genuine dialogue is rarely tolerated. Conversations between disinterested or self-indulgent individuals are little more than disconnected monologues. Decisions are often made with limited information and isolated perspective.  In the disengaged clamor of raw factionalism, an unheeding polity may even avoid input that bears on their own interests.

Suppose there might be value to be gained from an unfamiliar perspective or lived experience?  What if we examined all available knowledge and diversity of experience—and listened to ideas with inquisitive interest? In the end, what is lost by expanding our personal knowledge and understanding?

Are we afraid to integrate our own creative thinking—constructively, judiciously—with that of others if it produces beneficial outcomes? Why?

I address you here with a practical concept:  How can consultation and decision-making be made productive and comfortable for everyone?

Each of us needs a free and supportive atmosphere to represent ourselves for who we are—to share our point of view, to represent our values, to be treated with dignity.  Above all, we need to be heard and responded to.  Otherwise, our presence has no purpose and no community is possible.  

Most of us have experienced the frustration of participating in typical business meetings.  And we are familiar with the mediocrity of the usual outcomes.  I invite you to consider an entirely new way of thinking and doing—a way of engaging with one another respectfully and constructively. 

Effective decision-making requires the use of the knowledge, experience, and creative thinking of everyone participating.

Listening and understanding is essential.  Some people are shy or fearful or generally reticent.  We need to tease out potentially useful thinking, and this requires patience and inquisitive interest. Similarly, a difficult personality can mask a potentially valuable perspective.  Creative ideas or insights can remain hidden if we fail to seek them out. Curiosity is essential.

Problem-solving solutions can emerge unpredictably in even the most complicated circumstances when we assemble them from the aggregate of all available contributions.  The outcomes thus produced are often new and unexpected. 

Our purpose here is to reach solutions or develop plans which are not only mutually agreeable, but are actually the most effective outcomes possible.

This is not consensus.  Consensus reduces outcomes to the lowest common denominator.  Consultative decision-making does the opposite. By incorporating the knowledge, experience, and creative imagination of every participant, decision-making produces outcomes more fruitful and effective than anyone could have expected.

Respectfulness and full participation are essential. Outcomes must receive buy-in from everyone.  No one can be shut down or sidelined.

In an increasingly degraded and dangerous world, it is in everyone’s interest to build fully engaged and agreeable relationships with our neighbors.  All our neighbors. 

Cooperative engagement and good will that creates safety and security are possible despite significant interpersonal differences—when we activate genuine community with steadfast patience.  There is no need to compromise personal values.

Detailed guidance will be made available in my forthcoming book.

Diversity of perspective and experience are extremely valuable resources.  We would do well to make use of them.


The Courage to Engage

If Americans are to create a future we can live with, where personal freedom is protected and prosperity has a foundation in civil order, we must overcome the alienation from each other that prevails today.  Accurate knowledge vanishes when we fail to investigate independently—engaging, listening, seeking true understanding.

Furthermore, significant disagreement on a single issue, or several, does not define another person.  When false assumptions dominate, we never discover how dependable another person might be, especially when we are all in trouble.

If someone is abusive or disrespectful, leave them to themselves.  But many others will respond with dignity.  

Avoiding dialog and lacking courage, we have entered a downward spiral into estrangement.  Americans have always been a contentious lot, but trust has been deteriorating for decades.  It has reached extremes that are untenable.

Without civility and trust, civil order has no footing.  Emotional well-being and the ability to cope with stress are faltering.

We see this all around us.

The present crisis is real and it is complex.  It is physical; it is social; it is moral.  Something is happening to us, and it is not normal.  It cannot be fixed by a superhero—nor by a legion of self-assured politicians.

In the face of societal disintegration, we are helpless without a kind heart and a responsible attitude.

Can we find the courage and generosity of spirit that give us strength?  Can we settle down emotionally with the grace and grit we are surely capable of?

No enduring solutions will be gained by destructive means.  Nobody needs to tell us that.

The United States has been a nation of laws for a reason.  Ethical foundations offer stability, especially in the context of conflict, controversy, and change.

As we all know, cultural values necessarily compete.  Law can be debated, negotiated, altered.  But the rule of law itself—as a fundamental principle and the foundation of order—cannot be corrupted without the eventual collapse of a civilization.

In the midst of turmoil we must tread carefully, judiciously.  Because once the foundations of civil order fracture, there will be no safety and no easy recovery.

The vision embedded in the United States Constitution might not be in the interests of a few.  But most Americans clearly desire the justice and order the Constitution facilitates. And we long for dependability.

Will we rise above our differences to the extent necessary for rational decision-making?  Do we seek safety and cooperation in our local communities?

Civilization depends on a unity characterized by dependability, generosity of spirit, and mutual trust.  If this is our purpose, we will face our challenges with civility and determination.

We will commit to constructive working relationships with our fellow citizens—however great the obstacles.  Our personal integrity, the safety of our families, and a livable future all depend on this.

Let me be clear:  A rational response to the deepening crisis will concentrate our attention on the creation, strengthening and survivability of authentic communities.

The character of the American future will depend on our readiness to engage in constructive action.  This means working shoulder-to-shoulder with our neighbors, whoever they may be.

Building trust is an imposing challenge.  It will take time.  So, creating real community begins with negotiating genuine agreements, respecting personal sensitivities, and the courage to engage responsibly.

This is not easy.  Responsibility never is.

With loyalty, discipline and determination, I submit to you that something far better, far nobler, something perhaps beyond our present ability to imagine, will emerge from the present turmoil.

If, however, we cannot work together effectively to build safe local communities with people we have differences with, we will condemn ourselves to the only possible alternative: a collapsing civilization distinguished by fear and violence, a nightmare for our children, and a land where no principles, no values, no stable order can be realized.


You may watch for the next post on or about September 1.

A reminder to readers: A project description and several sample chapters from the coming book are posted in draft at the top of the homepage.

The Spirit of Liberty

For more than two hundred years the United States has stood before the world as a beacon of hope, as a source of creative energy and as an evolving expression of political freedom, social diversity, and economic vitality. People everywhere have been attracted to the vision it represents. Yet, the extraordinary challenges that confront the American people today mark a turning point and a defining test of America’s place in history. 

We have entered a dark time.  Confronted with economic instability, social disorder, and widespread distrust, it can be easy to forget the unique stature of the United States and the unfolding role it has played in the progress of an ever-advancing civilization. Our economic well-being as a nation has been weakening for decades, and the generosity of spirit for which we have long been known has dimmed.  Confidence in the future is shaken.

There is more than enough blame to go around and we all know about it.  What is essential, however, is that we recover our traditional spirit of generosity and resilience. There is truth in the unity of our national character—in our humanity and the dignity that has always given us courage and self-respect.

Few have expected what we are seeing now.  The future has been altered in unimaginable ways.  Even so, America is blessed with a constitutional order that respects the individual, seeks to protect both minorities and majorities, and makes room for diversity, innovation and creativity. 

The genius of the United States Constitution lies in a simplicity that imposes minimal restraint and allows maximum freedom—all the while requiring moral responsibility and functional cooperation.

It is a legal document, carefully crafted in structure and intentionality.  But it is far more than a simple contract.  It embodies a vision and a trust.  It was prepared by men who cared deeply about the future and about Americans as a people.

The Constitution presents itself today as the gift of an inheritance.  The freedom it promises is anchored in the wisdom of its legislative order, the protections it ensures for the individual, and the means with which it enables constructive change. These are among the essential elements of a civil order that provides Americans with stability and the opportunity to forge a rational future.

The American Founders recognized that the liberty secured through constitutional order will only be as strong as the citizens who make it so.

In what form must this strength manifest itself? 

The unique character of the Constitution depends on moral responsibility and the basic virtues we all know about: Truthfulness, trustworthiness, justice, forbearance—and a prudence that respects the interdependence of these virtues. This expectation of the future is written into the fabric of the American idea. 

Yet we are confronted with unsettling questions in the 21st century.

A multitude of severe crises have brought immense pressures to bear.  Will civil order be torn apart by resentments, distrust and frustration?  Will the nation survive as the constitutional republic envisioned by its founders? Do we have the fortitude and grit to learn the lessons and reaffirm the vision that will lead to a genuine American renewal?  We are living at a pivotal moment.

Will Americans embrace the spirit required of us by the founders, which alone can lead to unity of purpose?  Or will we succumb to a rigidity born of insecurity and fear?

Neither philosophical convictions or the correction of mistakes can be addressed effectively until we answer this question in dialogue, as well as in our own hearts.  Civil disarray and social degradation will remain with us until it is.

Do we believe in the American tradition of good will—the expectation that people of differing persuasions can unite around a common cause?  Do we have the patience to rebuild a national unity that transcends the differences that always exist among a free people?

Or, to put the question another way, will we do what is necessary to make the United States of America whole and to prepare it for the future we deserve?


You may watch for the next post on or about August 1.

Note to readers: This post is lifted from Chapter One, “American Crucible”, in the forthcoming book. The entire chapter is available in draft at the top of the homepage:  http://www.freedomstruth.net.