To speak of rebuilding the foundations of the Republic is not to suggest deficiencies in the structure and process of governance provided by the Constitution. On the contrary, the founders created a structural bulwark for stability that must be defended vigorously whenever necessary.
The foundation many of us are concerned about is that of integrity: Justice, trust, responsibility, and a mutual respect that transcends differences among citizens.
A reader commented on this blog’s Facebook page last week that, “America is at a tipping point because every tenet [and] moral fiber of this nation has been diminished, so that no one is held accountable. [There is] no moral compass because the foundations are removed.”
We do not have to agree on all the details to recognize truth in this view. And, we cannot wait for somebody else to fix it. It is time to stop complaining and to step forward to engage with those around us in securing the safety and well-being of our communities.
Changing our attitude does not require changing opinions or compromising principles. Addressing people and problems with dignity and kindliness will win respect, not harsh or derogatory words.
If we wish to be heard, to share our views and represent our principles, we must do what is necessary to make this possible. Communication and understanding will not be easy until we are cooperating shoulder-to-shoulder with our neighbors to make things right.
No, it will not be easy. But this is how mutual respect begins and the ability to listen becomes genuine.
We will talk more about this later, but the important thing to recognize is that when the going gets tough, relationships count. I don’t just mean next door neighbors, as important as they are. If we find ourselves under threat, directly or indirectly, the last thing we need is neighbors down the road or over the hill who are an unknown quantity.
And, we are not simply talking about making acquaintances here. This is not about borrowing a cup of sugar over the back fence. To create safe communities – to rebuild the nation – we need dependability. And that means trust.
Yes, well, in the midst of this crisis we find that trust is not something that Americans know much about. Mostly we do not believe in it any more. This is a big problem.
We cannot simply start trusting people because we wish to be trusting. The reality we live in is decidedly untrustworthy. Most of the people around us do not have a clear concept of what trust means, much less an understanding of why it is important or what to do about it.
Change will take time. The challenge begins with our willingness to take initiative, to be patient, to accept differences, and, most of all, to listen to others with interested curiosity. If we wish to be heard it is usually necessary to first convince others that we are actually hearing them. Only then will we be heard.
In his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“, Stephen Covey wrote:
“If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. So why does this happen? Because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand.”
We can all see that the loss of trust has accompanied the loss of civil order and security in this country. We know there are serious structural problems that must be addressed, but I hope we can also see why trust will serve a vital role in recovering stability and prosperity.
Learning how to build trust will come in the context of practical experience – teaming up to work closely with one another, resolving practical problems and meeting needs in our communities.
Without trust the American republic faces existential danger. And, without personal cooperation and understanding no trust is possible and no progress is attainable.
Next week: Finding our balance in the storm
Dear readers, I would appreciate your feedback: ideas, viewpoints, and observations. Expansive reader engagement on the Facebook page has been quite helpful.