Perhaps one of the greatest threats today is that truth seems absent in the popular imagination. It is difficult to envision a more poignant challenge to the Enlightenment’s gifts of rational inquiry and the ideals of life, liberty, and universal equality. Instead, we serve propagandists who have successfully undermined our ability to even hear one another, much less believe one another.
Truth’s hiatus means we cannot rely on the Constitution’s separation of powers alone for our continued success. According to legend, Benjamin Franklin was asked at the close of the Second Constitutional Convention in September of 1787 about the type of government the Founders had established. “A republic, if you can keep it,” he replied.
Our work is cut out for us. We must combat secrecy and expose conflicts of interest. We must not accept personal attacks that deflect attention from pertinent matters. We cannot stand aside while the rights of citizens who don’t fit a particular image are assaulted, or while the ruts of structural inequity become channels, or while our public lands are sold to the highest bidder. That our government represents the people compels us to proclaim and defend the rights of all citizens.
Therefore, as we consider the “normalization” of comments that denigrate women or people of color; as we watch the media – our only outlet for information and insights into our public institutions – be discredited; as we witness the dismantling of government itself; and as we participate in the design and fabrication of a violent, dystopian reality, we are compelled to find common ground and raise a clarion call. A call to all of those who seek social and economic justice, who value civil liberties, a clean and healthy environment and thriving ecosystems, and who are committed to promoting resilient communities.
We should not be surprised that we have reached this point in our history. Every nation has faced fundamental challenges to its identity and we are no exception. The question now is what will each of us do to help create a better world for the next generations? Assuming we choose to engage, then we must make a commitment to move beyond an extremist, oversimplified view of our complex world, revisit human history as it relates to our founding values, and work together create a modern “city upon a hill” that people and nations worldwide once strived to emulate.