Monday, January 19, 2009

The Audacity of America

The United States remains the symbol of possibility for the world. The past eight years has sorely challenged that notion in more ways than most of us could ever imagine. But with the change of American leadership, brought about by the sweeping rebuke of Republicanism on November 4, 2008, we are reborn before all. Even in the throes of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, a palpable sense of joy or at least relief is in the air, on the minds, and is being expressed quite explicitly in the words of nearly everyone. Obviously I’m a political junkie and have no trouble voicing my thoughts on such issues but lately I’ve been hearing people at every level of society making their own statements about how good it is that we’re making this switch and that the Bush era is finally coming to an ignominious close.

The audacity of America is that we actually believe in the promise of our founding ideas. We regularly argue over the meaning of those ideas and how we might achieve their promise but it doesn’t change the fact that as a nation we agree that we are on a journey. It’s a journey Barack Obama also regularly refers to. He refers to our ongoing efforts to form a more perfect Union. By doing so he is challenging us to get more directly and deeply involved in what in means to be a citizen in this country.

The idea of America demands that we take citizenship seriously. Because of the demands of true citizenship, it is part of the reason the founders had no interest in extending it to all of the residents of the original 13 states. We The People are not idle words and they don’t represent an abstract concept. When my friend Barry calls us the collective “you” he intends that we take it personally as intended by the Constitution. He has been given a set of responsibilities which immediately put him in league with Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln at the start of their terms. It’s pretty obvious to see that he is ready to take his responsibilities as seriously as his predecessor often failed to do. He expects us to do the same and I suspect is not going to hesitate to remind us of it.

We must now do a better job of knowing ourselves, knowing each other, and our respective places as citizens of this country. Continued failure to do so may very well assure that we forever lose the chance to regain any part of a stature only recently thought unshakeable. We must become more thoughtful, more aware, more genuinely critical of each and every proposal put forth by the new government. We have little room for error anymore after 8 years of fairly complete neglect. The ship of state is rotted but it must continue to float or we and very likely the entire world as we know it is sunk. We must be especially wary of the renewed use of tired labels used to frighten us about concepts which have no relation to the problems we face. We must be leery of the greedy and the selfish who would substitute the long-term health of the nation for their own short-term gain. The goal as mentioned in earlier posts is to reject ideology in favor of solid, practical solutions to what are not yet but very nearly intractable problems.

As my friend Barry has stated, we tend to be at our best when things are teetering on their very worst. It’s been a long time since things were genuinely this dangerous in so many ways. The biggest threat to our continued happy existence as a nation though is not from without, but more truly within, from our own failure to rise to the tasks before us. We have a chance to rebuild this nation into something resembling a more perfect Union. If we work, and argue, and challenge each other together, anything is possible. It’s an audacious belief, but it’s been that way since the absurd notion of forming a democracy on this continent was first considered. It is an audacity understood and marveled at by people in other countries throughout the world and it’s high time we become more acquainted with our own audacious heritage and renew it for ourselves and our posterity again.

1 comment:

Pudgy McCabe said...

I thought Buchanan’s take on the Inaugural Address was interesting (link above).