One of the themes I've been hammering at in almost all my postings on The People's View since Deaniac graciously allowed me into the stable of wonderful writers here is that America is at a crossroads. It is a fork in the road, with one path leading towards a future of love, hope, and charity, and the other which will take us along a path of hatred, division, and a nightmarish conception of "individualism", where we owe nothing to each other and are on our own.
The most striking part of Pres. Obama's speech last night was when he basically spoke about the social compact which has underpinned the American Dream more or less for most of the nation's history. No, it wasn't perfect; many people were excluded from it for much of that history. But certainly in the past few decades that compact has become a firmer ideal, the underlying music of the American experiment. If you work hard and do right by society, society will do right by you. There is no free lunch; we all have to pull our weight; but, if we do, we will build a society that is fair to all its members, and one that will leave something better for future generations. It is the hope that today will be better than yesterday, and that tomorrow will bring wonders we can only dream of in this quotidian time.
There's that word that we on this side of the political divide use all the time: hope. But, with hope, there's a word that acts as a corollary, a necessary ingredient: love.
I'm certainly not talking about romantic love. And I'm not even talking about agape, the "brotherly love" of Christian theology. If I have to quantify it, it's a bit of a self-interested love to which I refer. It's a love which says: "I want to do well. I want to have comfort surrounding me. I want a life which is free from want, from war, from pestilence. But to do this, I have to love other people enough to want the same for them. Because only if they share in the same bounty, will my life be secure."
This is a love which recognizes the worth of every human. It's not a love which posits that I'll like everyone; many are the cases where you love a person but can take them only in small doses. It is a love which is a societal love, one that says that if society is to remain strong, to remain one worth living in, all of its members have to be cared for, all of its members need a the tools and the support to achieve their dreams.
Society is less when a mother opens a bill and sees charges for hundreds of thousands of dollars because her child spent a week in hospital without insurance. Society is less when a loving gay couple can't sanctify their love in the same way that I, a straight male, can with my partner. Society is less when a white, blue-collar worker -- who might be politically opposed to our party and philosophy -- sees his job terminated and sourced out to a country with cheaper labor and non-existent labor laws, while his former employers make off with a tidy profit. The love of a good society must extend to them, to every member of this commonwealth, if we're not to descend from the American Dream to the American Nightmare.
Here's the thing, which is evidenced by the young lady who posted that vile tweet: Love is hard. It is not the easy path. It is not the path of least resistance. Hatred is easy; it's easy to scapegoat, to castigate, to attack the Other. It took years to build the World Trade Center; it took hours to bring down the towers. Hate and destruction are powerful because they're easy; they require no work, but a surrendering to the reptile brain which forms the base of our consciousness.
Love, faith, hope, charity: those require the strength of saints and demi-gods. When someone is yelling at you, spittle flying out of his mouth, screeching about "socialism", "black panthers", "outsider", it is the extreme of difficulty to view him not as some alien monster, but as a frightened, fallible human being, who fears change, who fears that he will have no place in the new world that is being born. But, difficult as it is, gargantuan as the task is, he must be accorded the same consideration as we give to those who are closest to us. Family doesn't end at the front door. This nation is a family, and it rises or falls as one.
It's not easy. I have no simple prescriptions. I work at it every day, and fail quite a bit. The first step is to gain breathing room by winning this election. And then, with that breathing room, continue to work to perfect the union, so that hatred and fear are deprived of their oxygen, so as to show that this future for which we are working should fill no one with fear, but with a hope that things will get better, stronger, fairer. It really is the only hope we have.