THE AMERICA THAT NEEDS TO EMERGE
The Tucson tragedy has made all too obvious the toxic atmosphere of these times. By atmosphere, I am not referring to a political rhetoric that has become violently inciting or to how easy killing machines get in the hands of people or even to how neglected mental health attention to college students is. I am talking about a totality, about a complete sum of the culture, not to aspects or particles of it. I believe that it is this core what needs to be addressed now. For we have to find, as people, the wisdom and the will to make of this moment a decisive turning point in our history, the point where the nation corrected its spiral down path.
In this context, what the country clamors is not for the typical bandage solution because, in truth, the disease is already too big and too advanced. For our very survival as a nation, our democracy, is at stake deeply challenged as it is by the economic crisis and the embittered political divisions. Therefore, the longing is for a new vision, for a new meaningful unifying definition of what it means to be an American today.
So, it is to that end that I want to advance the following insight in, perhaps, the hope of starting the national conversation that we so critically need on this theme. To start, I perceive that there is a glaring need to search for the roots of our divisionism. To begin in that direction, we have to go way back in time and space. For it was historian Hans Kohn who used to call the Jews "the people of the ear"(they listened to the voice of God) and the Greeks "the people of the eye"(they saw the beauty and balance of creation). Indeed, the history of the Western world cannot be understood without studying the interplay of these two fundamental forces, the Judeo Christian on one hand and the Greco Roman on the other. It needs to be asserted here that, at depth, these are the two quarreling worldviews that in tearing each other apart are threatening our democracy these days.
Strictly, the American political divide is spiritual. It revolves around how we perceive God. Historically, the Judeo Christians with their belief in the relational biblical God and its derivative emphasis on personal freedom, individual responsibility and limited government has been with us since our beginnings. Today, they are largely found in the "in between" states and in the small towns of America. In this hypothesis, the closer an individual is to this belief system, the more likely he will be Republican or conservative. On the other side, the Greco Romans who tend to think of God as Someone or Somebody up there (an abstraction) or no God and strongly believe in the intellectual and artistic side of man and solidly developed with the European immigration to the coasts in the nineteenth century. Subsequently, the closer an individual is to this belief system the more likely he will be Democrat or liberal.
To be sure, some may object to this clear cut division since indeed many of us are “hybrids”, individuals who share beliefs from both groups. Catholics, for example, who have adopted Greek values under the influence of scholasticism often fall into that category. Others such as the philosophy influenced social gospel groups belong there too. Indeed, this hypothesis is not only rooted on western history but also on two well evidenced facts: our kind of belief in God informs our values and people with the same belief system tend to group together.
Now, at this quite crucial moment of our history there’s no emergency as critical as the integration of these two separate worldviews into our national soul. This is the more urgent with the economic crisis literally tied up to the drastic interplay of their opposite positions. Conservatives propose that the primary role of government is to unleash the creative forces of the people and liberals that it is to attend to economic justice. But, in truth, the America that needs to emerge has to be of a vision that transcends both.
Only then, when we finally grasp that vision, the Tucson victims didn’t die in vain.