Of the multiple challenges America now faces, one is most fundamental: Achieving a responsible balance between individual freedom and constructive pursuit of the common good.
Our nation’s future has been repeatedly threatened by self-destructive temptations to neglect the common good – intentionally or not – when our sense of liberty is degraded by false claims and deluded, self-serving leadership.
In part, this unhealthy pattern stems from a misunderstanding of the country’s legacy, founded in rebellion against abusive authority, which gives vaunted status to the individual. It has been further distorted by misconceptions and misdirection derived from classic commentary on the American identity, such as Emerson’s “Self-Reliance.”
At the heart of the matter is how we decide to use our individual abilities – whether to insightfully reexamine and revitalize our commitment to shared purposes, or to fabricate and defend unfounded assertions that create scapegoats to blame for ordeals being suffered.
When the sacred bonds of society are frayed by reckless devotion to selfish agendas that thwart the humanitarian principles of compassion and fairness, our quest to advance America’s founding aspirations is subverted by malignant exploitation, distrust, and violence.
Many now wonder if we can regain America’s potential to cultivate a durable, mutually promising future. The answer largely depends on our collective ability to acknowledge the vital interconnections and interdependencies among humans – not only fellow Americans, but all those who share the blessings, and limitations, of Earth’s prolific but vulnerable abundance.
We must now thoughtfully dedicate our liberties to redefining and serving the common good.
David Kyler Center for a Sustainable Coast St. Simons Island
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