DEMOCRACY - Gareth Higgins
I love America, but I sometimes fear it.
I dream of America, but it sometimes shows up in my nightmares. I know I'm not the only one.
Living here has brought overwhelming gifts of love, community, service, creativity and hope.
It has also stimulated feelings of uncertainty, anger, and deep concern.
In his song DEMOCRACY, Leonard Cohen wrote of the US that "It's there they've got the range, the machinery for change, and it's there they've got the spiritual thirst." We're nearly a year in to a presidency that less than a third of US Americans voted for, but many of the rest of us are still experiencing some kind of exhaustion, mild dread, anxiety, and a sense of powerlessness.
It could be useful to reflect that the range, the machinery for change, the spiritual thirst are what allows someone like Donald Trump to think he could be elected, but they also nearly got such a common good-oriented figure as Bernie Sanders to the White House too.
They're what allows ideas and events as varied, brilliant and awful as the invasion of Iraq *and* the national parks system, the Transformers movies and Schindler's List, the writings of aggressive nationalism but also of Maya Angelou and Mark Twain, the alt-right and the civil rights movement, the subprime mortgage crisis and the existence of Habitat for Humanity.
America does things BIG. American confidence can be good for the world.
When those BIG things are grounded not in ideology but wisdom (which includes, but is not limited to, data verified by emotionally mature people accountable to bodies of knowledge and peer scrutiny), not destructive or reactive energy but creativity and imagination, and a recognition of how the common good is called the common good because it's good for everyone, not limited to already privileged social or economic groups, remarkably good things happen.
When those BIG things are grounded in over-confidence, arrogance, or simple selfishness, remarkably bad things happen.
That's why people dream of America, even while fearing it.
When something like a national truth and reconciliation process happens in the US, it could be better resourced than any previous such endeavor.
When amends are made for slavery and its legacy, it will be a beacon to the world.
When the indigenous people of this land are offered meaningful apology for what was done to and taken from them, followed by adequate amends and ultimately reconciliation, the creative energy unleashed may indeed be unlike any previous imagined.
When the highest values of the declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution (especially the implications for equality which the signers did not understand) fully manifest themselves, America might actually come into being.
If it is indeed here that they've got the range, the machinery for change, and the spiritual thirst, then I want to ask just what we might *do* with that range, machinery, and thirst.
Many of us have said a lot of necessary "no"s in the past year. We have the resources to do remarkable things. What are we going to say "yes" to? What could we love America into becoming?