Common Destiny and a New Beginning

by Jerry King

Tumultuous times, these. So, are we falling headlong toward societal collapse? Some commentators think we are, and they have plenty of evidence: Racial and ethnic hatred on open display; long-emerging wide-spread distrust of elected leadership; indeed, a Whitehouse with an uncertain grasp on truthfulness; assaults on institutions created to protect the environment, public health and natural resources, on the courts and the press. Cue Pogo: We have met the enemy and he is us.

So, are we going to hell in a handbasket? History gives us reason to hope that the pendulum of political and social values will swing back to center, but does each successive wider swing leave an indelible mark, permanent change on American’s values and expectations?  And if we do see a corrective swing of the pendulum, what then? Can we escape these ever-reactive cycles? Find and hold onto a progressive center of gravity?  Do we have it in us to stop the destructive and unsustainable pattern of swings not simply between left and right, but from respect and pluralism to resentment and division, from generosity and shared responsibility to me and mine first? 

If we believe that a corrective swing of the pendulum is inevitable, then it’s not too soon to try to understand how we will move toward living together going forward. That is whether it’s possible over time for us to alter the ways we think about each other, communicate, share responsibility.

Healing is both personal and societal. If some Americans feel that they’ve been passed over by economic growth or their values ignored by rapid social change, what measures will widen circles of inclusion? If we have fear and resentment of newcomers among us, what will build familiarity, trust and appreciation? Is it possible to grow among Americans not only belief in our common destiny but habits and expectations of shared responsibility as well? The inclusive language of the Earth Charter points us toward answers to those questions – if only we can find the will and imagination.

Earth Charter