In an excellent article in the November 16, 2020, edition of The New Yorker, Evan Osnos poses this question:
What would it take to pull American politics out of the fire? To make democracy more functional and trustworthy? To make Americans feel, in any real sense, that we are all in this together?
Osnos is exploring, in his article, the same issues that Quillette examined in the article I mentioned in my blog posting yesterday. In the hard-copy edition, Osnos' article is titled, "The Violent Style." Online, which is where the next link will take you, the article is titled, "Pulling Our Politics Back from the Brink."
Absent some change, both Osnos and Quillette forsee a politics of ever-greater division, polarization, and violence. The nice thing about Osnos' article is that he does provide a number of examples from American history, showing that the kind of violent polarization we are now experiencing has been experienced before in our history, and that we have managed to survive and to prevail.
Still, the "What's it going to take?" question must be confronted. We are, as Osnos indicates, and as I am rather fond of saying myself, "all in this together." That's the simple truth. So, how do we find a way to start "operationalizing" this fundamental fact?
- #1 - Solitude, according to Osnos, is contraindicated. The "Bowling Alone" phenomenon indicates a breakdown of the kind of civic, social, and leisure connections that are vital to maintain a democratic society. We need to build new institutions of community engagement.
- #2 - "Words matter" Osnos tells us. Language that elevates the individual, and that makes individual selfishness the proper ambition to which we should all aspire, sends the wrong message.
- #3 - Changes in laws and institutions can restore "Our Common Purpose." In fact, says Osnos, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has published a report with just that title, listing a set of thirty-one proposals that can help restore American democracy.
Not specifically mentioned by Osnos, or in "Our Common Purpose," is finding a national project upon which we can all cooperate - a project that is urgently required of us, and that binds us all together in exactly the kind of "common purpose" that serves as the title of the study that Osnos says can give us some hope.
We don't have a World War II to galvanize such common purpose, but we do have the global warming crisis. Dealing with that urgent crisis will require us all to unite - not only nationally, but globally.
As we are taking notes on how we can help everyone understand that we are, truly, "in this together," let's add a Green New Deal to the list!
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