“Few are guilty but all are responsible,” the great religious scholar and leader Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote about the moral state of a people. As a people, we Americans are at a turning point in our history. The core issue challenging us is alienation. Alienation is at the root of decades of increasing violence and misogyny. It is at the root of destruction for destruction’s sake in our politics, too many newscasts, and internet vitriol. And it is at the root of how we have failed to come together to respond effectively to the pandemic, to gun violence, and to climate change. Out of my deep concern and fear, this is the sixth of six posts which are passages from chapters 12 and 13 in my book The Midnight Hour which I believe can help us reclaim responsibility for the spirit of our country.
Taking Responsibility for Daring to Accept Reality and Our Power to Change It
During my lifetime my parents, along with many others living through the Great Depression, committed to create a new reality for our country through the New Deal of President Roosevelt. They began their endeavor by demanding political leadership that recognized something was badly wrong and had the courage and vision to take the country forward. Action and change became their watchwords.
Shortly after the Depression, our country experienced a devastating defeat at Pearl Harbor and in the Philippine Islands that resulted in the terrible Bataan Death March where additional thousands of our service men and women died. My parents and our country responded to this crisis with a full commitment to as hared purpose and direction. With courage and sacrifice in the next four-and-a-half years they changed the history of the world. They changed it again by helping their former enemies rebuild their countries and restructure their futures. Then they changed the world again with the Marshall Plan that helped restore the foundation of war-torn Europe. They were not the perfect generation, but they earned the title of the “greatest generation.” This is our heritage in my lifetime. Dare we forget it? This is the heritage of America’s strength, “in the ability to stand up to any challenges, no matter how difficult or daunting.” Can I, can we, like they did, have the courage to leave our comfort zones, especially those of hatred, ideology, and fear-driven greed, and face the commitment to create a new national reality?
The quest in much of this book is to face the truth of our personal and national reality. A quest Dr. Jung put at the heart of our efforts to become whole and to fulfill the purpose of our lives. This pursuit means facing our shadow, the unpleasant truths about ourselves that we have automatically sought to hide and deny. As a nation we hide behind statistics like the unemployment rate. We hide behind our material success. We hide behind our myths, like everyone has a chance for success through hard work. We hide behind our façade of positive thinking and we hide behind our frantic busyness.
There is no question that we need to make fundamental changes and we need to make them fast. The incremental approach will not bring healing or civility, or return us to a sense of community. To think we can’t change the status of our poor, our sick, our prisoners, and develop racial unity (as our great religions instruct us to do) means our fear and regressive impulses are limiting our capacity for creativity, courage, and vision.
Let us be brave enough to tell the truth about global warming. It is a life or death issue! We have a choice: to fully mobilize together to prevent it or to admit we are choosing to participate in causing the greatest humanitarian disaster in history. Every day that goes by without a full commitment to change is another step toward creating a hell for our own grandchildren and all grandchildren to live in.
We are challenged today to become a new great generation—to revitalize our national spirit. We are called to re-ground ourselves in the founding values of our country that initially formed the heart of the American story. This foundation will support us to face and confront the dramatic challenges before us today.
Thoughts and Questions to Ponder
We are at a turning point in our nation’s history and the future is asking us four questions:
- Will we step up to the plate and as citizens reclaim our democratic republic?
- Will we re-humanize our culture by reclaiming our founding values?
- Will we commit ourselves to saving this planet and tomorrow for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and humanity?
- Will we claim our heritage and become the next “greatest generation”?
Go deeper into this and related topics in The Midnight Hour: A Jungian Perspective on America’s Current Pivotal Moment.
Book Excerpts and Resources
, America, citizenship, Elder Wisdom, responsibility, struggles
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