ELLIOT: A duty to hope

There is no need to catalog the domestic distractions, the political gridlock and gamesmanship, the cultural confrontations, and the faltering familial structure that is America today.We see it all around us. We know it in our hearts.Is there any solution?When it is possible to peer through the clamorous battle-fog of our own problems, over the ramparts we see only more trouble on the surrounding plain. Religious zealots, dictators and tyrants, slavers and pirates, madmen with missiles. Near-suicidal foreign democracies are but dimming lights in a darkening world.Is there any hope?Many of you say no. In countless ways I hear you say that things are too far gone to bring back. The other side, most say, is bent on a path of destruction. Greedy for power and incapable of reason the enemy is. Worthy of nothing but scorn, ridicule, and — most importantly — any and all means of resistance. The certainty of utterly destructive means, justified by the prospect of incrementally better ends.A few see the problem not on the other side, but on the sides themselves. The wings are cumbersome, they say. Too heavy to lift the scrawny center, too busy with fractious fighting to elevate.To be sure, we have been here before, or somewhere like it. First, a too-weak confederation of self-interested states. Then a devastating war between regional interests, all for a resolution that was at least half as bad as the status quo ante. Two world wars to settle the question of whether war is a glorious calling or a total tragedy. Cultural upheaval of the family that produced problems even as it solved them. A half-century “war” that caused us so to fear our own obliteration that we chose to let innocents on the other side of the curtain die by the millions rather than act.But we came through. Time and again, the American spirit pulled the country out of the depths and into a better place. Not a perfect place, but a better place.In a famous speech in 1980, Ronald Reagan quoted John Wayne: “Just give the American people a good cause, and there’s nothing they can’t lick.”To that we should add another president’s thoughts. “There is nothing wrong with America,” Bill Clinton said in his first inaugural address, “that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”In these two declarations lie the tools and the temperament to solve our problems. They told us the answer, but can anyone hear?There is no hope, many of you say — don’t you agree?But I can’t. I can’t believe this time — right now — is where the shining City on a Hill begins to dim.My disbelief is not based on political calculations, public opinion polls, or even a bedrock belief in the spirit of America. It is based on something different.I have a duty to hope.I first bore this duty eight years ago, when my wife and I decided to have a child. God gave us twins, and our concern for their future will brook no despair.We teach them to be courageous and kind, to follow the Golden Rule and to pray. We teach them that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, and that those words have meaning. We do not teach them that these principles and ideas lead inexorably to a particular ideology, policy choice, or political party. I doubt they even know what a political party is.We teach them that the world is not to be absorbed, but discerned. We do not teach them that people or groups with different ideas for solving America’s problems are evil, stupid, or insane. We tell them to give the benefit of the doubt to others until reasonable doubt is gone.We try to live up to those rules ourselves. We fail. They fail. But we all go on, as America must.Americans have a duty to hope, and a responsibility to leave behind us what every generation since 1776 has left: a better country and world than we found.
Drew Elliot is a member of the North State Journal’s editorial board, separate from the news staff. Unlike other newspapers, the North State Journal does not publish unsigned editorials; the author or authors of every editorial, letter, op-ed, and column is prominently displayed. To submit a letter or op-ed, see our submission guidelines.