Over the holiday I made it a point to think about the things that can be done—positive steps for 2022.
It seems to me that at the core of much that ails us is a question that has been largely ignored. It is fundamental not only to mask and vaccine resistance, but also to the attempt to reinstate Donald Trump last year. It is also the impetus behind Build Back Better and the conduct of our foreign policy. The question is: are we really part of a community, or should we or our tribe go through life on our own—as the sole arbiters of our lives and our actions? This quintessentially American question is expressed in two images left to us from past centuries: that of the Marlboro man—the iconic symbol of rugged western individualism—and pioneer barn raisers, those folks who believed in inter-dependent communities. Today, we make little effort to reconcile these contradictory notions of American identity.
Given the polarization, I wonder if we have reached the point when this singular idea of individual freedom damages our capacity to succeed as a local or national community. Perhaps. But has personal subordination to faceless bureaucrats also suffocated many who feel they have lost control of their lives?
Join me this year in finding constructive ways to reengage with our neighbors and fellow citizens—by volunteering, making donations, and talking to people who are afraid and possibly angry. Let’s be a support not just to the people we love, but also to the people we don’t understand. Only by having relationships with one another can we stand together to solve our problems and project confidence abroad. That will be the surest way we can promote and enjoy the individual freedoms we so cherish.
With my warm best wishes for 2022.
PS Regarding the point about America’s foreign policy—please note that in the attempt to find a solution to the potential invasion of Ukraine by Russia, only the United States and Russia are at the negotiating table. How can the European community and Ukraine be left out of what is otherwise a regional crisis? It makes me think of the lone sheriff riding into Dodge ready, single-handedly, to clean up the town.