A shorter version of what’s written below was published on Friday, August 14 in The New York Times, as a comment to This is Where I Stand, the opinion column from David Brooks:
Thanks to President Barack Obama and two recent columns in The New York Times, I’m wondering if we aren’t finding (at last) a framework for how we can rebuild our society. Or how we can start to rebuild our society.
First of all, we now have a reasonable and workable definition of American Democracy. On August 11, in responding to the selection of Senator Kamala Harris as Joseph Biden’s Vice-Presidential candidate, President Obama gave us that definition. To me, it seems to be a slightly different way of thinking about what we’ve always called American Democracy, incorporating elements or attributes of democracy that have not been strongly emphasized (or even included) in the past:
I’ve known Senator Harris for a long time. She is more than prepared for the job. She’s spent her career defending our Constitution and fighting for folks who need a fair shake. Her own life story is one that I and so many others can see ourselves in: a story that says that no matter where you come from, what you look like, how you worship, or who you love, there’s a place for you here. It’s a fundamentally American perspective, one that’s led us out of the hardest times before. And it’s a perspective we can all rally behind right now. (Emphasis added.]
When I read this, I thought about what Roger Cohen wrote in The Times on June 28:
The question of course is whether this awakening [the protests] can achieve what even the Civil Rights Movement could not: the full humanization of Black Americans.
On Friday, David Brooks in The New York Times did a good job of identifying the “crises tearing our society.” They are economic inequality, racial injustice, dissolving families and communities, a crisis of legitimacy. … Continuing, Brooks suggested that what he calls “conservative radicalism” might lead us to “a more prudent and moderate” framework for thinking about how we can get to a more humanist focus for our American society:
The founders of the Black Lives Matter organization put racial injustice at the top of the national conversation.
Radicals are good at opening our eyes to social problems and expanding the realm of what’s sayable.
But if you look at who actually leads change over the course of American history, it’s not the radicals. At a certain point, radicals give way to the more prudent and moderate wings of their coalitions. … The people who come in their wake and actually make change are conservative radicals. They believe in many of the radicals’ goals but know how to work within the democratic framework to achieve them.
Isn’t it time now to put it all together and make American Democracy work? How do we do that?
Of course we vote. That’s the first step.
But what comes next? How do we change the thinking of American citizens who don’t care whether American Democracy works? How do we move from individualism and “me-me-me” to a broader perspective, including others in our thinking?
How do we move to the humanization of all Americans?