We Americans believe so strongly in the principles of justice and fairness that they’re baked into our founding documents. That doesn’t mean the road there isn’t littered with major obstacles. But when we keep our collective eye on that destination, we inch closer. The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Somehow the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”¹ Amen.
So, too, America’s moral arc is long. Conservative as I am, I don’t agree with the über-conservative ideology that only God can bend that arc, that we foolish mortals confuse ourselves with the Divine if we try to intervene.² Of course I don’t believe that. Yes, we need God’s guidance, but We, the People, must all endeavor to keep our eyes on the compass, which does not lie, and keep our own footing firmly aimed toward the true north principles on which our great nation was founded. We need to stay as grounded as we were in the days we stood at Ground Zero.
We cannot think of King’s “somehow” as an abstract concept, dependent on the caprice of otherworldly forces. God has endowed us with the will to, and the means to, rule our own lives. A general does not have to whisper to and nudge every soldier in every trench and battlefield. All good soldiers know the general’s will, his or her commands, the mission.
How do we invest in the noble values and mission-based actions in praxis? We see it every day. Remember, the concept is easy to grasp: goals come from missions, which begin in our values.
It’s our intuition about what’s wrong and right that keeps us from another civil war like the one that nearly rent us in twain forever. We might disagree with each other in manifold and critical ways, but the vast majority of us remember we’re all American, our states are united, we stand for something. If nothing else, it’s the relatively peaceful transition of power from one end of the political continuum to the other—or off the whole damn chart entirely for a time. It’s what keeps us from clubbing each other in the street.
Rabid Democrats and ferocious Republicans, for the most part, don’t come to physical blows no matter how heated their rhetoric gets. More of that, please. More awareness of, and clarity about, those things that bond and fuse us rather than fracture and break us.
Those are Ground Zero Values: a love of liberty and freedom and individual expression. A pride for our stunning endowments and triumphs, even as we keep an honest eye on how far we still need to go.