Editor: On 9/11 we lost our innocence, we felt our vulnerability, and we went on. We engaged in two unwinnable wars that helped to cripple our economy and our confidence in ongoing upward mobility. Our politics has soured, descending into a relentless blame game, shamelessly cheered on and inspired by frighteningly brazen right-wing hawkers of hate. To them, civility, liberalism, taxation, regulation and the public good are terms of derision rather than core values.
Is this the American dream come true? Mistrust in government is at once American and un-American. We have had from our colonial beginnings an aversion to strong centralized power. We took care to integrate into our Constitution the separation of powers and the sharing of power by national, state and local authorities. At the same time, we have embraced a pluralistic democracy committed to “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” It’s not complicated to define what that means: government is in the people’s hands and is for the people’s good.
Sometimes I wonder if we can save ourselves from ourselves, but then, let’s look ahead, as we must. We have seen a ray of hope in what is often considered the most troubled and troubling part of the world – the Middle East. The craving for democracy has now been articulated throughout the region by peaceful demonstrations – in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain – and most recently in Israel, which is a democracy, but one which is not answering the needs of all its citizens. We see citizens insisting on the right to be responsible for their own destinies and for the public good – a right that we enjoy -and at times forget. My hope is that we will take inspiration from the spirit of these actions and remember who we are.