Our urgent duty as Americans is to assure, from this point forward, that the truth, like the sun, rises each and every day.
Like many of my readers, I am in the last phase of my life. And, like you, I do not know how long it will last. I have had great successes and great failures. I have laughed and I have cried. My heart has been filled with joy and emptied by the pain of loss. And like you, I have known—from a very young age—the difference between right and wrong; between truth and lies.
In moments of weakness, humans can lose their grip on reality; we can become susceptible to deceit—especially if in so doing it makes us feel strong again. This is what Trump has done to millions of Americans; Americans who feel weakened by a world that is moving in directions that threaten their position in social, economic, and political order. I have referred to this in other writings as the period of Great Dispossession. Specifically, to white Christian nationalists who were easily captured by Trump’s rhetoric of reclaiming an American retrotopia perhaps best illustrated in the paintings of Norman Rockwell.
Pluralism—a fundamental tenet of Americanism—which was once a clarion call to the world to join us in the American experiment, was flipped from ideal to threat for those targeted by Trump. Science and technology—that assured America’s place as a hegemonic superpower and literally extended our lives by decades—became a suspicious and dangerous regime deployed by highly educated elites. Knowledge and reason, revered at our nation’s birth as a gift of the Age of Enlightenment, has been traded for beliefs corrupted by blind faith in purveyors of deceit—con men—operating at all levels of our society. The Age of Deceit has reigned down upon us.
It was said by many, including president-elect Joe Biden, that the events of January 6th in our nation’s capital do not represent “who we are.” I beg to differ. Today, what has happened and may continue to happen, is exactly who we are. It is ugly, embarrassing, and shameful, but we must each own our part—either through our active participation or our inactive complicity—if we are to have a chance of redemption and renewal. We must own this truth.
Since as early as 2010, in this blog, I have warned about an emerging move toward the impulse of fascism in America. I have warned about the degradation of the American values, writing most extensively about it in my 2020 book, Saving America in the Age of Deceit. In public meetings in my own hometown, shortly after Trump’s election, I labeled him a wannabe fascist and further warned that the great irony of his presidency would be that while America has faced many existential threats throughout its history that today, as appalling as it was, that threat resided in the Oval Office. Many looked at me as if I were crazy, others just hoped I would be proven wrong. I was neither.
We must, once again, see our country through clear eyes and full hearts. One of the great lessons of my life has been to work carefully and deliberately to always see things as they are as opposed as to how I might like them to be. To be always and ever curious. To question the givens. To learn even when it hurts. As we age, we have a choice: do we become hardened in our thinking—intellectually sclerotic—or open to new knowledge and emerging realities? The first path leads to isolation and anger; the second path to fulfillment and transcendence. The first life passes holding a bucket of resentment; the second swaddled by grace in a state of peace. Which will you be?
Another tenet of Americanism is the prospect of second chances. Who we are today, as painfully illustrated in our nation’s capital this week, does not have to be who we become. Those with open and curious minds are always becoming. Those with empathy lift others up to see the view they see: the promise on the horizon of hope where we must—immediately—allow truth to rise again.