We are near a time of national Thanksgiving, and one of our greatest blessings is our unique status as the freest nation on earth. There is little in the American experiment not made better by the quality of our citizenship, and there is a great deal that suffers when it is not at its very best.
“The highest form of thought, “ G. K. Chesterton once said, is gratitude. This requires slowing down, and valuing our blessings. Giving thanks, having appreciation, holding within us the grains of humility, helps bring us a new harmony.
As a people, we have a duty to stem any tide of sectarian bitterness whenever it flows inward to affect the national spirit and soul. We cannot hold to views and beliefs outgrown, which seem to have captured both political parties today.
There is nothing in the Constitution about mental preferences, or whose view beyond our very citizenship, renders one person more fit than another. Government was never meant to run with a school of thought, which can expire, but live at equidistance from prevailing enthusiasms, which change. The same is far truer of citizen prejudices. Our founders knew liberty and power couldn’t be put in a box.
Early on, Jefferson and Madison very much helped point the way for us. Madison proudly wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson as far back as January 22, 1786, how the statute on religious freedom they wrote “extinguished forever the ambitious hope of making laws for the human mind.”
Unfortunately, the mind has not become free, as Madison cherished it would, but swept into an organized new creed in modern life, sewn in a fabric of educational credentials, and styled and hardened as political correctness.
But democracy is a restless concept. It forces those who want it for themselves to accept it for others. Citizenship is constantly being reborn — it is this rebirth that fuels our Nation’s vitality. As Bob Dylan, who just received the Nobel Prize for Literature, is famous for saying, “He not busy being born is busy dying.”
We must live somehow above our times – to correct them. All of us are part of a fold larger than ourselves. For things to be better, we must make them better. The current political tsunami in the country makes it more vital than ever to try and design the foundation of our future citizenship. But how?
Unless we own our future as citizens more, the precious seed of freedom can stagnate. Only by owning our collective citizen heart when it wearies of division, the unstable, and the barren in life, are we able to renew ourselves.
Owning where we are is part of life’s equation and preparation in this world. It conditions us for the birth of the seed of hope – the growth, the fulfillment, and next steps, in this case, in the rising ladder of American citizenship.
If the American Dream is to return, citizenship will be the path by which it comes back. The Public Square is there for all of us, but there is also a public square within each of us.
As Dylan in Mr. Tambourine Man once sang to the world – “Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free….” The simple channels of the heart are the way we will prevail in the world. Citizenship is our human and spiritual infrastructure. It underlies all else.