Have we lost our commitment to, and understanding of, the common good? (Part Two)
By Chris Honoré
In my most recent op ed I pondered the question, “What have we become?” I thought I knew: a republic, of the people, by the people, a nation committed to the common good. Indeed, the common good, meaning, according to one scholar, “the good … attainable only by the community, yet individually shared by all members.” In our liberal democracy, examples would be our civil liberties, public schools, road systems, libraries and public safety. To name only a few.
But recently, most especially since the beginning of the pandemic, I have begun to wonder if we have lost our commitment to, and understanding of, the common good. We continue to see images of Americans standing shoulder-to-shoulder in front of government buildings in protest, holding up signs that declare that mandating masks or requiring vaccinations infringes on their freedom. We observe individuals of the same ilk appearing at school board meetings directing a puzzling, often vitriolic rage at the those seated on the dais, insisting that their children should not be required, no matter the proven science, to either wear a mask or receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Some are so deeply angry that they punctuate their opinions with stunning threats.
Again, I find myself asking, “Who are these people?” Where is this resistance, this wrath, coming from? According to a recently released Kaiser Family Foundation study, regarding political affiliation and those fully vaccinated with a booster, 62 percent are Democrats and 32 percent are Republicans.
I often find myself wondering if the gap between blue and red is, in this moment, all but impossible to bridge? Have we become so tribal that this seemingly endless pandemic crisis has given new meaning to “we the people?”
Recently I came across an opinion piece in the NYT by columnist Michelle Goldberg titled “Are We Facing a Second Civil War?” I paused, at first wondering if Goldberg was asking a serious question, or was the headline mere bait to entice me to read on? Of course, I read on and found that I shared her concern that America could once again become so divided (Jan. 6 again came to mind, as did 1865) that some form of civil war is more likely than not.
“It is no secret,” Goldberg wrote, “that many on the right are both fantasizing about and planning civil war. Some of those who swarmed the Capitol a year ago wore black sweatshirts emblazoned with ‘MAGA Civil War.’” And Goldberg referenced The Boogaloo Boys, a “meme-obsessed anti-government movement.” I would add the Oath Keepers and The Proud Boys, dressed in paramilitary gear, moving in single file through the mob and into the Capitol, prepared to do battle. We have since been told that this cohort had stockpiled caches of weapons, to be used during the planned mayhem.
We have just recently learned that days prior to the riot pro-Trump advisors and lawyers met in the D.C. Willard Hotel, often referred to as the Trump Team command center, their purpose being to create a rationale for what would be, in essence, an attempted coup, meant to subvert the will of the voters and thereby deny Biden the presidency (hence the “Big Lie”).
It’s all but impossible to imagine that there are those among us who would orchestrate the take down of our democracy. And yet that is exactly what transpired. And it wasn’t just the insurrectionists that stormed the Capitol on that infamous Jan. 6 day, but this seditious act was crafted by Americans who had taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and then betrayed that promise.
What awaits us? Well, come the mid-term elections we’ll see. And know that the Republicans have recently identified the murderous violence and madness that occurred at the Capitol as “legitimate political discourse.”
Email Ashland resident Chris Honoré at firstname.lastname@example.org.