Here is my wish list of positive suggestions to rally behind in order to recover the soul of America.
1. Demand a month-long hiatus from Republican-Democratic name-calling, demonizing, and president-bashing on the campaign trail. Every last second that our elected representatives spend in a cat-fight results in greater national debt, more poverty, increased unemployment and more casualties abroad. Insist that both presidential candidates and the whole of Congress learn to speak and listen deeply from the heart, and after 30 days, agree on at least one large goal that will act as a rallying cry to unify our polarized population.
2. Connect with those of other political parties. Citizens of different persuasions agree on more than they realize. All of us want to “fix” the economy, the roads, the government, the high price of gasoline, our educational system. In a recent study carried out by Harvard Business School, when asked to design their ideal society for wealth distribution, both Republicans and Democrats came up with a markedly similar picture for a just society, much like that of Sweden. Out of what both groups dream in common, we can fashion one goal to work on together.
3. Learn to be more politically sophisticated in your thinking and avoid black and white/either-or dichotomies. Societies aren’t either free-rein capitalism or full-on communism. There are endless shades of grey in between. Avoid applying the term ‘socialism’ to any kind of initiative that attempts to provide basic rights to society or ‘naked claw’ to anything free market. Working together as a community and providing for the community is not socialism. By the same token, capitalism isn’t automatically a byword for irresponsible money-grubbing.
4. Don’t confuse liberty with exclusive self-interest or freedom from responsibility to the whole. Do you really want to live in a place resembling the post-apocalyptic America of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road – where it is you and your gun against the world? Or would you rather have a place where your neighbor and their neighbors are watching your back, too? If so, we need to band together as a society, with aspects that are good for the whole, not simply good for number 1 or for one political party
5. Fully understand our founding principles. Actually read The Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, the Gettysburg address, and other iconic statements of American principles. From there you will learn that America was founded on a platform of fairness, not simply liberty. Our founding fathers envisioned a fair society of responsibility – one for the other.
6. Stop creating external bogeymen. We storm around the world acting like global policemen when our own house is not in order. Most of the time, we – with our blinkered vision about what’s best for everyone else and our sense of entitlement to the world’s resources - are the problem. A good deal of the world can’t stand us. We need to stop and ask why.
7. Begin a huge re-think of our emphasis on profits over social responsibility. Have you listened to an American-made rock song or watched a rock video lately? Most are pornographically explicit, and being continuously played to young children and teenagers, with no monitoring whatsoever on content. Just who is this serving besides the shareholders? Ditto on pharmaceutical company advertising, to cite just two examples.
8. Only read or watch a media free from corporate influence. As we learned from the Murdoch phone hacking scandal, the media is largely the puppet of corporate America right now. Stick with independent online alternatives.
9. Don’t wait for the people in charge to ‘fix’ things. Get your neighbors together. Look together around your neighborhood and community. How are your schools? Your hospitals? What needs doing? How can you make use of the unemployed around you to fix what needs fixing? What creative ways can you come up with to trade services with your neighbors?
10. Vow that change will start with you first. Research shows that if any society becomes overwhelmed by selfishness and greed, all it requires is a small group of individuals committed to strong reciprocity to re-establish fairness. Your own acts of generosity will create a ripple effect that will be heard around the world.