It’s been three years since Covid-19 was first declared a pandemic. When NJ Governor Phil Murphy announced initial steps to manage the expected surge of cases in the State’s health system, many were unsure where we were headed. Recently, we got word the U.S Department of Health’s pandemic declaration is set to expire soon. So based on where things are today, we’re all breathing a sigh of relief!
There’s a real sense that Covid-19 has ushered in a ‘new normal’ in how we work and live. Moreover, there’s been another set of factors continuing to emerge in how we go about work, play and the everyday as a nation. It’s around the growing sentiment of division and elements in disinformation that raised their ugly head. These have triggered a set of concerns tied to the health of our democracy.
What can we learn from the pandemic we just lived through? Are there similar strategies for how we might minimize the tension and potential damage to the health of the Union? Well, ride with See America In Color on a trip back in time, starting in the Spring of 1787. Then, the Founding Fathers met to hash-out the Constitution. Some months later they headed out to the colonies. With the help of key federal colleagues, they brought the message of ‘A New America’. This would catch-on with governors, commissioners, local leaders and ‘We the People’ to get the Constitution approved by the States.
Some saw the Framers as bringing ‘a breath of fresh air’ while others spoke out on the issue of slavery. In a sense, there was a ‘breath of civics air’ in the process of asking the question “what kind of America would you like to see and live in?” It seems we’re at a similar juncture, needing to move past today’s Civic Revolution of isms & schism, ‘lost cause’, bias & hate, culture wars, mass violence, etc… towards a new America. That’s what SAIC’s Civics and Community Forum Series will deliver, by taking a page from the past where ‘We the People’ chart a course to get us from here to there or somewhere near.
Over the three years, Covid-19 caused immense pain, disruption and upwards of 7 million deaths worldwide. So, what if we could use lessons from American history, the ‘Black to America’ story and #HometownStrong comebacks to instead influence millions of our fellow citizens here and abroad towards positive change? Interestingly, we’ve got three years leading up to America’s 250th anniversary in 2026 to regain our footing post-Covid and re-establish our center of gravity as a nation founded on the Declaration of Independence. We can get there based on how we roll with:
1. Ideals over Ideology
The most basic ideals center around life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This means having the chance to become the best we can be individually and collectively. Individually, we’ve gotta work on selfless, not just self-press. Collectively, we gotta work on living up to what Lincoln called our “better angels”. This requires a kinda collective conscience not based on ideology but on equality. Ideology tends to limit one’s ability to see people as equals while a collective conscience allows us to capitalize on our shared authority. In other words, you’ve got gifts/talents, he’s got some, she’s got some, we all got some.
2. Aspirational over Political
Going back through time, aspirational goals in our nation have been challenged by political moves in some circles. George Washington hinted at this in his farewell address before leaving office. He warned about having political parties because they’d be influenced by ‘factions’ in public voices. Think back from Presidents Andrew Jackson (Indian Removal Act) to Andrew Johnson (Reverse Reconstruction) and what jumps out are times when America’s aspirational efforts in ‘greater public good’ were challenged by political moves of ‘greater power grab’. Maybe that’s some of what we’re seeing play out today.
3. Beloved over Mafioso
There’s something else that seems as a ‘contrast in conscience’. Think about the efforts of Lincoln and others on ending slavery and the work of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement on ending segregation. That side of the fence saw each other as Dr. King liked to call a ‘beloved community.’ The other side of the fence came across like folks with a ‘mafioso mentality’. One side often tries to bring light to darkness while the other side seems bent on darkening darkness (if there’s such a thing). One side models excellence while the other side sees extremes as its model. Which side of the fence are you on?
4. Synergy Over Infamy
With all the antagonists on social/cable media, consider this history note. There’s an unholy streak that keeps getting resurrected in America. In our early founding, while European Enlightenment caused the ills of slavery there to be seen as degrading, slavery in the U.S. found new life and was elevated/promoted. We’ve seen the streak go from that original form of ‘lost cause’, be reborn during the civil war as a ‘confederacy streak’ to now being reborn as an ‘insurrectionist streak’. It seems aspirational America is synergistic in working for greater good, while mafioso America is antagonistic and wants to live in infamy.
Heard the latin/pop group Menudo is making a comeback? Not with Ricky Martin but a new set of actors. Also, the “I Love NY” campaign’s getting a makeover to spur greater civic engagement. Others say they want to “take our country back”. Well, SAIC’s ideal on making a #HometownStrong comeback ties-in with Puritan lawyer/minister John Winthrop whose dream of America was as a “city on a hill”. And to Lincoln’s vision for America as the “last best hope of earth”. So, join us as we rally around “the next best thing in MOJO” to Make Our Journeys One. An America where everybody gets to reach, jump or dance!
To find out more about the Civics & Community Forum Series and how you can “J.A.M. With Us” (join a movement) in civic engagement, social change and community life, checkout the Signup Center below.
Tracks: Erica Campbell – Positive – https://youtu.be/_XBGhhdEuzA
Brooks & Dunn – Only in America – https://youtu.be/GN1iI-DaJNw