When Things Seem Dire

Our time seems to have forgotten civility. Perhaps it's not so surprising – when it seems that our democracy might fail – that mutual respect is an indulgence that the righteous can no longer afford and that the unrighteous no longer bother with. Anger has become the defining emotion of our time.
But anger can be well-placed and outrage is perhaps the most moral emotion. When we recognize the outrageous, we are empowered to act. And the times in which we live are outrageous.
But outrage demands a response. Rising up, resisting, and just saying "no" makes a strong statement. So does just saying "I won't." I won't participate in the steady destruction of our our environment, our political system, or our cultural embrace of fairness. I won't nod at our steady decline into unrighteousness, or at the abuse of our poorest, our most desperate, our lost.
And just as outrage demands reflection, so too does the insistent modern urging toward patriotism. Inevitably, the question arises, "What is patriotism?" Is it a hymn of praise to flag and anthem, a song of connection to our national past? Of course it is; and we honor that at every Fourth of July and, now, at every sporting event. 
But isn't it also a hymn of hope? Here's what I have in mind. Patriotism can point backward or forward. Both orientations have merit. When I gaze back into our honored past, I see the heroic and visionary founders of our national experiment. But I can also gaze into the future of the experiment. And what might that mean?
The most essential fact of cultural evolution is its grounding in the deep truths of its forging. And so, as I acknowledge the touchstones of the past, I project their very best values forward: fairness and justice, integrity and honor, and kindness and compassion. 
What is patriotism in our early 21st century? I think that it's global citizenship. Can I be a real citizen of the United States, or of Britain, Japan, Germany, China, Brazil, or France if I'm not first and always a citizen of Earth, with all the requisite responsibilities and duties? Seems improbable, doesn't it?
Let's all hold that thought. And, above all, let's pass it on to the next generation.
Jim Kenney, Executive Director