THE FOUNDATION AND THE MORTAR
Who are we? Can we suspend shouting long enough to reflect on who and what we in the United States aspire to be? By what social norms do we measure a person’s or a nation’s well-being? A culture’s shared values form the foundation on which a society is built. Every culture is both an inheritance and a work in process. Without thoughtful care, time and neglect eat away the mortar between the foundation’s bricks.
FOUNDATIONS OF A DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC
The Constitution represents the boundaries of that consensus. If we didn’t know it before, we know in 2019 that the constitutional republic we call the United States of America is no Eden. Lord knows, Abel’s blood still cries out from our history and Cain’s inexplicable, impulsive violence will stain our hands again. Repeatedly. Sin is like that. It crouches at the door as in the Genesis legend. There is no perfect culture or society. Although we miss the mark (which is what the biblical word ‘sin’ means) by intention or by inattention, it falls on each of us to reaffirm and refresh the cultural code and ethical norms by which we measure ourselves personally and collectively. These measures are not abstract.
TRADITIONAL CULTURAL’S MORTAR — NORMS AND MEASURES
- Be respectful
- Don’t call people names.
- Don’t make fun of people
- Be kind
- Be honest/tell the truth
- Your word is your bond
- Deal fairly with each other
- Show compassion
- Empathize with those less fortunate than yourself
- Be generous with your money
- Help those who suffer
- Be true to yourself, but be ready to compromise
- Settle disagreements peacefully
- Don’t get too big for your britches
- Be humble
- Do not show off
- Be above board in your dealings with others
- Love your family
- Respect the individual right to religious belief and practice
- Honor the principle of free speech
- Protect a free press
- Be courageous and patient
TUCKPOINTING THE MORTAR
Check out the mortar. Is it holding? Where does it need tuck pointing? Re-assess traditional culture’s tangible ways of measuring the quality of human life. Delete those you consider outdated. Add other measures you believe should be added. Then look in the mirror. Look at your behavior. Look at what you choose to watch and hear. Think again about who and what you want us to be. See the mortar crumbling. But don’t stop there. Despair is no excuse. Get up and do something to repair the foundation of humankind’s best nature.
— Gordon C. Stewart by the wetland, September 16, 2019