Our recent remembrances of Memorial Day and the World War II D-Day invasion at Normandy revived our sense of national unity, the oneness that gives us common purpose. Does it require a war, a threat from beyond our borders, to bring us together? Patriotism, love of country and its ideals, should not only be invoked in wartime, but constant in the face of internal threats to our security and well-being. And love of country includes making corrections when it wanders from its charted course.
We are threatened now by deep divisions of race, class, national origin and political ties. Violence is one of the products of these divides, as well as the disregard and contempt for “the other” that permeate our social structure along those lines of division. As Irish poet W. B. Yeats wrote in “The Second Coming”, “Things fall apart, the centre does not hold”. We are losing the vision in the Preamble to the Constitution to “…establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity….”
There are self-evident values and practical necessities that we should be able to agree on. National defense, certainly, but not with the sacrifice of funds for the basic human needs of affordable shelter, food and medical care for those who cannot fully provide for themselves. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute we spend more on our military than the next seven nations combined – a total for 2018 of $649 billion compared to $609 billion. Can’t we do without a $19 billion aircraft carrier or $1.4 trillion projected for the troubled F-35 combat aircraft, which may never fly?
We need to fix our bridges, tunnels and roads. We need to prevent the coming onslaught of climate change effects and protect our environment. We need an effective, efficient and affordable health care system. Most of all, we need to find our soul, our better angels and our unity. Let’s get together and go to work.