Saturday, March 16, 2013

The U.S.: Not the "City on a Hill"

The legislator from Ohio is receiving quite a bit of flack due to his
recent turnaround on gay marriage. He now publicly favors it, but
only after a two year struggle with the news a son gave him:  this
son is gay. If it doesn't affect you personally, well then, who cares,
or at the extreme end of reactions, we will excoriate them.

Who are "they" or "them"? People who AREN'T just like you,
with all your perfect values and insights. There's apparently
little time to empathize with those in  different races, and/or
circumstances. It boils down to this harsh truism about our
nation: there is little concern for the plight of strangers. In
philosophy it has been called "the problem of the other, or
'outsider' ".

For all our talk about being that "city on a hill" (an expression
cribbed from St. Matthew by St. Augustine and Pres. Reagan)
we Americans are pretty much heir to and exhibit the same
massive flaws of humans everywhere.

On Huff Post and elsewhere, the familiar refrain returns:
Social change is a slow-going proposition.  No, it's
always a case of kicking the can down the road, punctuated
by rare, remarkable leadership (like Pres. Lyndon Johnson
getting the '60s civil rights acts passed). I really hope I'm
wrong, but 50+ years of paying attention to all media, old
and new history texts, thoughtful persons 20-30 years older
than me, doesn't produce much optimism here.

Humans ARE great in the areas of procreation and warfare,
exactly as Harvard's famed entomologist Wilson has said.

So where's that fabled city on a hill? Such vaunted perfection
may have to wait until the afterlife, after all.

1 comment:

  1. In many quarters, that vaunted "city on a hill" has become a gated fortress. To paraphrase an old friend, "The question is not whether the glass is half-empty or half-full. It's 'Who the hell drank my water'?"

    There are a lot of folks who are capable of individual acts of grace and charity: people who will help you up when you've fallen. But someone who's willing to take personal risks for the common good? They're a much rarer breed it seems.

    But they do exist. Consider Scott Prouty. Not exactly a household name, but he's the guy who captured Mitt Romney's damning commentary about the "47 percenters" on video.

    He was a bartender at the fund-raising affair where Mitt "outed himself". After much reflection, he came to the conclusion that he was morally compelled to release the video. Also, Mr. Prouty wisely made the decision to not reveal his identity until recent days; he was determined to keep the focus on Romney and was determined to avoid any distraction that might have been created had he revealed his role before the election.

    Yep, like you say, social change is a sloooow process, but every now and then, an agent of that change like Scott Prouty speaks.