Progressive Views: Moral Infrastructure

by Steven M. Smith, Ph.D.
for the “Progressive Views” column, Boerne Star, March 6, 2020

Panoramic view of Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, featuring the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln
“Mount Rushmore” by Simon Brisebois is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

“The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.” 

Margaret Chase Smith

The physical infrastructure of our nation continues to decline and rapidly decay.  Despite numerous campaign promises, nothing of consequence has been accomplished by the current administration.  The water in Flint, Michigan is still not drinkable, bridges in fear of collapse are not being repaired, passenger and commuter rail systems are decades behind safety standards, the nation’s interstate highway systems are a pothole prairie and the nation’s airports are over capacity.  However, there are millions of dollars being spent on a wall that the nation never really wanted in the first place.  The only thing that has increased in proclivity is the moral degeneration of our leadership.  Before we can rebuild the infrastructure of our nation we must first rebuild the moral infrastructure of our country.

Whether we like it or not, whether we are ready for it or not, it falls upon the Democrats to take on the task of rebuilding the country’s moral infrastructure.  This entails reminding all Americans of the core values we still share and hold dear.  It also means reminding all Americans of the damage that can be done when people are not held accountable for trampling on those values.  New York Times columnist David Brooks recounted these core values and expressed those values in a simplistic manner.  Those values are: Unity, Honesty, Pluralism, Sympathy and Opportunity.

Five core values

In terms of unity we realize that in America we are all one people.  The leader we elect is the leader of all the people and represents all the people.  A leader of the people does not travel around the country or navigating his Twitter account attacking cities, regions, social classes, races and religions.  To degrade the citizens of Baltimore as living in a rat- and crime-infested city demonstrates an absence of moral character.

In terms of honesty we cannot have deliberative democracy without a profound respect for the truth.  Who among us wishes to have pathological, congenital liars around or in our homes or workplaces?  The leader of our nation has surpassed 10,000 lies told, and all by himself at that.  How can anyone of moral character stand before people of faith with a liar’s scorecard like that when scripture blatantly renounces lies?

In terms of pluralism our differences as human beings makes our lives richer and more interesting.  As Americans we treasure members of all races, faiths, cultures and languages for what the respective cultural tapestry brings to the mosaic fabric of our nation.  Multiculturalism lends itself to growth that helps us understand the world in which we must live, work and collaborate in order to prosper as a country.

In terms of sympathy we want and need to be around people of good hearts.  People with the empathy to genuinely feel the suffering of others.  We wish to have friends who are faithful and whose daily lives are marked by sincere kindness and love.  Such expressions of our humanness are displayed each time there is a mass shooting in our schools, churches and cities.  The outpouring of empathy, kindness, unselfish sacrifice and love in such instances define who we are as Americans.

In terms of opportunity we ask only for a fair chance to succeed.  We ask that chance for ourselves, for our children and for their children.  We ask to have not only a level playing field but an open playing field that is as well paramount if the race and gender divides are ever to be eliminated.  Opportunity is neither for the privileged nor the entitled but for all Americans willing to reach for it and work to attain it.

Our current leader has placed himself on the wrong side of all of these stated values.  It is up to the Democrats to lead an uprising of decency and moral character.  Be mindful this fall to choose candidates who, in word and deed, can restore this nation to its rightful moral infrastructure.  This will be a fight with the Republican party and will become hateful if not downright nasty; however, as Margaret Chase Smith once remarked, “Smears are not only to be expected but fought. Honor is to be earned, not bought.”

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