Who are you? This is perhaps one of the most difficult and complex questions we are confronted with throughout our lives. Certainly there are superficial responses that we are most likely to give as children. We provide our name and maybe our gender. However, as we grow older and more mature we realize that there can be additional components to our self-description. We might add our current school grade or a position on a particular sports team or who our parents or siblings are. However, as we mature into adulthood we become aware that this question requires a level of response that forces us to delve into depths we rarely visit. We need to take an honest look at our station in life, our values, our dreams, our relationships as well as our strengths and weaknesses. While we seldom feel compelled to dig to our depths for the answer to this question, it is one that challenges us in a variety of ways throughout our lives. It is the very same question that our nation, America, must face at this critical moment in our history.
While it may sound hyperbolic to state that we, as a nation, are facing an historic decision as we go to the polls on November 8th, this time hyperbole is appropriate. There is no doubt that this election cycle has been filled with drama, surprises, and yes, hyperbole. However, there has rarely been a greater contrast between the two contesting candidates in a presidential election. Certainly, in the past there have been policy differences and contrasting views of the world, but in this election we are seeing fundamentally different perception of who we are as a nation. Are we a member of the community of nations or are we a nation driven purely by self-interest? Are we a nation that seeks justice and peace for people throughout the world, or are we concerned only with our internal peace and justice? Does our economy seek to consider economic equality throughout the world, or does it concern itself only with our national wealth? Does our legal system seek to provide a universal model for individual dignity and the rule of law, or are we concerned only about those who hold American citizenship? Do we as a nation truly believe that all men (and women) are created equal or do we believe that some are more equal than others? Do we dream of a world of peace, abundant resources and serenity or do we seek a world in which power justifies taking more than a fair share of the good that life has to offer? Do we believe that right makes might or that might makes right? In other words, are we a nation committed to building a world of peace, health, wealth and equality or do we promote a world of “the survival of the fittest”? Never in recent years has the American people been asked to answer such questions as we head to the voting booth.
We have been told to believe that a willingness to seek peaceful solutions to complex and dangerous international threats is a sign of weakness. That kind of simplistic thinking creates a world based on the children’s game, King of the Mountain. It is a world in which the means are said to justify the ends. We are asked to accept a world in which diplomacy is a choice of last resort and raw power will determine and sustain our international relationships. That dictate leads to many thousands of dead children. We are asked to be afraid first and trust later. That is what we tell children about how to deal with strangers. In Trump’s divisive world we will all become strangers and live in fear of one another. Donald Trump is free to live his life in fear, but is that what we want for America?
What are our national values? Who are we? It is time to reach into the depths of our national self and find the answer. Never has it been more important for America to decisively answer that question at the polls.