Perspective: A More Perfect Union

Aug 28, 2020

Commonly-held narratives about identity and nationhood lend meaning to our lives and allow us to work together. One of America’s storylines is founded upon the premise that we strive for a more perfect union through the defense of equality and liberty for all.

There is a palpable fragmentation of these shared narratives today. Loyalty to powerful groups provides a sense of identity for some at the expense of justice for others. We failed to cooperate against the pandemic because many rejected the accounts provided by health professionals. The nature of -- and reactions to -- the protests in the past months have tested the resilience of our tradition of civil disobedience as a legitimate means of redressing wrongs.

We are in crisis regarding our common sense of purpose. For our nation to become more just, we must strengthen our understanding of how a legitimate narrative should hold together. Ironically, some who brag about spotting fake news from opponents fall for wildly unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that demonize them.

Often in the name of the “real world,” the systematic study of rhetoric and the humanities is denigrated as “extra.” In reality, a habit of reading and research informs citizens about ways mutually-held beliefs are created and rejected. If accounts and beliefs are no longer subject to legitimate sourcing or valid reasoning, and if our culture depreciates reading and ignores rules about when something is proven or not, then there will be negative consequences to our ability to wield a democracy effectively.

I’m Bill Gahan, and that’s my perspective.