New Year’s Resolution or Revolution
On this dawn of 2018, as we are considering and declaring our New Year’s Resolutions, our country is in a state of near unprecedented division. In such an environment, there are many who are calling for resolution and reconciliation, and others who are stoking the flames of revolution and resistance.
It would be easy to discount one perspective or the other, to pick a side and dismiss the other as misguided or malevolent. But that is precisely the type of thinking that has brought us to this state of division and discontent. If we are to make 2018 less contentious and more productive than the last year, then we will need to hear and consider the merits of varying perspectives. Perhaps it is a time for both resolution and revolution.
For many Americans, the fracture in our country is worrisome. From the perspective of structural integrity, it is alarming when the foundations of an edifice are cracking and beginning to pull apart. Such a situation requires immediate remediation in order to shore up the footings and avoid collapse.
Other Americans are encouraged by the crumbling of existing structures. They believe that our institutions are untenable as they currently stand. The American edifice provides shelter and comfort to some, but not all. In order to accommodate, protect, and benefit the entire populace, many believe, our structures must be dismantled and rebuilt anew.
Clearly, a better, more inclusive, more collaborative tomorrow will require a revolution in the status quo. We are seeing the dismantling of power structures that have left certain members of our society disenfranchised — from the toppling of male aggressors in the entertainment industry to the exposure of racial inequity and brutality in law enforcement, 2017 witnessed significant cultural revolutions that are making America more just and more safe for those who have been vulnerable.
Yet it is important to recognize that these seismic shifts are generally occurring in a framework of peace and due process. The greatness of America is our evolution without violent revolution. Throughout history, and throughout other parts of the world today, growth and progress is often achieved through virulent conflict and combat. But the American system, rooted in political checks and balances and unlimited free press, allows for the development of justice and equity through a democratic process that may not be perfect, but is functional and gradual.
While revolutions in thought and culture are thus necessary and beneficial, within this framework of democracy and progress, resolution is crucial at this moment more than ever.
Ours is a country where justice and equity are valued by the vast majority. There are biases and human frailties for certain, but the values that have been inculcated in our national identity and character are conscientious and fair-minded. We have been reared on ideals of diversity and compromise, and we have spent the past two and half centuries hammering out a society that is representative of many coexisting constituencies. We are not perfect and not immune to miscarriage of justice, but we are corrective and reflective, and it is in our collaboration that we have continued to progress.
As we have gotten here through constant compromise and push and pull, our best way forward is to continue to move forward together. As such, our resolution for 2018 must be resolution. We must resolve to resolve the rivalry, partisanship, and hostility that is keeping us from working together for our mutual benefit.
But how do we resolve the many profound conflicts that are pulling us in opposing directions? After all, as we have already established, for the vast majority of us it is not malice that is stoking our ire and evoking our resistance, but it is rather our sincere concern for the future of our country and our deep ideological rifts with those on the other side of the political divide.
What if we desire resolution and reconciliation, yet we believe that the chasms are too wide, the perspectives too divergent, the worldviews too diametrical?
The answer is to be found in the word “Resolution” itself. The term means both to solve a problem or reconcile a conflict, and also to commit to a new behavior or the abandonment of a past behavior. Resolution is not simply a passive activity that results from a desire to get along, it is a commitment to act in a different way from how we have acted in the past.
As all of us know from commitments we have made on new year’s day last year and many years before, New Year’s Resolutions require far more than declarations on January 1st. They require discipline, restraint, and commitment throughout the year ahead. If we will pledge ourselves to reconciliation in the year ahead, then we will seek the commonalities in our fellow Americans rather than focusing on our differences, we will discover our shared humanity and our “better angels,” we will commit to dialogue rather than protest and collaboration rather than combat, and in spite of our differences we will make 2018 a year when our resolutions made a true and enduring difference in our lives, our country and our world.