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Is There Space For The Common Good?

“I feel that the dormant goodwill in people needs to be stirred. People need to hear that it makes sense to behave decently or to help others, to place common interests above their own, to respect the elementary rules of human coexistence.” Vaclav Havel

I am not a Cheney family fan. For the most part I was not in support of anything that Dick Cheney had to say when he was in public life and quite frankly, I had not paid much attention to his daughter, Liz Cheney, until she made the choice to take the bold stand to help in leading the January 6th investigation regarding the attack on the nation’s Capitol.

I was sorry to see her lose her bid for re-election in the recent primary, but I am quite pleased to witness an elected official who is willing to take a stand and who appears to believe that there are some things that matter more than re-election. I am quite sure that she knew making the choice to lead the charge to get to the core of what happened on January 6th would be politically costly and was likely to cost her seat. She did it anyway.

Liz Cheney’s choice reminded me of Vaclav Havel, former president of Czechoslovakia, speaking about the necessity to “stir the dormant goodwill in people and encouraging them to place common interests above their own.” The best way for a people to perish is to have massive disinterest in the common good become normal. I don’t think that we are there yet, but we are working diligently toward it. The signs cannot be ignored.

In this discussion, I am not as interested in what the reader might have designated as their major political party as I am your interest in the common good and what you think is required for us to have some rules for human coexistence. Havel has highlighted such rules as being necessary for us to make sense of trying to live together on the earth. The events at the Capitol on January 6th were indefensible. It does not matter what the grievances were and how justified anyone deemed them to be. Innocent people lost their lives, and many other people spent hours being horrified about what might happen to them or their family members. Along with this, people across the nation were horrified that such a threat to the nation could occur and that it was deemed as the way to voice disagreement about what was believed to be an improperly conducted election. Part of our horror lies in the fact that so many folks would decide to follow the negative, false narrative about the election regardless of how much information was given to negate it. And that it would it be allowed to lead to the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

As is the case with most things, this a complicated matter and I don’t have any dream of untangling all of those threads in a short blog, but I do believe that all of us need to spend time reflecting upon the kind of country we wish to continue to have and how we expect to find a way to live together in peace. We are not going to be able to do that if the truth becomes irrelevant and if we become controlled by those who would use violence and untruths as their only remedy to solve problems rather than seeking ways to honor the common good.

Unfortunately, a lot of the attitudes that were expressed at the height of the Coronavirus outbreak and later toward vaccinations depicted a lack of care and concern for the common good. It seems the erosion of concern for all in the community happens incrementally. We can enthusiastically rush to help if there is a tornado that destroys a town, but if the potential damage is more difficult to discern such as in creating toxic waste dumps in areas highly populated by minorities, there is less interest in getting involved. It is dangerous to compartmentalize in this manner.

We are here together on this planet, our island home, and regardless of how much we daydream about escaping to other parts of the universe, the masses have no place to go and will not in the foreseeable future have any alternative other than perishing or learning to live together. I think that Liz Cheney’s work with the January 6th Committee speaks to understanding that the choice to stand against expressions of energy designed to destroy a way of life that helps us to be better able to address the common good is necessary regardless of the cost. There are many such challenges before us and each of us has a chance to decide what we think about the common good and how we want to support the process of making the world sustainable for everyone on the planet. We have to care about this as individuals before it can become a collective response. All of us are responsible. Are we brave enough to do it?

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