Appeal to the Brighter Impulses of the American Spirit

Mar 31, 2023 at 01:56 pm by JC Bowman

The United States of America is not perfect. We will never be perfect, and our founders understood that fact. However, with the active and informed participation of our citizens, we can still find solutions to the problems we face collectively, even if imperfectly.

With the events of recent days surrounding the school shooting here in Nashville, we have witnessed the best in people and the worst in people. Writer TC Weber states, “We have spent more time over the last week vilifying politicians than we have the person who actually pulled the trigger.”

In discussing his friendship with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the late Justice Antonin Scalia confirmed, "I attack ideas. I don’t attack people. And some very good people have some very bad ideas. And if you can’t separate the two, you gotta get another day job."

We are bound together by a common destiny. Citizenship in this nation connects all Americans. We are a nation bound not by race or religion, but by the shared values of liberty and freedom.

America’s spirit, its embrace of freedom of speech, religion, media, and politics, has made it a beacon of hope for people around the world. There are many issues on which reasonable people can disagree. However, the shared principles which unite us must transcend those which divide us.

President Dwight Eisenhower said in his farewell address: “That the scourges of poverty, disease, and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.”

Many of us can recite the Golden Rule of loving our neighbor as ourselves. It signifies a representation of the human relationship and helps ensure mutual respect for the rights of others. It is a guide for discerning the best way to treat others. When our neighbor is an enemy, we face the most challenging test of love.

We can all find better days by looking inside ourselves and being better people. It is hard to fathom, but you may be the only light in a dark world that some people will ever see. We all have a mission to bring hope to the world and show a heart of compassion to others. It is easy to judge and condemn. It is harder to engage with love and show kindness.

In challenging times, Americans should reflect on the First Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln who told our nation: "The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." It was a plea for unity and the brighter impulses of the American spirit.

Our responsibility is to teach the next generation our heritage and pass the torch of liberty to those who come after us. Freedom gives us the power and opportunity to make choices over one’s own life. We should be constantly reminded that it is our responsibility to accept the consequences of those choices. To be responsible is our public duty.

People of reason can disagree with issues and have civil discourse. “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts,” according to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Who also reminded us that culture, not politics, determines the success of society.

Respect for our fellow human beings is the core outgrowth of a nation committed to a rule of law. If we fail to pass that principle of respecting others to the next generation: freedom, the political process, civil liberties, individual rights, and media independence will be lost to the dustbin of history.

We have within us the ability to make the world better for others, or the capacity to destroy all that unites us in this country. What will we choose? I hope the better angels prevail.



JC Bowman is the executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee


Sections: Politics Education