My hope is that the take-over of the Capitol yesterday will shock American citizens and their lawmakers into rejecting radical politics in favor of constructive policy making. This country has been through spasms of violence in the past. We can get through this.
But we may not. Given the very real cultural and political divisions in this country–intensified by a relentless pandemic, an unevenly experienced economic crisis, and simmering racial tensions–I’m afraid we are on the brink of a cycle of violence. Our leaders in Washington must find ways to address the main grievances of hurting people without undermining the democratic process. They face an immense challenge.
This is a big country. In America we must live with people who are very different from us. Our federal institutions can channel our conflicting interests but they cannot make us good people. And more than any other system of government, ours depends on virtuous leaders AND citizens. I can’t say it any other way: unless we learn to love our neighbors as ourselves, we will not survive as a free people.
Yesterday laid down a challenge to all Americans. We–as a people–must rise to meet that challenge.
About Brent Nelsen
Brent F. Nelsen is professor of politics and international affairs at Furman University, where he has taught since 1990. He received his BA from Wheaton College (IL) and his MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His teaching and scholarship focus on Europe and the European Union with an emphasis on religion and politics. His most recent book, co-authored with James L. Guth, is titled, Religion and the Struggle for European Union: Confessional Culture and the Limits of Integration. (Georgetown University Press).
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