The United States likes to think of itself as exceptional. And it should. This is a country founded on what were then uniquely different principles, summarized very concisely by Lincoln at Gettysburg. But if we are indeed to be a nation where government is of the people, by the people, for the people, then there is implied in that notion that there is indeed a social contract between government and people. But that contract has been broken.
Put simply, at the heart of the contract is the idea that, in return for the payment of taxes and obedience to reasonable laws, government will build a framework of security in which all citizens can feel that they belong and reach to become the best version of themselves that they can. All citizens. Not just whites or males or heterosexuals or those that believe in God. Everyone.
‘Security’, you will remember, comes from the Latin word meaning freedom from fear. It is not acceptable that any citizen should live in fear for whatever reason. It is not acceptable that anyone should fear not being able to put food on the table; having to declare bankruptcy after a medical emergency; not having safe drinking water; being a subject of discrimination; or being shot in the streets, their church, their workplace or at home.
As General Martin Dempsey so succinctly put it in a webinar on leadership today, “the only antidote to fear is belonging”. People have to feel that they belong. Right now, there are far too many in this country who feel that they don’t belong because society and their government has decided that they don’t. That has been the case for a very long time, but Covid-19 has stripped away the veil and has laid bare many of the iniquities of the contract being broken.
The purpose of this series of articles, however, is not just to point the finger but to propose that now is the time for us to recommit as a country to of, by, for. We have a great opportunity to come out of this crisis with a kinder, more equal society and with a rejuvenated government that truly believes in servant leadership. A society and government that believes in security – freedom from fear of any form – and that embraces belonging at its broadest.
But it will not happen on its own. It will be up to us - all of us - to make it happen. Who we vote for will matter now like never before. We will need to ensure that all candidates hear us loud and clear. Politicians will be held accountable at all levels by active, committed citizens who will not tolerate a return to the past and will not acquiesce to corruption, lies and divisiveness. For, as Lincoln also said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
If you have enjoyed this series, or if it has made you think, you can find a much more detailed analysis and an exhaustive manifesto for our post-crisis world in my book For the People: A Citizen’s Manifesto to Shaping Our Nation’s Future, available now online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can also read the first three chapters for free at www.simonchadwick.us.
Thank you for reading and for all your comments, both private and public. Let’s keep the conversation going and let’s build a new world in which all belong!