Dignity, Honor, Strength.
For a while, I've been mulling over what I have perceived as the inability of the Democratic Party to clearly enunciate what its core virtues are. We talk about diversity a lot, but diversity is not so much a virtue as it is a reflection of the way things are. By merely living and interacting with each other regardless of color, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, we are diverse. But that's not a virtue that we can effectively campaign on.
Returning veterans from World War II claimed to be big on virtues, and they tried to instill those virtues in American society when they came home. Only problem is, those were military virtues - the kind that required high school boys to get short haircuts, the kind that defined unquestioning obedience as the highest form of patriotism, the kind that promoted a certain comfortable xenophobia in a prolonged cold war with the Communist world. All of it filtered through the rose-colored lenses of the typical white male on either side of the Mason-Dixon line. The goal was Sparta with central air conditioning, cheap fuel, mass communication through television, and the replacement of the infamous communal mess hall with the malt shop, complete with a jukebox that played Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra. And, for many, a permanent underclass of menial labor.
The problem was that, to a large degree, those values managed to stick. Civil rights and social transformation faced huge blowback from reactionary forces within American culture, no matter what the benefits were. Even for something as scientifically and ecologically necessary as removing tetra-ethyl lead from gasoline, the fight was prolonged and often dirty.
Thing is, Democrats managed to hold onto the House of Representatives nonstop for about 40 years, finally ending in 1994. I would like to think they can do it again. But they won't unless they can unite behind a set of core virtues that unite us all. And I think I might have figured a framework out.
The first virtue is dignity.
It all stems from the Declaration of Independence and its assertion of "inalienable rights." I've long asserted that the Democratic Party is the party of labor, and labor doesn't care if you're black or white, male or female, gay or straight. But dignity goes much deeper than the union card or the paycheck. It respects the rights and the sanctity of the individual. The Nazis and Communists would never assert that. But we do.
The right to marry, the right to receive health care, the right to a trial by jury, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to abstain from religious worship, the right to pursue a good education. Because 'Murica. If that gives you discomfort, ask yourself why.
Indeed, the only way you can lose your own dignity is if you try to take dignity away from anyone else. And that leads to the second virtue of honor.
A personal code of honor is one thing, but a nation demonstrates honor in the way that it affirms the dignity of the individual citizen. That means legislators and executives act with diligence and transparency in the way they conduct the people's business, propose and pass laws, and build the nation in such a way that the dignity of the citizen is not violated. For starters, that requires schools whose only purpose is to teach our children and give them the tools necessary to succeed.
And we're going to need wise, educated students as they pass into adulthood because of the third virtue, strength.
Strength is not just measured in guns, tanks, battleships, and bombs. The physical act of pushing "the red button" is just as easy for the coward as it is for the hero. But strength can also be measured in our nation's infrastructure, economy, environment, and the arts and sciences. How vibrant is our national culture? How healthy are our national systems of transit? Is our currency strong enough to provide the citizen a fair wage and opportunity in exchange for a hard day's work? And what about the day when she is too old to work, and must retire? Is our economy prepared just as much for her retirement years as it is for the new hydro dam project or the next rocket launch? Real patriots are not afraid to ask these questions instead of "going with the flow." The freedom to question is also a measure of how strong a nation truly is.
Dignity, honor, strength. These are what I envision as the virtues of the Democratic Party. Values that enable America to beat Sparta at its own game with a robust democracy that the Athenians could only dream of.
With room on the jukebox for B.B. King and Queen Latifah.
Wish I could elaborate more, but my brother graduates from SMU this afternoon. Your thoughts?
Very interesting thoughts. I'm not sure I'd pick those same values, but good OP. I liked this.
I just feel that if we're going to make any headway in 2016, maybe we should change the way we do things.