Chapter 5: Civic Aspirations
America seems to be at a unique moment in history. As we approach the 2016 election, we can sense fragmentation and cynicism taking hold on a national level in a seemingly unprecedented way. As a people, we lack a sense of unity, purpose, and power. In an op-ed in The New York Times earlier this year, David Brooks writes that:
Americans are beset by complex, intractable problems that don’t have a clear villain: technological change displaces workers; globalization and the rapid movement of people destabilize communities; family structure dissolves; the political order in the Middle East teeters, the Chinese economy craters, inequality rises, the global order frays, etc.
Without a “clear villain” and lacking a common, unifying purpose, we’re left alone and bewildered by the seemingly insurmountable differences that threaten our common life. In this year’s reading group, we plan to pursue possible reasons for this fragmentation and, furthermore, to ask if there a way to mend a nation which seems to be coming apart at the seams.
In the fall semester, we’ll read Confident Plurarlism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference by legal scholar John Inazu. Confident Pluralism provides a path forward, working within the bounds of the United States Constitution, to acknowledge and overcome our differences.
In the spring semester, we’ll read Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’s The Dignity of Difference which offers insights into how to deal with increasing diversity and multiculturalism. Sacks provides a refreshing view of how to move forward in our efforts to foster national unity, while maintaining the dignity of various cultures, people groups, and religions.
If you wish to participate in our weekly reading group meetings, please contact Kelly Hanlon.