Opinion: Another opportunity to endure

In this Nov. 12, 2014 file photo, people walk in view of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Under President Dwight D. Eisehower, the nation prepared for the 50th birthday of the National Park Service with a spending splurge that refurbished Independence Hall in Philadelphia and helped complete the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway.  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 file photo, people walk in view of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Under President Dwight D. Eisehower, the nation prepared for the 50th birthday of the National Park Service with a spending splurge that refurbished Independence Hall in Philadelphia and helped complete the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

As America closes the books on a momentous election season, it’s important to remember amid all the noise that the nation will survive this latest challenge.

The United States is 244 years old – the country is getting some age on it. With the notable exception of American slavery, which we’ve tried to remedy, our people have enjoyed history’s longest period of broad-scale social and economic freedoms. Presently, we question whether ours is the last, greatest crisis of representative government and whether we’ll tumble into either mob rule or autocracy. It is not and we will not.

King Solomon, somewhat of an existentialist, wrote in Ecclesiastes that “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” This wise man, never one to lose his head, decided that we cannot know our legacy and therefore must enjoy what we have this side of death. Contrast this with the passionate – and often tragic - life of his predecessor David, known for uniting the Kingdom of Israel at Jerusalem and imploring with his lyre. This interplay of intellect and faith permeates Judaism, having endured the loss of its homeland more than once – they say Solomon’s enjoyment of many foreign wives spawned division in the Kingdom, which eventually fell to Assyrian tyrants. Still, in spite of local hostility and internecine strife (and intermarriage), the righteous, world-weary flame of Judaism is alive today.

Or take England, where so much of our heritage was conceived, and not always in a civilized fashion. As barons and the divine right of kings slowly gave way to Parliament and prime ministers, the fortunes of this little island rose and fell. From King John’s compulsion by feudal lords to sign the Magna Carta to the execution of King Charles by Parliamentarian forces, English governance was forged, with the dross constantly falling away, in situations as real and uncertain as in our time. We ejected them from North America, but of course their music reconquered us. England has gained and lost empires, but the cultural kernel remains, a bit cynical and funny, but unbroken.

Douglas D. Ford
Douglas D. Ford

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Then we have those clunky institutions to which no one in their right mind wishes to return. The Roman Empire conquered both the Jews and the Britons, but it suffered a spectacular collapse, leaving centuries of disunity and cultural silence in its wake, as though civilization fell off a cliff. Or witness the Soviet Union, that behemoth, which bled its member states, including Russia, of their spiritual and artistic essence. By the time these states fell, most everyone was happy to see them go.

Our modern crisis jars (even terrifies) us because it seems unprecedented, especially when set against the stable and prosperous background of recent memory. A glance back at history, however, reveals many flex points more acute and dangerous to life – the depopulation of the Black Death helped end feudalism when there weren’t enough workers left in the fields, for example. People have been more desperate.

Still, the country now prays that our disputes remain ideological and do not descend into bloodshed, although extremists look ready for it. Our behemoths, the District of Columbia and Silicon Valley, exert an unabated power over our lives, inviting in, along with their brilliance, a type of unaffiliated, unaccountable confusion, as they eye each other warily from across the continent. This arrangement holds until people see that tech is no permanent substitute for living interactions and that the federal government was not designed to provide us with food and shelter. Parents with children in school, and small businesses and workers seeking financial aid, so many in our population, see that now.

Since Obama and Trump took office, few Americans can argue they haven’t been represented somehow on the executive level – these two presidencies encompass our nation’s current beliefs, on the whole, for better or worse. If there’s a silver lining, it’s our total involvement – full participation is the only path to heal us. And, everything is on the table – race, the wealth divide, so many items previously glossed over. If faith is anything, it is hurling all this forward into the void, keeping vigilant, and watching how what’s left comes back together.

The first presidential debate shocked where we thought we had seen it all, but the vice presidential debate showed our better and greater side. Harris and Pence backtracked, they dodged, but they were respectful. They acted like it was about something bigger than themselves.

Will we regain our noble spirit, or will we become one of history’s many clunkers? My bet veers towards the veep contest.

Douglas D. Ford of Cobb County is a commercial litigation and criminal defense attorney.

In Other News