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Defining the America We Need

Let's Teach Ourselves to Visualize America's Higher Promise

What would it take to bring out America's best? We don't know, we Americans, and there's no one for us to turn to. It's up to us. We'll have to work this out. For ourselves.

So let's think on this for a moment.

We do have lots of slogans. "Opportunity." "Prosperity." "Equal Rights." "Freedom." "Community." "The U.S. Constitution." And so on.

But we don't actually have a guiding framework for bringing out our best. We've never created one for ourselves, and it shows.

If we had a guiding framework, and if most Americans agreed on it, we'd be a long way ahead of where we are now.

The fact that we - as citizens of a nation that's remarkably capable in many way - have yet to frame a guiding vision for America and where we're headed really ought to be of serious concern.

It ought to make us think, "What is it with us, the American people, that we have yet to describe the kind of country we want America to be? And the kind of future America ought to have?"

Strange, isn't it? For all our talents, individually and collectively, this is the one thing that we are still unable to do.

But now there's a new element. The technologies we rely on to run our civilization have become so powerful and pervasive that we're poisoning Mother Nature; her life-giving powers are starting to give out. The Earth, which has long been our supportive home, is slowly being poisoned by the damaging choices we've been making.

If we had a guiding framework that points the way forward, to an America that's safe and healthy, that works well for everyone, and that protects Mother Nature, we'd be in great shape.

But we don't have that sort of guiding framework. And we know we don't. And the main reason for that? Our entrenched habits have accustomed us to the practice of symptomatic reasoning, not to the practice of systemic thinking. We are reactive thinkers, we Americans. We are not proactive thinkers.

And we are now at a stage in humanity's long history that this shortcoming has already begun to do us in. How is a nation of careless thinkers ever to rise to its higher challenges? How will such a people bring out their country's best? And forge a healthy partnership with Mother Nature?

And that's the point of To present a high level audit of our civic habits. And to develop a brief tutorial on the rethinking challenge that lies ahead.

As the title of this little essay says, "Let's Teach Ourselves to Visualize America's Higher Promise."


Steven Howard Johnson

Steven Howard Johnson grew up in Denver, Colorado, finished high school in Bethesda, Maryland (his dad had won a seat in Congress from Colorado), and then in September 1960 entered Harvard, little imagining that the 1960s were about to become "THE SIXTIES!" The Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, and folks from the Christian pacifist outfit his parents belonged to were smack in the middle of it.  (Thanks to those friendships, Steve and his dad in 1959 lunched with Dr. King.)

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