This is a redaction and a combining of several pieces, old and newer. It expresses my sense of America
At bottom, and often more than about unity, our Independence has always been about serious divides that often widen to chasms.
These schisms have to do with the proper role of the federal and state power, if and how society may corral money, if we may restrict how enormous private sums are publicly used, and the never-easy fit of religion in a nation distinguished by a fundamentally secular Constitution.
The enormous rift in our culture that undergirds debate is cultural, not simply political -- the same divisions worked through when the Reconstruction Amendments, Women's Suffrage, labor organizing rights, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and landmark Civil Rights legislation were all fought for and finally won...these same divisions persist and, particlarly in feeble economic environments, the divisions do open to chasms and often with hate, hate directed by those fearing class-slippage and the men and women pleased to foment, fashion, and manage that hate and watch others foist it on the already long-term victims of structural inequality and undeserved disdain.
TheAmerican Chasm at its core is the gulf between those, on one hand, who understand social life as individuals essentially and properly isolated, choosing to meet when self-interest, most typically commerce and defense, make group activity expedient and, on the other, those of us who see social life as informed, a priori, by a series of mutual commitments requiring us to regard ourselves always and at the same time both for ourselves and for others.
I am clear the latter is the proper approach to leading an ethical American life. The injunctions of my religious culture tell me that taking care of the destitute, the widow, the orphan, the ill, the elderly, the unsheltered and consistently hungry in the face of ongoing violent, systemic and structural inequality, is integral to what it means to be a person and is my obligation as a Jew.
The rabbi who was Jesus, his public acts, teach me that he knew the inistence of the the Jewish prophets from Moses to Elijah, Isaiah to Jeremiah and beyond, that to be a person, to be a complete person, means seeing the possibilities for and moral requirement of enacting universal Justice, here, right here.
The ancient rabbi Hillel teaches me to ask continually,
If I'm not for myself, who will be for me?
And all of the prophets (speaking for the Jewish God) demand that I understand and continually...and this is what my independent America can increasingly reflect and what must one day be:
I am only a person to the extent that I am for the least of us as well as I am for my family and for myself.
With Rabbi Hillel, then, I have to say and I want my country to know:
If I am for myself only, then I am no one at all.