Saving America’s soul

Several candidates have proclaimed within the last month that they are “saving the soul of America.”  And when you follow up on their statements what they seem to mean is that the soul of America is, in essence, what they advocate as a political philosophy and agenda. The message is clear “if you do not elect me then the soul of this country has been lost.”

As I have thought seriously about it I believe that the soul of America has already been lost. And the longer our political system is heading in its current direction the harder it will be to reclaim it. Now before you think I am about to tell you I am running for office or want you to endorse my politics let me expand the thought.

Almost from the beginning the United States has been a diverse landscape of variant political views. The founding fathers were not of one heart or mind on much of anything. The Declaration of 1776 and the Constitution of 1789 were hard fought compromises hammered out over weeks of debate. In the present day the definition of compromise is what I expect the other side to do so we can do it MY way.

The political process has never been clean, neat or easy.  But there was in the past a value placed on governance for the good of the nation. We were out of the election cycle more than we were in it. Now, the moment an official has been elected the re-election campaign begins.

At one time it was possible for an ordinary citizen to be elected to federal office. Now it takes an ordinary citizen with hundreds of thousands, if not a million or more, dollars. Elections are now the product of spending money on ads, and ads and more ads. A recent report  stated that an elected official has two jobs – the one they were elected to do and the second and equally time consuming job of raising money for the next campaign and for the party. I do not believe it is possible to be unaffected by this constant need to raise money. People do not give to one who does not share their beliefs. And so we have lost the art of compromise for the good of the country, having sold it out to raising funds from a constituency that expects like-minded thought and action.

I have watched the political process change and devolve over 5 decades growing ever more partisan and dependent on contributions & donors. I have watched ever more ways evolve to skirt the law to prevent the outright purchase of votes. Thus I do not have much hope that the soul of America  (which I see historically in the many compromises that have allowed this country to change and grow without being held hostage to strictly partisan philosophies or actions) can be reclaimed.  No seems to want to reclaim it… So no one is saving America’s soul! They are simply re-defining America’s soul as that which their ideology is about. It is much simpler… but the cost is much higher!


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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