Growing Pains–Our Cultural Adolescence

On the eve of what could possibly be one of the most culturally significant elections in our country’s history, I sit watching the national news talk about how other countries are seeing a comic and unflattering nature to this campaign season. Caricatures of the two candidates vary from evil and frightening to something more surreal, even clownish.

I ponder the state of existence of our nation. Compared to others we are still so infantile. Even “new” nations, such as Israel or countries born out of the former Soviet Union, have cultures that are centuries old. They are mature and comfortable in their own skin even if their borders are challenged.

As old souls, intellects like George Wythe and Thomas Jefferson brought true virtue and high-mindedness to our country’s newborn culture. The ideals that conceived us are seed from the minds of great thinkers–Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Pythagoras, just to name a few–finally delivered with the aid of our founding fathers of liberty.

Recently I was privy to a discussion about the four stages of organizational development – – forming, storming, norming, and performing. At roughly 240 years old, our nation is merely an adolescent. We are actively discovering, establishing, and governing by our constantly evolving interpretations of our original statement of organization, i.e. our declaration of independence and constitution. This is the organizational state of “storming.” We question. We challenge. We debate.

We as nation and culture are the equivalent of a human 13 or 14-year-old struggling to establish his or her own unique identity. We struggle with who we are and what we believe. We’ve been “brought up” to know what is right and what is wrong, what is just and what is unjust, what is cruel and what is compassionate, but we still fight to establish our own dynamism of belief, values that fit us in the here and now, as if the original value of “all men are created equal” was not good enough and that patriotism is passé.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote “I see my job as trying to bring together and harmonize a variety of different opinions,” he was guiding the steps of a toddling nation with the watchful eye of a founding father… “under God, with liberty and justice for all” was his formula for impact. I cannot help but wonder what his thoughts and advice would be today while observing our tumultuous and sometimes uncivil behavior.

We will get through this period of growth with an increased understanding that the original values, virtues, and integrity through which our country was formed will be what will paves the way for our cultural significance. Jefferson recognized that even having a government is a right of mankind and that the people should benefit from government more than the rulers. Our system of governance, “of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” Abraham Lincoln’s governance philosophy echoed Jefferson’s original thoughts…

When the political storm is at its height and we are deafened by the noise and chaos, let us remember “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness – – that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

We have chosen the path of democracy for our nation. Let us continue to embark with courage and hold our constitutional values to be sacred. The storm we are are enduring is finite. It will end. As a nation we must labor together with understanding and an engaged mind. We were created for such a time as this.


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