Bruce A. Bowman
Americans are divided. Charles Dickens' words to open "A Tale of Two Cities" apply today.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, ..."
Our nation mirrors this duality. Virtuous and unscrupulous. Judicious and reckless.
A tale of two cities. Two competing American visions of our future. The City on the Hill or Gotham City?
Americans have found inspiration in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and the Apostle Matthew's words, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill can't be hidden." Citizens assert their God-given rights in our Constitution. A place where not everything goes right, but people do the right things. The City on the Hill.
The actual landscape is different. Americans in masks walk past shuttered restaurants and stores. Rioters roam and attack police. Mobs loot shops. Schools are closed. Americans are forced out of jobs. Demonstrators assault the Capitol. The president and Congress brand groups as racist enemies. Dissent is censored. Oppressive heavy-handedness settles on us. Gotham City.
Do we still know the City on the Hill intended for us? What is the secret of success?
Liberty. We forget this at our peril. The City on the Hill thrives because people are free. Our free markets and free citizens have reduced poverty, abolished slavery, eradicated diseases, and won world wars.
We have committed errors. We aren't perfect but we don't allow failures to define us and we aren't embarrassed by our good fortune.
Gotham leaders accuse the successful of exploitation and view hard-earned gains as theft. Hard work, family values and Christian faith are marks of racist cultures. But how long can you allocate more than you produce?
It comes down to first principles. Does government serve the individual or do we serve Washington? Are our rights ancient relics and ill-begotten legacies of racists? The choice is defined by our views of liberty, morality and government.
It is a tale of two cities. In one we have wisdom, belief and hope. The other offers foolishness, incredulity and despair.