The current chaos that surrounds our governments both in Washington and here in Hawaii are beginning to wear people’s patience thin.  Perhaps we need to remind ourselves periodically who and what we are.

We are the stewards of an idea, a concept, that in the words of the American Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

While we may not be born of equal abilities, we are to be treated by law as equals. In other words, no one is above the law and that respect for law and each other is essential to the maintenance of democracy. We are also an experiment. We are like no other country in history.  The world needs us not only to provide it a place of refuge but of guidance.

Flags decorate tombstones at the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. 25 may 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

We have always been a nation of immigrants as John F. Kennedy titled his book. Even those first nation or indigenous peoples that resided in North America and even here in Hawaii, came from other parts of the world. Anthropologists aside, our origins are hidden in the mists of time.

When Europeans, and specifically those English speakers, arrived in North America they not only brought their language but the seeds of the tradition of individual freedom and choice.  They also brought slavery. Something of a contradiction that is still being worked out even after a civil war that claimed more American casualties than all others wars combined.

A nation can be defined by ethnicity, religion, a language group, borders on a map or a combination of these things. It could also be suggested that a nation is a concept. The continent of North America had been there for a long time before it was claimed by the nations that currently reside there and will certainly be there long after those entities have vanished.

We tend to think in terms of territory defining a nation and a flag as a symbol representing it. It could be posed that each of us is representative of the nation.  We carry with us the responsibility for maintaining the ideals set forth in the Constitution. We are neglecting that responsibility.

In order for this democracy to work and be successful it must live up to the principals it has promoted for more than two centuries.  It cannot afford to parcel out to selected groups certain rights and privileges. The comic and activist Dick Gregory opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1964 based on his feelings that he did not want to receive his constitutional rights on the installment plan.

Winston Churchill once pointed out that a nation like an individual, requires a direction. We have people of vision. They are being ignored.  People such as Drs. Neil deGrasse Tyson and Robert Zubrin have been offering their vision of a United States and our place in the world as the leader for the betterment of mankind. Instead of bemoaning our current condition of mediocrity, we need to plot a direction for this country that is inclusive of all Americans.

John F. Kennedy pointed us in a direction by simply stating we would go to the moon by the end of the decade.  It gave hope, direction and a sense of unity.  It also gave an unprecedented rise in the economy in new technologies.  Sadly it was overshadowed by an unpopular war and continued racial enmity.

We as a people and a nation, however way one wishes to define it, must rise up and assume our responsibilities as citizens. We can no longer afford to remain complacent or ignore issues that continue to drive us apart. We have weathered worse storms than what we face now.

What is needed is a sense of nation. Not the flag waving platitudes that politicians use to light up a crowd with but serious understanding of how our government works and what we are as a nation and a people.

I look to those leaders in science, industry and government to chuck the spear in the sand and say what direction we should take.  We need a focus.  We owe it to ourselves.  We owe it to our children.  We owe it to the world.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.com.

About the Author

  • Victor Craft
    Victor Craft is a retired aerospace worker having functioned as an FAA certificated Airframe and Powerplants Technician, Logistician and Quality Assurance director working on several major weapons systems. Vic also served tours of duty with the armed forces in Vietnam, Kenya and the United Kingdom.
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