CHINA – No disease is as frightening as a permanent loss of memory. Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear contains many shocking scenes, but the viewer is most moved when he hears the plaintive words of the aged king: “Let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven.”

In dementia and other forms of madness, the inability to remember leaves an individual at war with himself.

Memory loss has dire consequences for nations as well. Long gone is America’s sense of unity and purpose. A society that inherited the maxim “In unity is strength” is now told that diversity is the preeminent goal of its civilization.

The words “union” and “united” once inspired men from Maine to fight on the battlefields of Gettysburg and Bull Run. Today the word “union” calls to mind something vastly different.

Many now fear that America is perched on the brink of an abyss. Republican wars with Democrat; social conservative battles liberal; tea party activist rails against the government as public enemy No. 1.

We are haunted by the fear that we are a divided nation, or perhaps not a nation at all. The genie of dissension is let loose, and there is no putting him back in the bottle.

Not far from the state capital, a splendid oil painting adorns the wall of a public building. The painting shows a young man dressed in Pilgrim garb, and he is courting his beloved. Few of the townspeople can identify the couple.

They are Priscilla and John Alden. Fifty years ago, every grade-schooler in Maine would have called out their names with delight. Alden was the first man to set foot on Plymouth Rock.

A loss of historical memory results in a confusion in values. An appeal to diversity manifests itself in the political realm as a proliferation of competing and contradictory ideas. Moral relativism undermines the values the West has held for centuries. Post-modernism takes an even more extreme position, and denies the possibility that any truth can exist at all.

Certain outcomes are predictable for such a divided and confused society. The inability to share a common frame of reference impairs communication among groups. Where communication fails, there is opposition.

And where there is opposition, citizens will impute the wrong motives to political opponents. Extreme skepticism in the realm of politics turns out to be a very poor substitute for Christianity, charity and shared national values.

As Aesop wrote: One party wars with another, and a third takes the prize. Disunity among our people benefits only the enemies of our nation.

The task that lies before us is to unite all our people — be they left or right, Republican or Democrat — on the basis of shared ethical values.

We have more in common than we realize. Both sides agree on the danger posed by making the profit motive the supreme value in society. Both sides lament the loss of freedom and the growth of the surveillance state.

Both sides share a deep respect for the land and a longing to return to simpler, traditional ways. And in this longing to return to a simpler time, both sides are sending out deep taproots to the wellsprings of our civilization.

I note in passing, the love of folk art and traditional music in many parts of the so-called counterculture — aspects of our civilization that have been abandoned by the so-called conservative and liberal mainstream.

We can indeed have a civilization which promotes community over self-interest, respect for ethical values over unbridled greed, health over indulgence, beauty over chaos. The day will come when America is once again renowned for its houses of worship, its common values, its communal festivals, its respect for women and family!

Unity will be restored; and the spirit of lawlessness and rebellion will be forgotten — a storm in the night, followed by a clear, bright morning.

It is well-said that a society that obeys God’s laws comes to look like heaven. This, I predict, will be the future of America, and it is the goal toward which we must all strive.

 

– Special to the Press HeraldAs Aesop wrote: One party wars with another, and a third takes the prize. Disunity among our people benefits only the enemies of our nation.

The task that lies before us is to unite all our people — be they left or right, Republican or Democrat — on the basis of shared ethical values.