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The battle for America’s soul is never over

We have survived the strife of the Civil Rights movement, the violent protests of the Vietnam War and the evil that was Richard Nixon. With all the success we have had in the past, we should feel better about our future.

A flag flies in Florida during the 2020 presidential election.
A flag flies in Florida during the 2020 presidential election.I have been a pessimist my entire life, Phil Kadner writes, yet, today, I am hopeful.
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP

So, this is it. Election Day has come and gone. Do you feel better?

These are perilous times we live in. We distrust the government. We distrust our national leaders. We can no longer trust each other, it seems, to do what is right.

Can we believe in the outcome of the election?

You want to read something funny:

“The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us, and therefore in public life that man is the best representative of each of us who seeks to do good to each by doing good to all…”

So said Teddy Roosevelt more than 100 years ago in what has become known as his Square Deal speech on Labor Day.

“There are good citizens and bad citizens in every class as in every locality,” Roosevelt stated, “and the attitude of decent people toward great public and social questions should be determined, not by the accidental questions of employment or locality, but by those deep-set principles which represent the innermost souls of men.”

“The average American knows not only that he himself intends to do what is right, but that his average American countryman has the same intention,” Roosevelt said.

How many of us believe that today? I doubt the majority of Americans believed it back in 1903 either. It was a hope. It was the ideal that Roosevelt and other great men in our history believed in. Their dream, if you will.

You can feel the fear that grips our country right now.

There is fear of the plague that has brought death and illness. There is fear of unemployment. There is fear of racism and religious intolerance. There is fear of extremism on both the left and the right.

There is a fear of the future.

People are buying guns and ammunition as if a civil war will soon be upon us. As if they can fire a bullet into the fog of uncertainty and make the nation more secure.

I have lifelong friends who I can no longer speak to about politics and the future of our country. We still talk about sports and family, but beyond that we have drifted apart.

The divide is so great. I doubt any election will heal it.

And yet, I know our nation has gone through other times that were difficult and survived. The Civil War is obvious, but most people don’t understand how Reconstruction, the period after the Civil War, nearly tore this country apart. It was a brutal, savage time when Americans continued to murder fellow Americans because of the color of their skin, or their politics.

During the time of Teddy Roosevelt there were bloody battles between mighty corporations and common workers. People died fighting for a decent wage, safe working conditions and the right to organize. It took decades of struggle to establish peace.

We have survived the strife of the Civil Rights movement, the violent protests of the Vietnam War and the evil that was Richard Nixon.

With all the success we have had in the past, we should feel better about our future.

I have been a pessimist my entire life. Yet, today, I am hopeful. We can do better. We must try harder.

We have received from our ancestors a great inheritance and you can leave an even greater inheritance to your children and your children’s children.

For those who were hoping today would be the end of the struggle and rejoiced at the thought, I shout eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

The battle for our national soul is not over. It never will be. This is the bond between us and those who entrusted us with this republic.

When I say the words liberty and justice for all, I mean them. I trust you do as well, my fellow countrymen.

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