The Struggle for the Soul of America: Are We in a Moment of Transcendence?

Last Tuesday, I celebrated my 76th birthday at Faywood Hot Springs south of Silver City, New Mexico. That morning my partner and I stepped outside our cozy cabin and a royal blue peacock appeared less than 20 feet away. We both felt great joy seeing this majestic creature with its amazing train of gorgeous feathers that had to be over six feet long.

The peacock is a symbol of transcendence and freedom. Encountering a peacock is said to be an omen of going beyond one’s personal boundaries and being “ready to shine out.” Feeling that my life is in a time of major transition, I sensed the appearance of this peacock — on my birthday, no less — was a sign for me to get out of my comfort zone and shift into a brighter, freer state of being. In the coming weeks and months, I believe how I might do this will become clearer.

Then, on Thursday evening, I watched President Biden address a joint session of Congress on national TV. As I listened to Biden, he appeared to have received a transcendent signal similar to the one I had gotten from the peacock. He was moving beyond his previous moderate political boundaries and imploring the American people to support bold, progressive proposals on everything from the economy and infrastructure to education and climate change:

“America is moving. Moving forward. And we can’t stop now. We’re in a great inflection point in history. We have to do more than just build back. We have to build back better.”[1]

In essence, Biden was saying it’s time for the nation to abandon prior theories like “trickle down” economics that had never really worked anyway. Rather, he asserted that the country needed to turn the corner to a more inclusive, optimistic future built from the bottom up.

As a nation, we are finally emerging from the shadows of a debilitating pandemic, a devastating recession, and a draconian administration. While we have not eradicated COVID, the government has made great strides in controlling it with over 230 million vaccinations since Biden took office.[2] In addition, the economy is quickly recovering with 6.4 percent growth in the first quarter of the year fueled by government aid and declining viral cases.[3] Yet, we still have a long way to go to realize the vision of “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Unfortunately, there are those among us who do not want justice for all or the right to vote protected for everyone. As Biden reminded us in his address:

And if we are to truly restore the soul of America – we need to protect the sacred right to vote. More people voted in the last presidential election than any time in American history – in the middle of one of the worst pandemics ever.
That should be celebrated. Instead, it’s being attacked. Congress should pass H.R. 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and send them to my desk right away.[4]

This is America’s moment of truth. Yes, we survived the January 6th attack on our democracy. But if we are to truly transcend racial bigotry and economic injustice, and forge a new era based on fairness and compassion, we must overcome the hate, ignorance and greed that runs rampant in our country. Biden’s proposals are showing us the way. The question is: Do the Senate and the American people have the wisdom and courage to follow his lead?

Bruce Berlin, JD





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