The Struggle for the Soul of America: A View from Afar

It’s another beautiful morning in paradise. I’m sitting alone on the beach in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Tiny waves create a recurring rhythm as they roll ashore just 20 feet in front of me while a gentle sea breeze embraces my entire body.

I feel very fortunate to be here, so calming and reassuring. At the same time, on the other side of our planet, Ukrainians are being mercilessly killed as they desperately attempt to save their homeland from a senseless Russian invasion. Many millions more are suffering all over the world from hunger, disease, natural disaster, and armed conflict.

In our own country, people are struggling to save democracy. The Democrats are having great difficulty providing what the vast majority of Americans want due to a recalcitrant minority who can’t or refuse to accept the core principles of our nation. They don’t get that universal forces have brought us together from all over the globe, a diverse people from many different countries, races, religions and backgrounds all yearning for the same thing: a better life with “liberty and justice for all.”

Unfortunately, Americans have very different ideas of what that means. Some people believe they have the liberty to do whatever they please regardless of the consequences that may impose on others. Donald Trump is the epitome of that way of thinking. On the other hand, other people feel that we are not free until all our fellow Americans are free.

Perhaps, an even bigger issue is how Americans are divided on the meaning and application of justice in our country:

Is it just for a security guard who shoots and kills an unarmed black teenager to go free because the guard had suspicions about the teenager’s activities?

Is it just for a few Americans to accumulate billions of dollars while many others live in poverty, a good number of them homeless?

As we saw on January 6, 2021, we are in the midst of an armed and deadly conflict over the very soul of our nation. Are all Americans brothers and sisters in one big, complex family? Or are we a huge conglomeration of individuals just in it for ourselves?

I think what really divides us is our fear of the other. Whether it’s the other gender, race, nationality, sexual preference or what have you. Those driven by their fear seek power. They want to control the ‘other’ to alleviate their own fear. It’s scary and depressing what they are willing to do to gain and maintain control. And it’s impossible to predict how this will all turn out.

With all that, I am fortunate to be able to take a ‘time out’ away from all the turmoil of our world. To see the broader picture from afar. I feel great gratitude for my stay in Puerto Rico. Most people do not have the time or resources for such luxury. So, with renewed vitality and vision, I’m ready to return to the real world and continue in the struggle for the soul of America.

At the same time, the ocean will keep on washing onto the shore, wave after wave after wave forever. And we are just a tiny moment in eternity.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See, the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at

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