Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

Rebuilding America’s Infrastructures

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Recently there has been much discussion about rebuilding America’s physical infrastructures. Roads and bridges are in disrepair and the general condition of many pathways and passageways in America beg a complete overhaul and redoing. Congress should act immediately to provide funding for these initiatives and do so post haste.

In another sense however, America should not only be concerned about repairing its physical infrastructures, but rebuilding its intellectual, educational, moral and spiritual infrastructures. Young men and women spend thousands of dollars obtaining a college education or learning a trade but once graduated many of them are sacked with massive debt and search in vain for good paying jobs. Many of those jobs have been shipped overseas.

Someone recently stated that America is squandering its intellectual capital and is trailing behind other nations in its capacity to innovate and creatively problem solve. Many of the problems facing our nation today can be easily addressed by galvanizing a waiting cadre of eager minds who not only have the skill set but the desire to go to work to make their nation and world a better place for all. Many of these individuals are trained not only in math and science but in the humanities, arts and social sciences. Too often these great minds are undervalued, under utilized and displaced by foreign workers who are paid a cheaper wage.

While America has historically led the world in scientific and technological advancements, our efforts today seem almost feeble by comparison. The categorical waste of America’s intellectual capital is putting America further behind nations such as China and India and is further evidence of the dire need for rebuilding America’s intellectual infrastructure.

Rebuilding Americas educational infrastructure is also important which means redeveloping a system of globally competitive public education in rural and urban areas that make a good education necessary and accessible. Too many of our great minds are wasting away and are under developed because they have little or no access to a good education that will prepare them to compete in a global economy.

Also needed today are efforts to rebuild the moral and spiritual infrastructure of America to make it a more compassionate and empathic nation for all and not just the rich and super rich but the poor, middle class and underclasses. We need to go back to basics in learning how to respect and treat people. We can claim to be the richest nation on earth but if we have no charity for our neighbors and have lost our souls; if we have lost our capacity to feel the pain of others and respond to their needs then all of our bragging about America’s wealth means absolutely nothing.

This means working from a moral center of core values that affirms the possibilities, potential and worth of every living person. It means developing a society that cultivates and utilizes that potential to build human community and ultimately a better world.  The current” winner take all politics” and the Gekkoesque culture of greed and selfishness now permeating our nation is nothing more than a blueprint for disaster which further alienates and polarizes the rich and poor into perpetually warring camps.

What good can come from this?  How does America as a whole benefit? Am I not my brother and sisters keeper? What happened to the idea in the words of Jim Hightower that when everybody does better everybody does better? A moral and ethical concern for all persons will translate into a healthier and more just society. We need to reconfigure our ethical and moral value systems in ways that will help us revere the worth of all human beings and develop a society that will affirm the inestimable value potential of all of America’s citizens.

Meanwhile some segments of the faith communities fair no better. Their anti intellectualism and chronic theological pandering to the lowest and basest in us through  hypertrophic and homophobic rants,  the denigration of the urban black poor, immigrants  and the underclass and the subordination of the role and rights of women in the name of religion give us all pause. Fanning the flames of hatred and divisions rather than uniting us around common concerns of community should not be the function of religious belief systems but too often is. Should not religion and the practice of spirituality teach us to assert what we believe while affirming the rights of others to believe what they believe and still enable us to view them fully as human persons and they us?   Should  not religion and spirituality help society” cement the things that unite us and surmount the things that divide us?”

Unfortunately, organized religion is often used as tool; a weapon to devalue and demean others who do not share the same religious faith and and beliefs which foments more strife and division among us. As a Christian, I am hard pressed to find anything in the Bible that justifies the use of religion as a weapon to demean, devalue and destroy persons who are different or other. What religion should strive to achieve is spiritual enlightenment; a capacity to recognize and affirm the moral values and belief systems that we all hold in common but also preserve a desire to recognize our differences of opinion.

We need to rebuild the infrastructures of spiritual practice and religious beliefs so that we can not just tolerate others but appreciate them. This means recognizing the logical limits of our religious beliefs and practices,  embracing what we believe but also transcending our established boundaries to acknowledge and if  possible appreciate and celebrate the viewpoints of others. Then we will truly be able to see things “not only as we are but as they are.”

A great challenge to America today will be not only rebuilding its physical infrastructures of roads and highways and bridges but refurbishing its intellectual, educational, moral and spiritual infrastructures by creating  new pathways and bridges into the hearts, minds and souls of all people to create a more equal, just and compassionate America. Until we learn to maximize our intellectual, moral and spiritual capacities and recognize each person’s need to actualize his or her potential and thus promote a common good for all, our infrastructures will continue to rot, dissolve and crumble thwarting the rebuilding of those pathways and thorougfares that lead to a greater America.

One response to “Rebuilding America’s Infrastructures”

  1. Vance P. Ross Avatar
    Vance P. Ross

    Important discussion starter. Our American moral infrastructure-so often dubious in its life giving morals and duplicitous in its discussion of morality-needs repair if not overhaul. Thanks Brother Carlyle, for your courage in speaking to this.

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