Once upon a time, Americans possessed an idea of the common good. It was not only political in character but social and economic.
Our sense of the common good we inherited from antiquity. From Plato to Adam Smith, we have envisioned the common good as both a responsibility and a right of every citizen.
Indeed, our history has demonstrated that often we are seduced by a quest for privilege and power. One needs to only think about our mistreatment of African Americans, women, Indigenous Americans, the queer community, etc., and the proof looms large before us for those who have eyes to see.
Yet, despite our mistakes, our collective spirit has believed and yearned for the fruition of our ideal of the common good. We sense its reality even if we are not able to articulate it or concretize it.
We simply know that the quest for the common good is necessary.
Somewhere along the line, our sense of the common good has been shattered into pieces. Our social, political, economic, intellectual and spiritual pursuits have become individualistic and selfish.
In the words of Adam Smith, “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people.” We are so ideologically driven that conversation between opposing proponents has become almost impossible.
Conservatives and liberals are more interested in some warped sense of “ideological purity” than the prosperity of the neighbor and, subsequently, of the society.
Democrats and Republicans have demonstrated no sense of the common good. Instead, we are being force-fed their agendas.
Whether leftist or rightist, their agendas have missed the needs of the real people of America.
Teachers in America cannot make a living wage. Farmers who have fed us for generations cannot afford to farm. Labor is being forced to do more for less.
Hardworking citizens are no longer the middle class. They are now the “working poor” who cannot pay for rent, food, gas, insurance, utilities, children’s clothing and medicine all in the same month.
The American dream is a nightmare for many, many people. And no one — not the president, not the Senate, not the Democratic Congress — is asking us what we need.
Yet the rich are becoming richer and are increasingly immune from criticism and reproach.
Is this the America we hoped for? Of course not. America is greater than the divisive, elitist, racist, sexist, homophobic, pseudo-intellectual demagoguery we are experiencing.
All of us need an America that is by and for the people, instead of against the people. No senior should have to decide whether to buy medicine or food.
No parent should worry about whether little Nathan will be shot on his way to school, in school or coming home from school.
No generational framer should have to worry about losing the farm because she can’t compete with corporate farming nor governmental tariffs.
If our elected officials, Democrats or Republicans, are not going to invest the time and talent necessary for the creation of the common good for all Americans, then we the people need to take them out of office. The same is true up and down the political hierarchy: national, state, county, local. We do not need more ideologues; we need persons that love and care about the people.
If we who are black, Anglo, Latino, Asian, LGBQIAA+, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, agnostic, well-educated, working class and/or whatever do not rediscover the common good, we shall surely see the American dream destroyed and not just differed. The Nazarene is correct. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
The Rev. C.W. Dawson Jr. was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at MU. He teaches at Columbia College and Moberly Area Community College and writes for the Missourian.