Paths and Choices: Citizenship 5.1.0
Many opportunities for Growth can exist in our communities. Groups larger than our individual families can reinforce loving others, including neighbors, strangers, and nature. The community can offer opportunities for a stimulating, interesting life, for taking action, and for cooperating with many others for the common good. In fact, the community is an important site for the “common good.” Inside the family and even inside the classroom, it is relatively easy to recognize what the common good might be. However, as we move outward in our relationships and duties, this common good and moral Growth naturally become more difficult to work out. Understanding the cause-effect and logic of the common good is an important step “out of the self” and into the world. The first place this kind of step occurs for most of us is in our local neighborhoods and communities.
In a democracy, the people can have many opportunities for self-direction and self-organization. In fact, that is the very thing that struck Alexis de Tocqueville when he visited the new United States of America in 1831. In Democracy in America (1835) he describes the processes of democracy in action as arising from community organizing efforts, the training ground of local citizens and leaders. After this local experimentation and practice, democracy eventually can grow up to be a wider regional, state, and national system because the citizens are both willing and able to take responsibility and exercise freedom of choice. It may be that in our current centralized and bureaucratized version of large-scale government and institutions, we as individuals have lost these skills and need to rediscover them. We can practice them at the local level, and we can once again bring our skills upwards in the system for the good of all of us together.
Without Words We Cannot Think
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. . . . [F]or us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us . . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), The Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863)