July 4th, 2020: Where are we as Americans and as America?
- Covid-19 Pandemic. The US has the world’s highest infection and death rates.
- Coronavirus grinds the global economy to a halt.
- Social distancing. Shutdown of business and congregation.
- Black Lives Matter became a national and global movement.
- The deep divide in the US political landscape between Democrats and Republicans.
- An unusual, to say the least, 45th President Donald J. Trump.
America was Conceived with a Belief and a Vision
America was conceived 244 years ago with the belief for an INDIVIDUAL’s unalienable rights. America declared Independence from tyrannical rules based on these most famous words in English language, resonating for the entire humanity through eternity:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Emphasis added.)
And the representatives from each of the 13 states declared that “…with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Then came the cornerstones for the foundation of the US – the democratic principles such as the rule of law, check and balance of legislative, judicial and executive powers, separation of church and state. They were envisioned by the founding fathers and were birthed with blood by many Americans who gave their lives, fortunes and sacred honor for their new country.
The Power of Principles and the Inherent Vulnerability
American democratic principles have been tested in the past 244 years with the Civil War, World War I and II, Women’s Suffrage, Cold War, Civil Rights Movement, Watergate, Presidential impeachments, 9/11, economic crises, … by enemies and challenges within and without.
Today, are we still the beacon of light for human rights? Are we still the hegemonial economic power in the world? Are we still the UNITED states of America? Are we humbly awaking to the sobering facts that we are doing worse than any other country in the world in the Pandemic? And that racial injustice is still the cause for massive demonstrations more than 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech?…
We became the shining light on the hill because of our adherence to the Principles. We are STILL the hope for humanity because of our Principles. The existential threat to our democracy comes when our Principles are undermined and eroded, from inside and outside.
Principles are costly to keep, difficult to maintain, inconveniently stand in the way for instant gratifications and require constant vigilance and sometimes “trade-offs”: giving up impulses, easy answers or quick pleasures, refraining from acting from the passion of the day, even sacrificing certain things, in order to safeguard the structural integrity of a system, or to live a principled life.
In that regard, I view President Nixon’s resignation with a silver lining: It was not his only choice. But he chose to resign so that the Constitutional principles, and his own personal fate as well, would be somewhat wholesome to the extent possible in his circumstances.
Power Can Be the Enemy of Principles
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. When power and principles clash, it tests the souls of all in the system, with their individual and collective choices about what they side with and what to defend. Consequently, the structural soundness of our democratic system is either strengthened or undermined.
Principles require disciplines and habits, mental alertness and moral tenacity. Principles do not prevail all the time due to human weaknesses when faced with the seductive nature of power and temptations.
Principles are Powerful When They Are LIVED
As individuals, if we live by principles, life is not harder but easier to manage and we end up with more freedom from distractions, desires, and deficiencies of spiritual and material nature. In this regard, principles build a powerful structure for living one’s life.
If we have no principles, life can be a constant mess and our endless reactions to it. We end up with less structure, less freedom and more pains and afflictions from the consequences of our principle-less behaviors in reaction to temptations, distractions and power.
As a business, what does its brand stand for? What principles, values, visions, and persona does it have? How are they consistently implemented internally and externally?
2020 is an extraordinary year. Each American bears the civil responsibility for either strengthening our democratic principles or letting them deteriorate, with our votes, our actions or inactions. Upholding our principles is reflected with actions such as wearing a facial mask in public, thoughtful use of words on social media, reading books to your young children or letting them play video games, how we are using PPP or EIDL to build our companies, create a brand, and revive our economy, how to make the post-Pandemic world more sustainable for the future generations, …
Are we still a nation built on declared vision, belief, and principles?
Ideas lead to words.
Words lead to thoughts.
Thoughts lead to actions.
Actions become habits.
Habits become values.
Values become destiny – our own, and our Nation’s. (Partially quoted from Mahatma Gandhi)
© Joanne Tan. CEO, Brand Strategist, www.10PlusBrand.com