Welcome to 2021. After the unforgettable, excruciating events of last year, most people are crawling to the door of change, desperate for fresh air and fresh hope! I’m just not so sure that there will be a bright line of distinction between 2020 and 2021. Truth is, plan on stumbling through the fog and traversing the quagmire produced by this pandemic along with our broken political system. But, as I have stated before, this season will pass. Now is the time for Tough Decisions and Hard Work!
Let start with Tough Decisions. I am a firm believer that the future we aspire to achieve is determined in large part by the decisions and choices we make today. There are consequences to every decision we make. Thus, it is critical that we are contemplative, analytical and thoughtful about our choices, avoiding impulsivity and emotional distraction. A fool’s errand is avoidable; unfortunately, too many choose this path.
Here is my list of critical Tough Decisions we are immediately confronted with that we need to make culturally, but also as individuals:
- Do we fight for democracy, or allow authoritarian oligarchy to continue to take root?
- Do we build bridges between political and social division, or acquiesce to the destruction of polarization?
- Do we pursue Social Justice, or allow the destructive forces of racism and aristocracy to prevail?
- Do we tackle poverty and income equality, or yield to oppression and disenfranchisement?
- Do we promote the health, wellbeing and quality of life for all, or selfishly pursue our own interest at the expense of others?
At first blush, they seem like no-brainers, not really tough decisions at all, right? But here’s the line of distinction that makes them “tough”--you may agree with all of these things because they sound good and right. But agreeing is not deciding. Decision denotes action–are you willing to fight, build, pursue, tackle and promote? A Tough Decision is a commitment to action! And where the Hard Work comes into play.
When it comes to Hard Work, there’s no truer statement that I have learned than this: “Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all.” It is definitely time to turn up our sleeves, not our noses, nor abandon our responsibility.
I view the situation we are experiencing today as analogous to post World War II Europe; there is much rubble and destruction which needs repair. My wife and I have had the good fortune to be able to travel to Europe several times over the past couple of decades. We love the quaint walled cities and villages of Germany, Italy and France. Seeing them today you would never know that many of them were pummeled and nearly destroyed during the war. Through the process of Hard Work, they have been beautifully restored.
In many ways, restoring broken buildings is much easier than restoring a broken society, economy, heart and culture. The same principles apply though–you rebuild one stone/step at a time.
Hard Work is needed to positively change the direction of our country, and our future, for that matter, needs to focus on the five action areas I identified above: fight, build, pursue, tackle and promote. Let’s look at each of these.
Fight – The act of going to battle for what is right, precious, valuable and necessary for the wellbeing of all. The USA fought Hitler and his authoritarian, evil attempt to take over Europe and the world for that matter. It was the moral, right course of action, as was our fight with the leaders of Japan. We are currently in a “fight” to conquer the Covid-19 pandemic, but also to preserve the integrity of our democracy and uniqueness of America. There are many issues that we may need to “go to battle for,” such as social justice, equality, voter rights, et cetera. It is passionately seizing the moral high ground in a nonviolent, aggressive fashion.
Build – It is one thing to go to battle, it’s another to be willing to build, or rebuild that which has been damaged or destroyed in the fight. After World War II, the United States initiated the “Marshall Plan” to restore and rebuild Europe. It was the right thing to do. The forces of greed, the pursuit of power, and the wanton disregard for the needs and value of others always leaves behind a wake of destruction. We are experiencing this in the USA right now. We need to fight to stop it, but then be willing to build or rebuild something new, fresh, healthy and edifying for everyone!
Pursue – Is a process of passionately going after, chasing, reaching for or obtaining something very important, for example, Social Justice. It is not a “one-off” effort, it is a continual process of pursuit--of chasing after, of reaching for. Pursuing is not giving up. It is being persistent, tenacious and unbendable. It may take a fight, it may take building bridges, relationships, channels of communication or a whole new structure to accomplish, but we never stop pursuing the things that we know are righteous and essential!
Tackle – This is the process of putting brains and thought behind the fight, the building and the pursuing. To “tackle” a problem is to develop plans, strategy, tactics, and innovations; it is applying all of the creative genius that can be mustered to solve the problem! No good general will go to battle without a strategic plan and multiple contingencies. In like manner, we must Tackle our social problems with wisdom, intelligence and a well established plan. We need to embrace the wisdom of one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Promote – Good plans and strategies are useless if you do not properly “market” them! To Promote, is to sell to and convince others to join your effort. In an effective democracy, we must have a tidal wave of support, passion and effort to accomplish that which is valuable to the whole of society. To effectively fight, you need an army. To build, you need laborers. To aggressively pursue, you need a movement. To successfully tackle a problem, you need a think tank brain trust. These are all obtainable through efficacious Promotion, convincing others of the value of the effort.
We are in a period in US history no one really foresaw. But it is not our first significant or potentially devastating challenge we have faced and overcome. As a new nation, we were besieged in the war of 1812. We survived the heart-wrenching Civil War, World War I and the Great Depression. We prevailed in World War II and emerged as a victorious world leader. We prevailed in the Cold War, becoming the torchbearer of democracy and world peace. Now, we must once again make some very Tough Decisions, roll up our sleeves and embrace Hard Work in order to preserve not only what America has stood for, but more importantly, to forage a new, better, healthier and righteous society which benefits everyone and not just a favored few!
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