Senator Jeff Flake announced his resignation (listen to the full speech there). Or rather, that he will not be seeking reelection in a speech on the floor of the Senator on Tuesday, October 24, 2017. Referencing values, principles and conscious, Flake’s speech both inspires and saddens. Why is it that he feels, in delivering this message, he must not seek re-election. Why is there not room for this speech and his re-election? He made several appeals to us to act on our principles. I wonder if the majority of us listening can name our principles, either as Americans or as mere individuals. Do we have a shared sense of values? Did we? I want to be moved to aspirational action and speech by Flake’s own. I am also intuitively aware of a division at the core that resists an appeal to order.
More Perfect, the podcast, in their recent episode “Enemy of Mankind” highlighted the tension of American supremacy in the world as studied through the Supreme Court. At some point, Americans stopped believing in, or being satisfied by or buying into the narrative that the United States was a city on a hill, a beacon of light. Who are we to lead, police, tell, guide other countries was a narrative that began. The previous one of hope and leadership was tied to a naivete. To have such a hope, such aspirations was to be naive. Eventually, it was to say that to hold faith of any kind was to be naive, unscientific. We entered a period of relativism. I am of a generation that learned that in school. Who are we to judge? Look at all the atrocities we have committed or in which we have been complicit.
I am skeptical that we have a shared values system to return to. Our institutions of inculcating values have been vacated and are mistrusted. New voices, ones which were intentionally kept out of the value-making institutions of the past, need to claim (be allowed) insider status (i.e. black, women, people of color, queer).
Questions that Senator Flake’s speech brings to the surface:
Where are we learning values now?
What are our values now?
Accommodation and relativism - have they taken over?
How do we lead now, while knowing we have been wrong?
Our core principles - what are they?
Where have our core values as a country been challenged before Trump’s ascendency, on what grounds and by whom?
Was there a sense of an earlier, or even foundational betrayal of “our” values which therefore undermines our ability to claim them now (i.e. to have moral authority)?
How do we not throw the baby out with the bathwater?
What is the role of forgiveness in this reconciliation of action with values; of identity with values? Who forgives whom and how?
Are the values changed/changing? Or are the identities of those who make them and promote them? Or both?
What sacred values are being revealed?