Thursday, July 4, 2024

Trusting Private Ryan

On Independence Day I cannot help but think about our nation’s past and future. We are in the final months of a very contentious and controversial presidential election. Partisan politics rule the day. Misinformation abounds. The choices we have been given by the two major parties are not good. Many people are concerned about the future of our nation.  What is a spiritually-minded person to do in such a situation?  

A month ago, on the 80th anniversary of D-Day, actor Tom Hanks was interviewed by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour with the Normandy American cemetery as a backdrop. He was chosen because of his famous role in the movie Saving Private Ryan. Hanks was asked about the upcoming presidential election and if he was worried about the United States’ commitment to democracy and freedom. This was his reply: 

“I think there’s always reason to be worried about the short term. But I look at the longer term of what happened.”  He quoted the preamble of the Constitution, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union,” and then he added, “That journey to a more perfect union has missteps in it.... Over the long term, however, we inevitably make progress towards, I think, that more perfect union.” 

He went on to talk about how this “perfect union” comes about. “It comes about because — not because of somebody’s narrative about who is right and who is a victim or not. It comes out of the slow melding of the truth to the actual practical life that we end up living. It comes down to the good deed that is practiced with your neighbor, with your local merchants. And I will always have faith that the United States of America and the Western societies that have adopted more or less the same sort of democracy, cannot help but turn towards what is right.” 

I agree with Tom Hanks. I do not think the American experiment is over despite what the doomsday prophets predict. I have faith in the American people and the arc of the moral universe. It bends toward justice, as Martin Luther King Jr said. More importantly I look beyond the illusion of time and space to the Eternal One. This is the One I trust, not politicians or parties.  

I will keep informed, and I will vote on election day. I will have honest discussions with people of good faith, but I will not argue with those whose minds are closed. I will not fret too much about who will be sitting behind the Resolute desk during the next four years. Presidents are merely bit players on the stage of history. I trust in the One who rules over the nations and guides history.