(This article is the first in a series, titled "Press the Battle," whose purpose is to get our national conversation to focus on the central realities of the crisis in today's America.)
In America right now there's a battle that needs to be fought and won in our political arena. It's a battle over what kind of country, and what kind of planet, our children and grandchildren will live in.
Although some people like waging battle -- some even insist on it -- most liberals I've known are capable of living richer, more balanced and fulfilling lives. Most of us liberals would rather lead those better lives than focus on political combat.
But over the past decade or two, while we've been living our fuller, more rounded lives, we with the more humane set of values have been out-organized, out-fought, out-messaged by a relentless force that has taken over the right, and that has
" hollowed out the middle class,
" debased our public discourse,
" brought out the worst in our decent conservative neighbors,
" undermined the rule of law,
" placed our descendants in greater peril of ecological catastrophe,
" embroiled us in needless wars,
" besmirched America's good name in the world,
" driven our economy into a pit,
" and magnified the ability of corporate power to steal our democracy.
The response from Liberal America to this ugly destructive force on the right has been woefully inadequate to protect the nation.
The combination of a destructive force and weak response has created one of the most profound crises in American history. If our nation is going to stop its descent, and to regain the ability to deal constructively with the challenges we face, this dangerous political dynamic must be turned around.
Sure, we'd rather live our healthier, more fulfilling lives. But history does not always give people the choices they prefer.
Throughout history, peoples have been forced to confront others who were bent upon expanding their own power. The undesirable choice has been either to fall under the domination of aggressors, or to match their power in order to defend what is held dear. (This is a major theme of my book -- The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution -- explaining why the course of civilization has often been so tormented.)
We in America today do not have the option we'd prefer, of going on as before and have everything be all right.
In plain sight, those relentless forces that have taken over the Republican Party are working against pretty much everything we believe in: justice to protect the weak, respect for the truth in our democratic deliberations, compassion for our fellow citizens, and care for the integrity of the living systems on which we all depend for our survival.
That's the nature of what we're called to fight and defeat. The stakes could hardly be higher.
We're not the first to be required by the luck of the historical draw to be called to a duty we'd not desired.
In the 1940s, my father's generation had to set aside the lives they would have preferred to lead -- lives richer and more humane than fighting their way across France or the islands of the Pacific -- because it was necessary to defeat a destructive force that had arisen in Europe and Asia.
The present generation of Americans has a moral responsibility to sacrifice our ease and comfort to defend the same values by fighting here at home.