Luke Nathan Phillips

Luke Nathan Phillips

Luke Nathan Phillips is Editor of The Conversation's opinion content. He is based in the Washington D.C. metro area.

A Firebell in the Night

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Friends, sometimes it seems there’s nothing an American hates more than their fellow Americans. We are proud of our freedom and our virtue; we fear insurrection and tyranny; we love our country; we rage at those among us who would betray it; we fight for what’s right; we hate those among us who fight for what’s wrong. And we all suffer for it, and America grows weak.

Fear, anger, hate—no matter where we are, no matter what we tell ourselves, they push and pull us all in this sharp moment of clarity we now live through. However the present crisis is resolved—and fervently do we hope that no more blood is meaninglessly shed for it—the fact will remain that America and our fellow Americans this year, and for some time to come, will be as divided, as afraid, as angry, as hateful as we’ve ever been in our lifetimes. The work of healing cannot start with revenge, in the life of nations; it can only start with healing.

And so, with charity for all, with malice toward none, we invite you, and all your family and friends and colleagues and neighbors, and all Americans of hope and goodwill, to join us next Tuesday, January 12th at 8pm Eastern Time, for an evening of hope and fortitude, a little vigil for the unity of America in these tumultuous times.

It will not be without personal costs. Your fellow Americans will hate you, call you the enemy, call you a traitor or a dupe. Even your most loving friends may rebuke you, tell you you’re blind to the truth, say you’re standing aside in the face of evil, when the time to stand up has come. You will feel rage and shame; you will be discouraged, and consider giving up. We all have.

But have faith, American. You are not the only one who wants our country to live, and is willing to stand up for it against the polarizing, dehumanizing forces in each of us that weaken us all every day. We will stand with you, and for this great American cause so much bigger than any party or faction, so much bigger than any crisis or crime, so much bigger than any of us. And we will extend our hands in friendship to those who rebuke us, time and time again, for in the end they too are our fellow Americans.

Our mission at Braver Angels, since the day of our founding a few short years ago and across all the lifetimes and ages that have passed since then, remains what it always has been and always will be: to hold America together by transforming ourselves and loving one another. We never expected to be doing that work and holding that line amid the conditions we now face; but we don’t get to choose our fate, only how we hold ourselves, whatever comes.

The firebell in the night is ringing out. The crises of our recent past, the presence of our vices and the excess of our virtues, have all converged on our long year 2020, and laid bare as never before the real stakes of our moment and of the unknown future stretching before us. Our fellow Americans are rushing to prepare—sometimes their actions will help, and other times, they will harm.

Let us, ourselves, be a light in the darkness, and show them a better way. See you on Tuesday.

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