In spite of all of our achievements and in our quest for fairness and equality, our culture has begun to focus on fault finding. Rather than celebrating our spirit of achievement, popular culture now dwells on the sins of the past and present. This collective self-reflection has generated negative energy.
Indeed, it has become fashionable to disparage one’s cultural roots. We love to condemn our ancestors and anyone who defends them. Somehow that seems noble in popular culture. We discovered the value of individual self-reflection, and have begun to apply the process to our culture.
For the individual, self-reflection can be healthy. Self-improvement is born of self-reflection. We recognize our mistakes and faults; we work to make amends and avoid wrong behavior in the future. Through healthy self-reflection, we become better people. Feeling sad and sorry has value only if it leads to better living.
However, when a person engages in unbalanced self-reflection—dwelling on the negative—he can become discouraged, even depressed. Finding and admitting fault becomes an end in itself. The person feels worthless, hopeless, and helpless. His behavior reflects his diminishing self-image and every action is an act of penance. Life becomes a downward spiral.
Our culture’s collective self-reflection, therefore, has two problems. First, societal self-reflection is more difficult because individuals invariably find fault, not with themselves, but with other people in the society. “We need to fix such-and-such, so you need to change.” We blame one another, marveling in disbelief that anyone could have a perspective that differs from our own.
Second, dwelling on the negative is unbalanced. We are on the downward spiral of doubt and depression. Our contemplations make us weaker, not stronger.
We want to blame the legacy of Western culture for every evil in the world. We wring our hands at violence in schools, and imagine that we have a hardware problem. In other words, “those white Europeans who wrote the Constitution did not understand the evil of fire arms. We need to fix that.”
We celebrate diversity, as though simply being different is virtuous. Anything different from traditional Western culture must be good. The more different we are, the better. Never mind that virtue comes in the cooperation of diverse people, not diversity for diversity’s sake.
We admonish children not to be bullies, while we assure them that life is a cosmic accident with no real meaning or value. How silly to believe the myths handed down from our fathers. People are not important and the planet would be better off without us. But, “you should be nice to your classmates.”
We celebrate every conceivable expression of religion, except Christianity or Judaism—the latter carry the stench of our evil past.
Surely it would be folly to assume that we can do no wrong as a country. It is also folly, however, to assume that we can do no right. The great cultures of the past were not those that loathed themselves, but those based on objective standards of right and wrong, those who celebrated their goodness and rewarded achievement.
The wrongs of our past are real. We cannot undo these wrongs, but we can learn from them and ask God to redeem them. In many cases, reparations are impossible. Let us acknowledge our successes and failures, our strengths and weaknesses. Let us determine to build our strengths and overcome our weaknesses. Let us make amends when appropriate, but continue to move forward.
We must not forget the blessings of our heritage.