Ever since the 1960s when confident, brassy Baby Boomers rejected what I often call the Christian cultural consensus, we have been struggling to find what unites Americans. Sports? Ephemeral and fleeting. Freedom? A treasured ideal twisted into a license to speed past all the traditional sexual stop signs. Flag? A valuable symbol that, apart from our armed forces, inspires far less sacrifice than it ought. It seems as if we are so brittle that we break into cultural and political ice floes, our separate groups adrift on rolling, turbulent seas.
In the Wilberforce Academy, we ask our international mentees to conduct analyses of their respective national cultures. What are their ideals, symbols, and celebrations? What are the things that unify and divide? What stories do the members of your societies tell and how do they make sense of those stories?On this US Independence Day in 2017, I offer an analysis of my beloved country, the USA.
New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has uncovered, through his research which he reports in the 2012 book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, a stunning insight into the very different ways that American liberals and conservatives imagine reality as seen through others’ eyes. Conservatives, he found, are very adept at imagining the lifeworld of liberals. By contrast, liberals are stunted when it comes to imagining life through the lens of a conservative.