Comments by Gary, CA, September 3, 2012
The first part of the article with the facts of serious problems that are facting us today seems daunting. Your challenge Jim, encourages us to view our part.
Today I awoke in my bliss and was kind to a fellow being over coffee and smiled at workers that I encountered throughout the day. A simple smile and a compliment go so far to change and improve our planet. Of course it gives us a seratonin surge and all can enjoy.
Spirits or angels come in many shapes and sizes. How great to stop, listen, feel and share our positive, loving energy more often than we usually do. I am not in denial, just enjoying the morning bliss and gratitude.
Comments by Ruth Ann, CA, August 27, 2012
Whenever I read something like this, it is a reminder for me to get back to the basics:
- Treat others as you wish to be treated.
- Do the right thing.
- Always do your very best.
- Be nice to everyone.
We all get caught up in our lives. One would think technology would help us accomplish more in less time, but there still never seems to be enough time for everything. So take time to breath. Take time to smell the roses. Take time to show appreciation for everything we have in life.
I have a gratitude journal that I write in every morning. I think about all of the things from the previous day that I am grateful for, or that brought a smile to my face. Sometimes they are simple - like noticing a flower - and sometimes they are big - that my parents are still alive for me to enjoy! It is an amazing way to start out each day on a positive note and it helps even the stressful moments not feel so stressful! And it helps me be more tolerant and understanding of those that aren't in the same great place I am!
Comments by Gordon, CO, August 7, 2012
Thanks for the article Jim. I very much enjoyed such a concise reflection on what appears to be ailing us as a country. All one has to do
is watch and listen to the political talking heads of today and view this eternal conflict in bitter detail. All talking and very little listening!
I believe "the better angels of out nature" is the ability to listen to one another, understand other points of view, and seek resolutions and compromises. Those pictured on the cover of your new book [Shameless] seem to only desire to fan the flames of conflict without ever really listening.
Comments by Mo, CA, August 3, 2012
Very deep, thought-provoking article Jim.
I don't acknowledge "better" angels. When I am saved by a slim margin of injuring myself... I thank "those" and God for watching over me. When I lose my temper, I ask God to put me on the right path. If I'm in my car and really losing my cool, I reach up and stroke my rosary.
I don't have an angel for anti-gluttony, adultery, murder, lying, jealousy, stealing, etc. They're all "one" helping God perform His works on us. During the day it's pretty much up to us to follow the path He has laid out for us. When I veer off course, hopefully I recognize it and again pray for His assistance.
Comments by Terry, TX, August 2, 2012
Living in a state (Texas) with a rabid, far-right Republican administration that floats the idea of secession whenever the Federal government does something it doesn’t like (which is everything it does), I found your quotes from Abraham Lincoln remarkably topical in the way they address the American political situation today.
When a substantial portion of the electorate views its own government as the enemy, the only possible result is the character assassination, poisonous partisan bickering and legislative gridlock that plague Washington today. In a mere three words, Lincoln said it best: “Unanimity is impossible.” In the past, both major political parties recognized that simple fact, and were willing and able to compromise with each other to reach solutions that benefitted the country as a whole. Today is different. Today, the party that perceives itself as “out of power” has proclaimed as its most important goal the abject defeat of the party that it perceives as “in power.”
That’s the driving force—gain power at any cost. Thus, issues of critical and lasting National significance—the economy, border security, education, health care, taxes, military spending, the deficit—all languish, ignored and unloved, while all energy focuses with laser-like intensity on simply getting rid of the other guy.
I fear the political divisiveness of recent years is here to stay, and is only going to get worse. If the differences between the two major parties were limited to ways and means of implementing policies that both agreed—or, at least, accepted—were for the good of the country as a whole, we could probably move forward with some spirit of cooperation and compromise. But when the differences lie in the most basic, fundamental visions of what kind of country America should be, I’m inclined to believe all hope for progress is lost.
Unfortunately, I see no signs that the better angels of our nature, such as respectful disagreement, willingness to compromise and putting the common good above partisanship, will ever touch the lawmakers who should be the protectors and upholders of the American dream, but who show by their actions that it is the last thing they care about.
Comments by Steve, NH, July 31, 2012
The image used is from Lincoln’s second inaugural and, to me, that remarkable inaugural address provides insight into understanding the complexities of the better and killer angels. The image contains not only Lincoln but the man who would soon assassinate him, underscoring how language is interpreted and messages perceived.
What is considered an unique, profound and magnanimous address designed to heal the wounds of war and move the nation forward into an uncertain future, the last few sentences bear repeating, “…(w)ith malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
By then Lincoln’s killer was deaf to these words as they were being delivered and Lincoln would be struck down in a matter of weeks by a person who’s fear of what America could become where the institution of slavery was legally ended. The inaugural image is a study in contrasts: our better angel and our worst fear.
Comments by Amanda, NC, July 31, 2012
You pose quite an interesting and challenging question in your piece.
My initial reaction as I read it began with a rolling of the eyes at the "look how great and unique and different and better we Americans are" stance because I do not think the Middle East is in chaos because their people want it, but rather because there has been decades of systematic poverty, war and international help in keeping them in that state. Let's not forget that it was the U.S. who helped Hussein oust the government that was in control and then helped him become the new leader.
Anywho, I don't think Americans are really all that much better than anyone else. Our "resolve" is because though 9/11 was devastating, it only devastated our emotions, not our pockets. We have poverty, yes, but not massive starvation. We are in war yes, but not on our soil. Take Americans freedom, money and food away, and trust me, many Americans will devolve into fear mongering anarchists (with Fox news leading the way!).
But as I continued reading my eyes steadied back and I appreciated your call to open and honest dialogue. Perhaps the "angels" you speak of are those willing to listen, to understand and to create spaces for REAL dialogue. There was a great quote on A Prairie Home Companion from Sunday's broadcast, "My mama always said that you have two ears and one mouth, so use accordingly." We need angels with two ears and one mouth that use them accordingly.
Comments by Harry, CA, July 31, 2012
The best way we can demonstrate our "better angels" is to stay fully engaged with our civic responsibilities. If we expect others to do the hard work, we are really allowing those with selfish agendas to dictate the political debate. Lack of engagement has enabled "wedge issues" to dominate discussion in the public square and keep us from making progress on the vital problems we face.
"The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is whole inadmissiable..." These words in Lincoln's first inaugural address have a special resonance for today's stalemated Congress. Fifty-nine yes votes can be denied by just 41, and this has been happening dozens of times over the last four years. Dumping the filibuster rule should be part of the Democratic Party platform, and my better angel will make sure I send this message to party leaders many times before the convention in September.
Nothing gets me more worked up than to watch Mitch McConnell pontificate and then hide behind yet another filibuster.
Comments by Elaine, CA, July 31, 2012
Whatever happened to "love thy neighbor as thyself"?
Comments by Steve, CA, July 31, 2012
I believe that our "better angels" are the ones that lead us into a more heartfelt state of humanity. Personally, one of my own "better angels" would be the angel of compassion. By trying, in earnest, to see myself in everyone else, I strive to do nothing that could bring harm, distrust, misfortune or any pain in any manner whatsoever to my own being. By seeing myself in others, why would I want to harm another, as I'd only be harming myself.
Comments by Richard, CA, July 31, 2012
The “better angels” of our nature is a great phrase as it sums up the personal responsibility we bear, individually and collectively, for what happens to us in our lives and our country. It also reflects a sense of the unrealized potential that an angel represents, and that we have a choice to turn to either the positive or negative potentials within us.
The "better angels," it seems to me, are just around the corner. We just need the will to walk those extra few steps, put aside our differences, and embrace them.
Comments by Joan, CA, July 30, 2012
What is it about Americans that do/can/hopefully will make us better angels? What is inherently American about being "just nice," being "just kind," being "just thoughtful," with a multipurpose caring attitude about everyone we meet? How about those we will never meet who rant and rave via the internet, newspaper "letters to the editor," what is it that doesn't divide us but rather how can we just "get along," or is that enough?
Whom we send to represent us, represents us. Just look at us: spoiled children who will not give an inch for the "greater good." Mr. Bush really, really did us a disservice after 9/11 when he said "let's all go shopping." This one statement will haunt our country for the foreseeable future. Our psyche is so skewed now that "those farmers" select representatives that actually do them harm and don't even see this.
At the moment, I see no angels appearing in our nature. That's why I'm flummoxed by this whole issue. I can look at myself, I look at others around me, and I see those that are all over the internet via [Facebook], op-eds, press releases and on cable news. Nothing looks positive.
Comments by Bruce, CT, July 30, 2012
To me, our "better angels" tell us not to demonize the positions of others but to hear them out with respect. In many cases critics were told they were "heartless" for being against programs aimed at increasing home ownership or college attendance. And yet, in retrospect, a very good case can be made that cheap mortgage money caused the housing bubble and collapse and cheap student loans have caused tuitions to rise at twice the rate of inflation for the last three decades.
So my point is that, yes, the American left and right are not enemies and have more in common than what keeps them apart. And, surely, the politics that demonizes opponents is tearing at the fabric of our nation. But let us never forget that it is often those who are so certain of the rightness and goodness of our positions that do the most damage.
Don't forget that Lincoln "solved" the secession debate with force. Yes, South Carolina fired on Ft. Sumter but only after South Carolina had seceded from the Union, and so the fort was arguably no longer a lawful extension of Union soverignty. In any event, any discussion of the merits of the right of a state to secede is is now closed, although I thought the South had the better of the argument, although not the moral argument on slavery, obviously. I don't believe that the representatives of the states that joined the union ever believed that it was an irrevocable decision. That is the way we look at it now, but, again, until it was settled by arms and the deaths of 600,000 Americans, it was deemed an open question to be honestly debated.
Gun control is also a question to be debated honestly and openly. Of course the mass shootings are tragic but the imposition of a dictatorship is far more so. The wisdom of our Founders in enshrining the right of the people to keep and bear arms is proved out daily around
the globe. When a public is armed, tyrants tread lightly. Will gun laws prevent carnage? New York City has some of the harshest gun laws in the country and every day there is news of another shooting. Personally, I prefer an armed citizenry to the depredations of despots. We can have an honest debate on the control of carried pistols and the right to own rapid-fire assault weapons but the Second Amendment is, in my view, a stroke of brilliance and should not be tampered with.