We need a new Compact, one that can be embraced by members of a family or by constantly quarreling political leaders; a Compact that can be embraced by church congregates and members of civic organizations; by students and seniors; by citizens of different cultures, religious beliefs, and language, bound together by hope not hate and by the commonality in their diversity.
The Compact need not be longer or more detailed than the original, but it must reflect more than a gesture toward change. The alternative? Not so good. The course we are on will make the North Sea feel like a warm bath. We all have a stake in and share responsibility for where we are. The institutions of society and government that have served as the bulwark of social order and governance need reinforcement. Those who preach violence, hatred, divisiveness and extremism must be silenced not by restrictions of speech and assembly, but simply by being boycotted and ignored. We need a Compact that restores basic human and civil values that comprise what we know to be the real American character.
The idea of a new Compact among the citizenry is, of course pollyannaish, naïve and full of generalities easily subject to interpretation to accommodate any form of bad behavior or self-serving belief structure. Granted. A friend told me recently, “Maybe some kind of encompassing calm will suddenly descend on the world, but I suspect not…it seldom does.” The late Senator Bobby Kennedy said what we should strive for now. To paraphrase: ‘Some people see things as they are and ask, why? I dream of things that never were and ask, why not?’
I was reminded a long time ago by a better writer and thinker than I that the power of words comes not from the pen, but from the willingness of people to embrace their purpose and muster the discipline to give those words life. I suspect the passengers on the Mayflower understood the purpose of their Compact and what it would take from them to give their Compact meaning. I suspect they also recognized what Benjamin Franklin is believed to have uttered after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 156 years later: “We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” That is the centerpiece for a new Compact. It is just that simple.