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Uncommon Sense–an Rx for America’s ills

Inspired by Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, “Common Sense,” and challenged by my place in this community called the United States of America, I have come up with a program to re-invigorate America with a real sense of the American purpose and some practical ways to go about achieving it.
This is my “manifesto” to thoughtful Americans.
America still connected to the land
A Strategic Vision for Revitalizing Our Commitment to the American Mission
By Errol Strider

“American needs to recover its mythic dimension.”
From The American Soul by Jacob Needleman

“What we lack is an evolved sense of our collective purpose for our talent and intelligence.”
“…….it feels as though there is no unified social force field for the effort, no number to call, no place to sign up.”
From Healing of America by Marianne Williamson

INTRODUCTION:(I highly recommend that you read this intro, but if you’re eager to find out what the mission is, you can scroll down to “OUR MISSION”), but please come back.)

America has a mission statement. Little known or recognized and rarely embraced, but nevertheless, we, “United States-ans” do indeed have a mission statement.
What is the significance of that? In his book, Peak Performers, Charles Garfield identified the characteristics of peak performers—people who are highly successful in their respective fields. At the top of the list was the fact that each of them had a mission, a strong sense of purpose that they envisioned bringing about through their work or enterprise…and not to just to make a lot of money or be famous. No, each of them had a mission to, in some way; make a difference through their product or service. And, invariably that mission was tied to a value that these leaders wanted to promulgate through their enterprise. With Ray Krock, who started McDonald’s, it was cleanliness. With the founder of Dow chemical it was safety. With, Tom Watson, the founder of IBM it was service. With J.C. Penny, whose stores were originally called “The Golden Rule” stores; it was “Doing unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” *High-faluten notions? But wait…..
This is not to say their talent, business expertise and the rightness of their products for their time weren’t important factors. But what is significant here is that they had a sense of mission. They had purpose. And in Garfield’s analysis, this value-based mission was not only first on the list of peak performers, but was the most consistent, and in some ways, the most crucial factor.
What is vital to recognize here is that though personal gain is no doubt a significant factor in these peak performers’ motivation, it wasn’t necessarily the dominant factor. Certainly, they sought wealth and they believed in their product and service, but they also were committed to a way of delivering that product or service that added value.
Having a shared mission is of enormous value. The advantage of a mission is that it provides a benchmark, a way to measure how we are doing. It offers direction, purpose, and a sense of belonging. And if we truly believe in our mission, it can motivates us and fuel our drive to achieve it. In short, it helps us as United Citizens of America to function at a level of peak performance.
Right now, America has little unifying sense of direction, no universal and consistent moral compass, no compelling reason for many of its citizens to actively participate in our republic. In fact, we are a very contentious, divided people–quick to blame, dominate and litigate. There is a sense of entitlement. In short, we are a very immature species.
To the extent that we lack a clear sense of purpose to which we can collectively agree upon, America is floundering idealistically. We are an indifferent, complacent, greedy, fractious and narcissistic citizenry. In fact, one very telling sign that we are off course is that we don’t even see ourselves as a “citizenry,” but more as an “economy.” We are “consumers” first and “citizens” secondly…if at all. Our criteria for success are more about becoming “competitive” than being “cooperative.” Beyond self interest with its different values systems competing for our souls, we do not appear to have a clear vision, a pragmatic idealism…something we can collectively aspire to.

“Ideas may take origin in the stimuli of the outer world, but ideals are born only in the creative realms of the inner world. Today the nations of the world are directed by men who have a superabundance of ideas, but they are poverty-stricken in ideals. That is the explanation of poverty, divorce, war, and racial hatreds.” The Urantia Book, p.1219

Many forces vie for our attention, our loyalty, our votes, our dollars, and devotion; but collectively, we do not seem to have a common goal that can bind us and energize us with enthusiasm for who we are as Americans and where America is headed, and, by implication, where America, with all her power and influence, is leading the world.

And mostly, we are cynical. There is a derisive undercurrent of, “Yeah, right” that pervades our cultural consciousness. We don’t seem to expect the best from ourselves. Idealists are derided as “un-realists.” Oh, there are those, especially in the political arena who put on the face of “Aren’t we Americans great and don’t we know what we’re doing?” But as any of the cynical people can point out, that is just the painted-on-high-gloss stain laid over a highly blemished cultural psyche. And can a community really thrive without a pragmatic idealism? Could the founding “parents” of this country have done what they did if they didn’t have some idealism, notwithstanding that they were men of property, slaveholders and at to a great degree financially motivated.
What supports this cynicism, this anti-idealism, if you will, is a sense of having been consistently betrayed, which in turn erodes trust and replaces it with wariness and suspicion, if not out right hostility. How can ideals grow in the soil of so much cynicism? And how can we expect anything other than cynicism in the face of so much ugliness and betrayal? If our ideals and our best sense of who we are and what we are capable of betray us, then inevitably we will become, if not cynical, then angry and paranoid, or we fall into denial and even self-betrayal (see James Hillman’s article on “Betrayal”)

Well, guess what? Buried in our national literature, usually glossed over, taken-for-granted, casually crossed off as so much hyperbole is our national mission statement. Yes, we have a clear, concise mission statement that identifies six very specific goals (agendas) for our country…to which we are called to manifest. Indeed, I would suggest that it is the active participation in achieving our six goals that truly makes us—and to the degree that we are participating in achieving these goals–we can proudly call ourselves, Americans.
So I hope that by now, I have piqued your interest and you’re asking, “Okay already, what is the mission?” If this occurs to you, take a second to notice whether or not you even know what it is. No blame. Neither do most of the rest of the many people I’ve asked. It’s a question of positioning. When you see what our mission is, when you hear it spoken, when you feel the energy of the mission as our shared purpose as Americans, you will appreciate that it is the great dark horse of our collective American Soul.
“So what is it already?”

Common Sense as Rx…

“We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do”…

Our Mission:
• to form a more perfect union (Be united)
• establish justice (Be just)
• insure domestic tranquility (Be peaceful)
• provide for the common defense (Be safe and secure)
• promote the general welfare (Be healthy)
• secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity (Be free and blesssed)

Please note that I have simplified our mission into the following six goals: to become more unified, just, peaceful, secure, healthy and free. Later I will develop each of these goals in more detail and how they capture the essence of our mission as stated in the more poetic language of the preamble.
That’s it, that’s our mission statement… eloquently and explicitly stated in the Preamble to the United States Constitution. By and large, America has focused on what has become the political and governing vehicle for the fulfillment of that mission, the Constitution, and left it up to politicians, lobbyists and lawyers and those who can most influence them to be responsible for achieving the mission, if indeed it is even on the radar of their aspirations. And, as most would agree, it is money and power that does the controlling and the influencing and will continue to do so until a critical mass of Americans develop the will to do things differently.

So what would it take to awaken and harness that Will. What can we as a citizenry do about it? The answer to those questions is the whole point of this manifesto. We must realize that while the constitution provides the skeleton, structure of rule of laws of our government, the responsibility for the mission goes far beyond what can be achieved through legislative and political manipulations. The responsibility, and just as importantly, the opportunity to fulfill that mission still rests in the hands and hearts of every American citizen.

THESIS: This extraordinary mission deserves to be resurrected from cliché, extracted from the cobwebs of neglect, retrieved from the attic of indifference, wrestled from the clutches of power brokers, brought to our attention, and actively and passionately embraced as our collective purpose. This is especially true if we are to successfully navigate our way through the inevitable perils that the 21st century promises us, environmentally, politically, financially and morally.

We must consider what it would take for each of us to actively commit to that vision and do whatever we can to understand it, flesh it out, and ultimately take all necessary steps to fulfill that mission. Especially we must learn to see how our self-interest and the achievement of our mission are inextricably bound—as one goes, so goes the other. There is no separation. And we must learn how to do this together.

Our mission identifies six very explicit goals that our founding parents set out to achieve through the establishment of our country and its government through the U.S. constitution. These goals need to be re-framed in order to activate and empower us. Given a chance, they have the power to call forth our best nature and to provide a unifying direction so that we can progress and heal the many divisions in our American Community and more effectively deal with the variety of problems that plague us both here and around the globe.

I believe that once we recognize we have a mission, and clearly demonstrate what each of us can actually do about it, we will be able to enlist Americans of all walks of life and all ages in this noble undertaking. And as we do, we make it possible for ourselves and our posterity to reap the harvest …to unearth the bounty of blessings that waits within the treasure chest that is the heart of the United States, the American Spirit.

When people see that, regardless of the circumstances of their lives, they can actually make a contribution to our future, they’ll be able to transcend the feelings of helplessness in the face of seemingly overwhelming dominate forces. They will be charged with the inspiration, passion and wisdom to actually redirect our course towards a higher and better quality of life for more and more citizens.

Our mission provides a platform and springboard for all those disillusioned, latent idealists among us to dive in and take responsibility for our collective welfare. It can counteract the feelings of impotence that undergird our cynicism, undermine our optimism, delimit our motivation and that enslaves our will. The commitment to our mission can fuel the determination it takes to make our American society work. And it can inspire the creativity that is required to make an America that exists for the good of all, in short, to promote the general welfare with a passionate resolve.

WHAT’S IN THE WAY of Common Sense?

“The only things that can stop us are fear, ignorance, self-centeredness, and greed.” from The New American Story by Bill Bradley

Along with unbridled self-interest, I believe the feelings of individual impotence combined with cynicism and an extreme degree of disconnection (from ourselves, each other, our own bodies, the environment and the essential nature and fundamental principles of what makes life work and the “one God” we are supposedly “under”) are the greatest obstacles to progress and progress is, as I am suggesting for Americans, the realization of our shared mission—a more perfect union, continually evolving toward increased unity, justice, peace, security, health and liberty. Towards common sense as prescriptive remedy in all cases!

What I hope to achieve with this manifesto is thus twofold: to counteract the prevailing impotence and cynicism that sabotage our idealism and undermine our creative abilities to achieve our goals back towards common sense, and to show how, as we build a network of Americans committed to our mission, we can radically change the quality of life in this country, the nature of our influence on the world and (by the way) secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

I will show how connectedness is the most vital activity that we can cultivate to empower us to achieve our mission. I will also offer strategies and a vision for both building a network establishing those vital connections. In addition, I will attempt to show how our six goals are still the most important targets for our collective efforts and hopefully awaken a sense of hope and empowerment so that we can achieve our purposes.

In short, I will provide a strategic common sense vision, including a number of tactics that can be implemented by good-hearted, caring and open minded Americans. Many people do care about where we are headed and about the serious problems that plague and frustrate us, but feel powerless to do anything about it. I believe that they certainly would care about our mission… if they recognized it as such. Many people feel helpless in the face of the overwhelming forces that seem to control our lives. As a result they close off into their own private universe of family, job, friends, self-preservation and self-gratification… largely missing the opportunity to make a real difference to our community. Furthermore, they are unable to realize the sense of empowerment and pride when one realizes that he or she has something important to contribute, that will actually make a positive and palpable difference to the quality of life.

I think this perspective is especially relevant to young adults (from 15-25), who, hopefully, haven’t been completely overcome by cynicism and who still, if only vaguely, harbor some desire to make a difference with their lives and their talents.

Fortunately, our mission isn’t limited to young or old or to either conservatives or liberals or even politicians and their supporters …or any other way you can cut up the demographics of Americana. No, all you have to is be an American and recognize the value of achieving our mission for it to be relevant to you and to empower your life as a citizen. And the more we can see the connection between achieving these ideals and solving our personal problems, the more motivated and effective we will become in accomplishing both our practical and idealistic objectives.

Now, it isn’t so much that the mission statement is not being attended to, but rather that it isn’t being recognized as our purpose and thus we miss out on the incredible motivating force that comes with having a clear, inspiring and shared intention.

(For example, just look at what we were able to accomplish in World War II when our resources were galvanized around the mission of defeating the Axis Powers—the sacrifices people made and the incredible amount of resolve that determined our capacity to emerge victorious. But so far, it seems that that level of commitment only shows up when we are faced with “an enemy” something that needs to be stopped or overcome? Is that what it takes to motivate us? Do we have to be so confronted by threat that we can only rise up when we are threatened or can we ignite our will to bring something positive about with determination, foresight and strategic design?

Now mind you, there will be all sorts of interpretations of our mission and ways of understanding it as well as other numerous ideas of how we might fulfill it, but that’s good, that’s what makes American great. While it certainly isn’t going to be easy, we can take advantage of our diversity and the myriad of perspectives that can only enrich the debate and the resultant creative process that we must be engaged in to bring our mission to fruition. As one would expect, entrenched powers, the status quo and cultural conditioning will resist the kind of changes that will inevitably come about, but those forces can be successfully engaged with enough commitment and determination—which is what a compelling mission provides.

But if there is no overriding direction that we can all agree to, then our differences serve only to separate us. This leads to endless rancor, disrespect and lack of cooperation, and oh, yes, endless yelling matches, name calling and the putting down of our opponents on TV talk shows and call-in radio and through the media, which further exacerbates our divisiveness and does little to empower our unity.

After all, the word, “United” sits firmly as the very first word in the very name of our republic. (The United States of America” in case you need to be reminded.) How many other functioning nations are named after a process, a way of being together as a nation of peoples?
What I am suggesting here is that we recognize that we have a vital mission to bring about greater unity, justice, peace, security, health and freedom, to see how these attributes are at the true center of our lives and then for each of us look into our hearts, find out how much we care and commit some portion of our energy to fulfilling that mission—that we take some responsibility for our collective purpose. By doing this, we will begin to see how, by our working to fulfill our shared mission, we end up inevitably fulfilling ourselves and our individual life purpose, and especially, to see how we can make it possible for our children, our grand children and their children to live in a better America and as a result, a better world.
By informing Americans that we have a mission, we can begin to, at least, have a conversation and, as a consequence of that, hopefully, start mobilizing our talents, intelligence, energy and resources to take more conscious steps to bring that mission closer to actualization.

Below I will present some strategies to achieve our vision, some ways to get started and even how we might more passionately and effectively enhance whatever we are already doing to fulfill that mission, but I believe that if the 300 million of us knew that we have a mission and put our collective imaginations together, we could make an extraordinary difference in improving the quality of our lives.

To be more practical…if…say 5% of American families committed 5% of their time to this mission in concrete ways, then we could make major strides toward our goals and see significant accomplishments in a relatively short period of time…in just a few generations. (Yes, we have to think in terms of generations to come, just as our founding parents did—they didn’t conceive of and design the Constitution to just meet quarterly profits. After all, what made our “Forefathers” forefathers? They had foresight.)

Now, as I said before, it’s not that people aren’t working on this mission. Many people are, in their own way, with passion and intelligence, but the problem is that few people in the public discourse seem to recognize it as our mission. And, all too often their efforts are limited to that part of our mission that most relates to their own issues.

Or, people do not in any way participate in fulfilling our mission and leave it to the government and the political process, which they only marginally participate in, and inevitably leave it up to well financed special interests to influence our direction and to decide our fate.

To fuel our passion for the mission and to see it more quickly expedited, we cannot limit our efforts to the political process. (Why?–more later) First, it must become intensely personal. We must find a way to relate it to the very real issues of our lives—to what we as individuals, families, organizations and communities want and need, to what bothers and frustrates us and, at least as important, as a way of satisfying an even deeper need to find meaning for our lives and to secure a free and sustainable future for “posterity.”

Essentially, as common sense: fulfilling our purpose is not limited to politics or economics though those realms seem to be primary arenas in which we engage whatever is relevant to our mission. Fundamentally, it is about life. (Remember, the Declaration of Independence starts with “the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”) In order to stimulate the kind of ardor required to actualize that common sense mission, we must see how our own best interests are served by a commitment to that mission, that the achievement of our heartfelt desires is proportionately realized as we actively and collectively engage in the achievement of our shared purpose. We must realize that fundamentally there is no real separation between the part and the whole. As one goes, so goes the other and that any effort on behalf of the whole will affect the part.

I want to challenge people to embrace the mission, to enter into discussion and debate about it, and to see how creative we can be in implementing the strategies that it will take to fulfill the mission, to quit bickering (no matter how well conflict sells) and start using our creative imagination to heal our lives. My goal with this essay is to move our American mission way up on the priority list of what engages our interest and passion, even to the point that we will not only get involved, but are willing to sacrifice some of our personal agendas for the sake of this mission. I believe that as we do this, we will rise out of our cynicism, regain the American Spirit and become the light of the world that a society devoted to “a more perfect union” and “the blessings of liberty” can become.

Why is having a common sense mission so important?
• Without a common sense mission we have no direction and without direction we are adrift, left to the vagaries of forces to control our destiny and shape our lives…forces that may not have our best interests at heart.
• Without a common sense mission we create unnecessary suffering and many people are dis-empowered and much damage is done to our environment and our future.

What is accomplished by having a common sense mission?
• Our common sense mission shows us where we’re headed and provides a vision towards which we aspire
• Our common sense mission unites us.
• Our common sense mission provides a way to realize and appreciate a sense of commonality and community
• Our common sense mission provides a criteria by which we can resolve our differences
• Our common sense mission inspire us and gives meaning and purpose to our lives

How will a campaign to revitalize our commitment to our American common sense mission work?
• We inform people that we have this common sense mission and inspire them to pursue it
• We help people to recognize and appreciate the value of our common sense mission and how it relates to the quality of their lives
• We get people involved in conversations and activities about what that common sense mission means and what is needed to fulfill it, to explore together the issues of how we’re doing, what is in our way, how we deal with that and what needs to happen to bring it about.
• We develop strategies and tools to facilitate people’s involvement in helping to achieve our common sense mission.

What can people do about it?
• We assist people in recognizing how their individual attitudes, behaviors and values can contribute to the accomplishment of our mission especially in the family system.
• We help people to experience how effective and powerful they can be in their everyday lives to achieve our American goals.
• We provide avenues, vehicles and tools for people to get involved and make a difference including the following:

Five Point Plan: “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” –Hamlet

Produce television programming and videos using the internet devoted to the American Mission…including…
1. Use of media, for instance….
• A Family Television Comedy Show Let’s Make it…America (combination of interview show, reality TV, Saturday Night Live {with substantive content} and Sesame Street for the whole family… based on the exploration of our six American goals/values and
• Commercials celebrating the six aspects of the American mission (get corporate sponsorship)
• YouTube videos produced by creative people who want to further our mission

2. Leadership training programs where we educate people in how to lead America toward the fulfillment of our mission– including the development of a curriculum targeted to high school and college-age Americans where they can explore our six American goals
3. Create summer family camps where families can come together to celebrate and explore these American values in natural environments and through interactive family programs (examples available)
4. Produce a touring “revival” across the United States, featuring a Musical Play called, “Let’s Make It…America”… that celebrates these six American values and through workshops, offers people an opportunity to find out more about these fundamental American principles and help them discover creative and practical ways to get involved.
5. Grow a network of Americans committed to the mission: U-ACT… “United American Community Trust”—American Families committed to the American Mission

Criteria for Membership in the American Community Network

• You believe that a united America is stronger than a divided America
• You recognize that we have an American Mission and you devote some part of your life to it on an ongoing and active basis.
• You recognize American’s responsibility to positively affect the rest of the world and future generations and how by fulfilling our American mission, we can fulfill that responsibility
• To fuel your motivation, you see how our mission affects your life and those you are in a position to influence
• You are willing to explore new options for how we might achieve our mission.
• You are willing to consider other people’s point of view and to engage in honest, open minded and respectful exploration and examination of the meaning of our six mission goals.
• You stay humble and firmly avoid self-righteousness-in short, don’t take your self too seriously.
• You recognize and work toward the goal of keeping these six goals in balance.

Now, while each person will have their own understanding (and hopefully an evolving one) of what these six goals mean, what they look like, and what it takes to achieve them, I would like to suggest the following as descriptive of the American people as we become more fully realized:
1. Form a perfect union = We are UNITED
2. Establish Justice = We are JUST
3. Insure domestic tranquility = We are PEACEFUL
4. Provide for the Common defense = We are SAFE and SECURE
5. Promote the General welfare = We and our environment are HEALTHY
6. Secure the Blessings of liberty = We are FREE


While there is obviously much more to this concept than what I have included here, I hope I have shared enough to whet your appetite and see this campaign as a viable approach to get American on course toward achieving the supernal objectives stated in the Preamble to our Constitution…
I look forward to exploring in more details the following critical questions and issues:

• Why it is so important to plant these values early on in children’s lives
• How and why to get young adults involved
• Why and how t interactive family programs can be a crucial environment to educate people to the realities of our mission quest.
• How the entertainment approach through television and other media will work
• The design of the interactive family programs and family camps and how they stimulate people to explore and become devoted to our American values
• How to bring this campaign about in the face of forces that will resist its success
• Why it is so necessary to engage and mollify the “shadow” side of the American psyche and how to do that effectively through creative communication tools including the use of humor, art, therapy as needed and discourse.
• Fund-raising
• Leadership
• How to grow a Network of Families committed to our American vision
• Etc.

If you’re paying attention to what is happening in the world, you can readily see that something radical is required to shift things. You may have been stumped as to what can be done. I hope you will give this treatment serious reflection and see it as a realistic and viable action plan for accelerating consciousness and applying that enlightened consciousness to the solving our imminent and future challenges.

I look forward to engaging in a deeper examination of the potentiality of this strategic vision.

“Minds in agreement form the most powerful force in the universe. To harness that force would constitute not so much a bridge as a super sonic transport into the 21st century.”

“They want to feel that they are contributing to a larger process, something bigger than themselves.”
From Healing of America by Marianne Williamson

Yours truly,

Errol Strider, Citizen
U-ACT–United American Community TrustAmerican families committed to the American mission.

Errol Strider
Strider Innertainment

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