In ancient Rome the two faced god called Janus was the symbol of new horizons and transition. He had two heads, one facing east and the other west. Our first month of the western calendar, January, is named after this god. In January it is customary to reflect on the previous year and anticipate the promise and hope of a new year. This summer, in my humble opinion, is also an opportunity to reflect on our recent past and meet the challenges that face us as a people. In ancient times we would seek the help of the gods in such times of crisis. In our day we understand divine providence allows us to resolve the earthly needs of humanity though reason, debate, and communal resolve. We cannot just pray. We must act!
At the same time, it appears the political discourse and activity is limited to venal and petty desires of our leaders and political parties. Many of us no longer vote. Many Americans feel a giant disconnect with the political commentary on television and radio. Many candidates and office holders have demonstrated fragility and dishonesty in both their private and public lives. We are not shocked by the most horrific revelations. At the same time, too many Americans are suffering economic hardships at a level unseen since the Great Depression. War and violence are now accepted as the norm for international relations. Viewing others in foreign lands as alien and inhuman has become part of our mindset.
And yet, I see promise in the land. All of us agree business and politics as usual cannot continue. We need to engage or perish. Our policy in the Near East must change. No longer can we be perceived as the champion and supreme ally of an unbending Israel. Both parties to the conflict have legitimate desires and needs. Although both parties have different versions of history; both people need to have a neutral broker in any negotiations. Our nation can only be a catalyst to peace when both parties trust us to be neutral and sincere in our statements and policy. Taking a rigid and forceful stand that appears to uphold the present Israeli government’s viewpoint is self defeating. Both the Jewish settlers of Israel and Palestinians have long histories of persecution and betrayal and it is now appropriate for them to face the past and change the present. Our nation must become a modern day Janus and help.
Our economic future also commands examination. This nation is at a crossroad. Most of us felt that we were unique as a people because every generation, for the most part, had more prosperous and fulfilling lives than the previous generation. This shared belief has been shattered by an economic vision of the past thirty years that a lack of regulation of our financial institutions, lowered taxes for the most prosperous of the nation, and a cutting or destruction of necessary government services that are relied on by our poor and middle classes is a necessary component to combat malaise and international competition. For the most part this economic vision has only benefited the wealthy. I and, I am sure, most readers are perplexed as to how to solve all our economic woes. At the same time, increasing suffering cannot be the solution. Janus again is needed. We must look to our past and reform all the necessary components that need repair in our financial institutions. Allowing those who helped propel this nation into the abyss remain at the center of command without review and oversight is not only dangerous for this nation; economic hardship for the entire planet can result from our neglect to reform. Worldwide economic hardship can lead to instability, race and ethnic persecution, and war. Maybe Janus will be the symbol not just of ancient Rome but of our own time if we face our past and meet the challenges of our present and not retreat from the debate.