Arthur Camins reflects here about the importance of the common good. He writes about a society in which we care about one another, as opposed to a me-first individualism that currently commands our  public discourse.

There is a play on Broadway right now and in touring companies outside New York City called “Come from Away.” It is about 9/11. It takes place in Gander, Newfoundland, when airplanes were ordered not to enter American air space, and the town of 9,000 people discovered that it had 7,000 guests for several days. They provided them with foood, places to sleep, and friendship. They asked nothing in return. Not me-first but “here is help, here is welcome and respite for the stranger.”

Camins writes:

“Without one another we are diminished. The more we have others around us, the stronger we can become. That is the idea of the common good.

“It’s not a uniquely American idea, but it is one with which many of us identify.

“Republicans in Congress have a different idea. It applies to guns, health care, retirement, and education.

“Their value is a strain of individualism that stands in opposition to the common good. Their strategies are: Promote fear and undermine public confidence in government as a vehicle to keep people safe. The goal is the further enrichment of the already privileged.

“The Second Amendment was written to address maintenance of state militias (albeit, in part, to capture escaped slaves), not individuals with rifles. Fomenting fear of rampant crime and with it, the incompetence of government to protect people has become the go-to strategy to increase gun sales. It has been remarkably successful.

“Similarly, conservative efforts to replace Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and public education with individual vouchers appeal to the value of individualism that is in opposition to common-good collective solutions that depend on honest, effective government. Once again, the conservative strategy has been to undermine confidence in government by defunding it and thereby making it appear incompetent. Then, fear and just-worry-about-me individualism kick in as self-preservation.

“Conservatives have been remarkably successful, as Republicans are now dominant across federal and state governments and public confidence in government has declined…

”Progressives, need not shame individualism, but rather reframe it. That is, we become our best selves through others. We can only become our best selves when we are all safe, healthy, well-fed, and well-housed. We can only learn to be our best selves when we are educated with the benefits of diversity and equity. Hopeful, but hard.”