"Defiant" is not "resolute"
We have too many voices profiting from defiance, and that energy (and the energy rallied against it) needs to be channeled into something difficult but worth doing.
When people confront a challenge together, it's usually the case that they emerge with a heightened sense of community on the other side. It's true on the smallest scale, as when a team celebrates a come-from-behind victory on the playing field. And it's true on the largest of scales, as when Great Britain survived the great suffering and deprivation of World War II before emerging victorious in the end.
■ People can endure quite a lot when they think that the outcome is worthwhile. As Dwight Eisenhower put it, "The combat soldier wants to be recognized; he wants to know that his sufferings and privations are known to others and, presumably, appreciated." Even in the absence of real suffering, a well-embraced struggle to overcome something difficult can be meaningful and motivating.
■ That was the essence of the public spirit around America's missions to the Moon, captured rhetorically by John F. Kennedy's words, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard". Embracing a challenge -- either voluntarily or one thrust upon us -- requires a sense of resolution.
■ We seem not to have done enough to celebrate what it means to be resolute. There are many struggles worth undertaking, with eyes fixed on a goal and minds resolved to see the better end. And yet it's much easier to find people who confuse resolution for defiance.
■ Defiance can be justified -- it can even be resolute. A struggle against an occupying army can be both defiant and resolute. But even a child can be defiant without cause or reason (some even manifest their defiance as a disorder).
■ It has been six months since a criminal terrorist assault took place at the United States Capitol. It was a violent outbreak of defiance. Perhaps more than at any time in modern history, Americans need to discover a common matter on which we can be resolute instead. We need a sense of community to emerge from a shared, worthwhile struggle to do something hard.
■ It's hard to name what that might be, but it doesn't have to be expensive, it doesn't have to be all-encompassing, and it must be constructive. We have too many voices profiting from defiance, and that energy (and the energy rallied against it) needs to be channeled into something difficult but worth doing.
■ The psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, himself a survivor of the concentration camps of WWII, wrote that "There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one's life." Each person needs to find that meaning on their own. But communities need a sense of that meaning, too -- even communities as large as a continent. The sooner we find and fix on a resolution, the better.