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by John DiJoseph, Ph.D.*

Columbia, MD_September 1, 2009__ Images of American citizens screaming and hurling insults at one another filled the TV screens. Some were even brandishing weapons in plain view, including one with an AK-47 assault rifle, as though they might be needed in defense against those who held the opposing point of view, or perhaps to intimidate them into accepting theirs. All because of health care reform! Free speech is one thing, but these scenes were a far cry from open discussion or debate.

The appalling conduct of everyday citizens is contrary to the theme of reconciliation advanced by President Abraham Lincoln in his First Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861. In the shadow of the Civil War, he foresaw that a country divided by hate and disunity and discord would ruin the American democracy. So he pleaded with his countrymen to let “the better angels of our nature” guide their actions. He encouraged civility and respect for the views of others, even when those views were contrary to deeply held beliefs. He presented the “better angels” as the American way; only they could defeat the angels of darkness – rage, violence, destruction and death.

In the shadow of September 11, 2001, poet Carolyn Long recalled Lincoln’s healing words in her commemorative poem and 8-minute video, “Angels Over America”

Help the angels of our better natures rise to freedom’s song

And lead the charge of justice on her path,
So our own avenging angels do not strike in blind revenge

And wreak unbridled ruin with their wrath.

© Carolyn K. Long, 2001

Perhaps the approaching anniversary of 9/11 can help Americans recall how “better angels” everywhere reached out to one another during that horrific event, and how transformational that spirit was to our nation.

Perhaps today, as our country faces discord and disunity on such a sweeping scale, we can once again call on the “better angels of our nature” to help us find the way to reconciliation so this nation can reclaim our image as the shining beacon for people everywhere.

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* John DiJoseph, Ph.D., is an Adjunct Professor in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at Loyola University in Maryland; author of Jacques Maritain and the Moral Foundation of Democracy, Rowman & Littlefield Pub., Inc., 1996, and of the forthcoming book, Noble Cause Corruption, the Banality of Evil and the Defense of American Democracy, 1950-2008, University Press of America.

Carolyn K. Long , author of “Angels Over America” and co-producer of the 9/11 memorial video of that name, is a professional speaker, consultant, writer and photographer, based in Columbia, MD.

The events of 911 will be a part of the American consciousness forever.

How they are held there will shape our future.

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