Author: Fernando C. Saldivar, S.J.
Publication Type: Paper
Fernando C. Saldivar, “Integral Ecology and Democracy in the United States: A Reflection on the Road Ahead,” Promotio Iustitiae 130, no. 2 (2020): 15–19, https://www.sjesjesuits.global/media/2021/02/PJ_130_ENG.pdf.
People in the United States tend to think not only that we perfected constitutional democracy, but we also take our institutional stability for granted. No matter how much we disagree with our elected leaders, rail against the inequalities of the market, or continue to divide ourselves into enclaves based on race and class, there remains embedded in the American psyche an almost Pollyannaish trust in the rule of law. Authoritarianism and populism are problems for other countries. No matter how bad things are now, things will eventually return to normal. We take our founding myths as holy writ: the United States is not like other countries and Americans are not like any other people. That is the hubris of American exceptionalism, not only that we are different, but that we are better and smarter than the rest of you. We will figure this crisis out and weather the storm, simply because that is who we are. What in any other country would cause us to stand up and take notice, in our own we cross our fingers, hope for the best, and trust that the system will eventually right itself.
How dangerously naive that worldview is comes into focus when you can see it from the outside, when you can appreciate, as an American, what the U.S. looks and feels like from abroad. My vantage point is that of a U.S. Jesuit, an attorney by training, missioned to the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network (JENA) in Nairobi, Kenya. Experiencing the closing months of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, definitely the most contentious of my lifetime, from the other side of the world has been eye-opening and has challenged me to reflect on the road ahead for my home country.