As an Irish Catholic, it broke my heart to see that magnificent spire collapse through the flames, and down to the floor so far below a few days ago. But you don’t have to be an Irish Catholic, or even religious, to feel the sadness and loss of an iconic symbol of peace, hope, and beauty destroyed before your eyes.
Notre Dame cathedral is approximately 850 years old, and took decades to build. It began as a vision, and an article of faith, a monument to hope and good, and a vision of something larger than just ourselves. And when it was completed, its beauty and intracy far surpassed any expectations. And Notre Dame was almost a living organism. Over the years it was modified and updated, changes made to improve the structure, and keep it relevant, without removing from the original beauty and function.
But 850 years is a long time. Everything gets old, even you and me. As Notre Dame aged, it required constant vigilance and care, both to protect it, as well as to keep it structurally sound. And while renovations and repairs were made when problems became obvious and dangerous, there were times when matters of economics, as well as political expediency, vigilance waned, and protective measures were ignored.
Our democracy is 243 years old. Like Notre Dame, it began as a shining vision. A vision of hope and freedom, A shining vision of something greater and more noble than ourselves, a higher purpose for mankind. And like Notre Dame, our democracy has been a living organism, updated and mostly improved over the years, making it hopefully safer and more functional, without detracting from the original beauty of the structure.
But like that other magnificent cathedral, the cathedral of democracy also required constant attention and care as it aged in order to keep it safe and functional. And like that other temple to a great and higher vision, as the years have gone by, economy, political expedience, and even avarice and corrosive agendas have led to a level of disrepair that weakened the structure.
On January 20th, 2017, a fire strted in the cathedral of democracy. Despite the best and heroic efforts of all of those who instinctively understood how important this symbol and structure is to the nation and the world, the conflagration has destructively blazed, largely unabated. It seems as if everything that is good and right in this world is going up in flames, right before our eyes, while we can do nothing except to watch helplessly.
Fortunately for France and the world, it has been determined that the basic structure of the great Notre Dame cathedral is structurally sound. French President Macron has already vowed that Notre Dame shall arise from the ashes within 5 years, and shall be every bit as magnificent as ever it was, and even safer and stronger than it was before. Billions of dollars are pouring in from around the world, and the nation is unified in its desire to restore its historic treasure.
But what is to become of the cathedral of our democracy? Like Notre Dame, it is currently little more than a smoldering hulk. I honestly believe that thanks mainly to the independence of the judiciary, as well as a mammoth volunteer fire brigade of concerned citizens, desperately passing buckets of water, that the foundational structure of our democracy is still strong. But can our treasured cathedral to that noble idea be rebuilt?
Unlike Notre Dame, we don’t need billions of dollars in donations to help to rebuild the cathedral of democracy. What we do need is to find that sense of common purpose, and the ational will to rebuild, to dedicate ourselves once again to the restoration and improvement of aconcept that is fundamental to our very national existence, the honest belief, the faith that there is something in this country that is worth more than just ourselves. Something that is worth fighting and sacrificing for. Do we still have the spine, that vaunted American spirit, to roll up our sleeves and get the job done. That is the question for the ages.
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