A Nation of Grand Canyons

by Bob Schwartz

It is a cliché to talk about the gaps and divides separating Americans today across many dimensions. There’s money, of course. Education. Knowledge. Political ideology. Race. Religion. Value placed on truth, honesty, compassion, integrity, competence, equality, fairness, lawfulness, civility, decency. But there they all are, arrayed like a bunch of Grand Canyons, breathtaking in ways very different than the awesome inspiration of the actual Grand Canyon.

One great truth of our traditions is that it is a daily struggle to transcend whatever state of personal meanness, baseness and selfishness we are stuck in. Those traditions also tell us that we are capable of prevailing in that struggle precisely because we are, for the most part, naturally better than meanness, baseness and selfishness—if we can discover that. Those traditions also tell us that those gaps and divides—those Grand Canyons—can be bridged because those canyons don’t exist. Not that the differences aren’t there or that everyone is the same or situated the same. But that the differences that matter aren’t there and in ways that matter, everyone is the same and situated the same. Or haven’t you had someone be born in your family or die in your family? Or haven’t you been born and aren’t you going to die yourself?