Brave Nation

By Jim Selman | Bio

There is an amazing website called The Brave Nation that is showcasing people who’ve made a difference. Many of these examples of human vision, commitment and perseverance are boomers who challenged ‘the system’ in the ’60s and ’70s and are now sharing their experience with the current generation of ‘change agents’. It is inspiring to remember and reconnect with the idealism of our youth and perplexing to wonder what happened to so many of us who have drifted into complacency about (or in some cases complicity with) current events.

Personally, I think the idealism is still there, perhaps under a cloak of resignation and lost dreams. So much has happened in the past 35 years or so that it is difficult to imagine, let alone remember, who we were. It seems so long ago that I can’t even remember how it felt to live in the possibility of a “world that works for everyone”. Civil rights marches and protests aside, the world of my youth was a heady time—a time when ‘the best and the brightest’ went to Washington, when ‘the Great Society’ was being created, when having gone to the moon meant that anything was possible.

That was a time before the Internet, before Watergate, before corporate scandals, terrorism, blue and red states, and before the American dream collapsed under an avalanche of short-term thinking, avarice and cynical political corruption. Whether that dream is dead or just sleeping remains to be seen.

I have learned that trying to guess or predict the future is futile in a world where accelerating change is the normal state. Likewise, optimism and pessimism are obsolete, since they presume some way of anticipating either a positive or negative future. Instead we are left with the indisputable and increasingly obvious fact that the future will be whatever we make it. The future will be what it will be as a consequence of our actions—today. Tomorrow will be the province of historians. As the stories on Brave Nation make abundantly clear, those who make a difference don’t listen to reason and don’t rationalize their actions—they trust their vision and their high regard for the courage, creativity and compassion of ordinary human beings who have extraordinary commitments.

Each and every one of us, regardless of our age, must sooner or later come to the point where we say, “Here I stand—this is who I am and this is the way it will be because I say so.” Such declarations are profoundly human, call forth the best in all of us, and point the way toward a future that is worthy of us, a future worth sacrificing for and worth dying for. Since we’re all going to die anyway, let’s die for something worth living for—something worthy of this Brave Nation.

© 2008 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.