Sometimes things need to break apart before we can fix them. That’s what happening in America.
Right now the American foundation is cracking apart. The world as we know is quaking and splintering. It’s unsettling and frightening.
That’s not all bad.
What’s happening now is transformation. It is not incremental or superficial. It can’t be undone.
The word itself – trans-form – means to change form, to take a different shape or character. That doesn’t mean we lose everything we had before. It means that after we sort out what to keep, what to give up, and what to adapt, we can’t revert back to where we started.
Imagine a merger of two companies.
Each company brings something essential and valuable. They do the transaction to create value for both. To get there, some kinds of value will get destroyed, never to return.
The new company will strip away ineffective ways of working and certain aspects of corporate culture – even if well-loved by some. Waste, redundancy, and poor strategy will fall away. Some roles and people will get left behind.
This metamorphosis is necessary to create a new start.
Small tweaks around the edges of either company are not enough to birth a new firm identity or a combined sense of purpose. A whole-scale re-imagining for both sides enables them to learn from one another, such as an older firm catching up with one that is already fully digital.
Such transformations are not smooth. They are rocky and bumpy and full of risk. They cause pain.
Yet it is specifically because they allow formerly majestic edifices to crumble that they emerge with newfound power and longevity.
External and internal forces in the United States have now conspired to reveal weakness in the American edifice and the societal structure.
The coronavirus pandemic laid bare disparities between whites and Blacks along multiple fault lines, such as access to healthcare and economic inequality.
The murder of George Floyd by police happened on the same day that a white woman in Central Park threatened to use her privilege to sic police on a bird-watching Black man, underscoring both the overt racism of police brutality and the pervasive aggressions of a majority against a minority.
As our cities boil, burn and seethe from demands for change, our head of state takes a sledgehammer to the bedrock of American values while goosing the worst in his base in a last-ditch attempt to hold on to the past.
President Trump threatens “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” He evokes images from Jim Crow about “vicious dogs.” He gasses innocent citizens assembling peacefully.
That last blow to America’s core principles was so shattering that senior members of the military defied their Commander-in-Chief to condemn it publicly.
These are signs of real transformation, and that’s not all bad.
In the same way a legacy company must tear down long-standing structures to create an enduring future, so must the United States dismantle the rotting beams of inequity and the eroding concrete of racism to build something new, equitable and shining with promise for all who call the country home.