The Scotsman ran a 4th of July editorial that deserves wide distribution in this country. Its author, Alex Massie, is to be commended on understanding and conveying so well what America means at this moment.
We are not unique. As he says, we follow in the Victorians’ footsteps, accepting the politically incorrect, the very politically incorrect mantle that Kipling called the “White Man’s burden.” He would have been more accurate to term it “the burden of democracy” for that is what it is and what it was when Kipling first named it.
We follow in Britain’s footsteps, though we do not wear her Imperial shoes. Wherever Her Majesty’s people went they left a legacy of property rights and the rule of law. Was it a bloody road to liberty? Indeed. The Victorians were sure they were right and they sought to impose their vision.
Sometimes we suffer from that Victorian vice of hypocrisy, too. No nation is perfect. But this one was conceived in liberty and thus it follows that America’s citizens are born free. Sometimes it is hard to see how astonishing, how extraordinary is our freedom. It is the air we breathe, the environment we swim in; it’s understandable that we can lose our sense of amazement sometimes, or that we fail to understand why others can’t grasp the absolute rightness of what liberty means. Mr. Massie reminds us all:
|one need not have ever visited the US to feel in tune with what it means to be an American. It is an empire of the mind (and the imagination) as much as it is a military and economic superpower. The principles of the American Revolution remain sound. The World Trade Centre no longer stands, but the language of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights does.|
|No other country has embedded the “pursuit of happiness” – the great goal of mankind – in the foundations of the state; nowhere else is the idea of liberty so revered. There is such a thing as an American sensibility and it can be felt from the Baltic to the Pacific.|
So, Mr. Massie says, let’s reframe the question. It is not “could America be doing a better job?” Instead, he says —
|Wrong question. If not America, then who? No-one, that’s who. At its best, America and American ideals remain, in Lincoln’s famous words, “the last, best hope of mankind”.|
Thank you, sir. Your words are an antidote to the poison of those who would see us defeated. And they give hope to those, like the Eastern Europeans, who know only too well that we are their best hope.
Hat tip: USS Neverdock