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A World Apart: American Exceptionalism

Giving Thanks 2018


The United States of America began as the City Upon a Hill that Puritan John Winthrop described in his essay in 1630, a full decade after the Pilgrims founded Plymouth Colony in America in 1620. As Protestants, the Pilgrims fled religious persecution in England, voyaging by that ship called The Mayflower across the Atlantic Ocean. Miraculously, they made it to shore.

The tale of the Pilgrims and their Plimouth Plantation is all that anyone needs to know about the abject failure of socialism, anytime, anyplace, anywhere. The stunning sights of people in America today, still plugging for the share-and-share-not-alike way of life is an amazing vision of ignorance. That ignorance is part of the self-centered nature of some spoiled Americans. Most Americans are the model of John Winthrop’s Christian charity, although the present shrill pushers of socialism would leave out the “Christian” part of the charity.


There is no charity without God, just the clawing of gut needs in the name of The People, or justice, or equality, or the quickie rescue from the apocalyptic fate that awaits anyone who disagrees with the Socialist Mob. The other night, I watched the 1938 Frank Capra film, “You Can’t Take It With You,” and though I’m not a Capra fan, I was cheerfully enlivened and enlightened by the accuracy of the movie.


The esteemed actor Lionel Barrymore, in the personage of Grandpa Martin Vanderhof, speaks for the majority of Americans, then and now, when he states:


Lincoln said, “With malice toward none, with charity to all.” Nowadays they say, “Think the way I do or I’ll bomb the daylights outta you.”

Charity in America and from America is based upon striving to maintain the shining city on the hill that is America. President Ronald Reagan heroically affirmed that America is, and always will be, a shining city on a hill. The beacon of this nation guides freedom-loving people everywhere.


During the past few years, I have found it difficult to find opinions outside of the United States that view this nation as the shining city on a hill or a shining city anywhere. I’ve heard that Americans are:


Busy, bustling, industrious, always pushing forward.


I’ve not heard about our generosity or our desire for other peoples to live in freedom. I’ve not read articles in journals of foreign opinion that perceive America as the guiding light for “freedom-loving people.” Perhaps the notion of “freedom-loving people” has changed since the era of Reagan.

I wonder if this discrepancy between how I see my nation — and how foreigners see it — is a function of that love of liberty, a passion which is supposed to be the natural yearning of the human spirit. I do believe that phrase to be true; but I also think that the natural bend of many people who live beyond American shores has become twisted and warped — by fear, by oppression, by the sense that the individual does not matter a whit in those societies outside of the United States.


This experiential difference between Americans and non-Americans is most disturbing. For you see, if any two people live in worlds that continue to grow farther and farther apart in terms of how each person sees their world, then the meeting of those two minds that is the basis of harmonious communication, if not genuine amity and, at its highest level, love — that unity becomes impossible.


The more that the individual in Western Europe is treated as a piece of social protoplasm, the more the individual in America will be seen as self-serving, money-grubbing, and completely unconcerned about the plight of peoples who live with less and less liberty as each month and year pass by. The more that the individual in China is seen by the Communist overlords as a unit by which to measure industrial output, the more the individual in America will be deemed as a potential dollar to be garnered by the Communist slave, just to stay alive.

A couple of years ago, I exchanged viewpoints with people in America about the Islamic terror attacks in England. For the most part, the attitudes were bleak, as one might expect. The undercurrent, however, was one that I found patently immature, as well as ego-centric:


Where is the England that I once knew and loved?


Where are the heroes?


Why aren’t the British today like the people were during the Blitz?


Such comments, filled with frustration, if not despair, evince for me an utter lack of understanding of the peoples “over there.” There was more than a little pique over the fact that their memories and opinions and expectations of the Brits were not consistent with Classic Great Books and with wartime films from the Golden Age of Hollywood, even with the likes of James Bond (another Hollywood creation).

I opined that things had not yet gotten bad enough for this nation of people who historically had to have their backs against the wall to fight back enough to win. One humongous reason for the suffocation of free speech by the British Government is to stifle the inevitable. Rudyard Kipling in his “The Wrath of the Awakened Saxon” puts forth the case in eloquent, pithy poetry.


I began to wonder: Have Americans become so exceptional in the sense that we have unceasingly fought to overcome so many harmful barriers and wrong-headed beliefs and baneful barricades blocking our freedoms that too many of us have lost patience with and compassion for people who have tragically become blinded to the hemming in of their lives over the course of decades?


The story of the frog boiled slowly in the pot is always understood by the frogs outside of the pot. Have Americans reached the point where we feel so quickly any infringement upon our civil liberties that we push back reflexively, in a way that non-Americans cannot comprehend? At the same time, the acceptance by citizens of the nasty infringement of basic human liberties in much of Europe has become nearly incomprehensible to many Americans, and especially to Americans of the West.


I am thankful for our fortitude, our feistiness, our benevolent God, and our determination that compels us to always push forward — even though, at times, moving ahead means taking a step or two or even three backward.

Without that daring drive to go, Americans would truly go crazy — instead of merely appearing to do so. It’s part of our unique energy as frontier fighters. The individuals of the United States pursue the odds as if the odds are the best frontier. There is always a new frontier for the rugged individualist.


I am saddened nonetheless that our American experience proceeds, at a rapid pace, away from the experience of the peoples who are now worlds apart from our world apart in these United States.


Distance is measured more in emotion and empathy than in miles and kilometers. The love of liberty can unite people around the globe into that small small world that it is, after all. That hunger for freedom is the miracle that made The Mayflower the ship that sailed, not sank.


The hunger for freedom is a blessing for which this American is thankful. I only hope that the freedom-loving peoples of the world outside of America learn, before it is too late, that the cost of freedom is paid for by the people fighting for that freedom, not by the people who have already paid, dearly, for their own liberty and, historically, for others.

Thomas Paine, the English-born American who gave immeasurable gifts to the American fight for freedom, wrote on 23 December 1776 in The Crisis, that became The American Crisis:


“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”


Those words, as a prayer, reverberate throughout the Shining City on The Hill, every day and every night of giving thanks for all things.