America is like an oasis in a desert... like a beacon in troubled waters,
that inspires hope and freedom in the hearts of people all over the world;
whether it is in the legacies of the pilgrims and countless immigrants seeking
freedom from oppressive homelands;
the founding fathers fighting for freedom from
an oppressive king; the African slaves struggling for freedom from their
oppressors; women and minorities seeking justice and equality; the liberation of
the French and the Italians on the D-Day; burying the hatchet and being magnanimous
to defeated foes, such as Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union—in embrace of new beginnings,
restoration, friendship and support in building better societies.
In all these American experiences, there is an element of “the good, the bad,
and the ugly”. But America has never been timid in confronting any issue that
undermines her true ideals, at home or abroad, and reinventing herself and reshaping
the world when those issues so warrant.
America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, seeking a balance of power that favors freedom;
the values that gave her birth. The history and the values that gave her birth”, lie in the circumstances and ideals that produced the nation we have come to know as America. America is an idea more than it is a place. It is a providential idea intrinsically and inextricably bound to the immutable worth of every human being. That idea inspired the declaration of independence and the constitution. It is the idea:
…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its power in such form, as to them shall deem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
By virtue of its birth and ideals, America is an idea for all people. It is an idea that is synonymous with freedom for every human being. Freedom for all people is synonymous with democracy. To that extent, democracy is 'not a Western idea'; it is a good idea. It should not matter whose idea it was. What matters, is that it works. I am yet to see anyone who would personally refuse a procedure or medicine to cure a debilitating sickness just because it is a Western idea. The people who oppose democracy because it is “a Western idea,” are the same people who, without reservation or restraint, embrace every other good Western idea - telecommunication, transportation, medical technology, etc. An idea should be embraced or rejected on its own merit not on some sentimental hangovers.
When I hear people castigate the idea of freedom for every individual, regardless of place or position; I wonder what they would offer in its place. It has been said that hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue. Such is the notion of standing for something and yet not wanting it to come about. One cannot claim to want freedom for all people, yet hinder the acts that will bring it about.
Speaking of America’s providential purpose: combating tyranny and bringing freedom to the world, Benjamin Franklin said, “Tyranny is so generally established in the rest of the world that the prospect of an asylum in America for those who love liberty gives general joy, and our cause is esteemed the cause of all mankind…We are fighting for the dignity and happiness of human nature.”
In establishing democracy in places where hitherto there has been tyranny, America - the country, is essentially extending “the prospect of asylum” - America - the idea, to those who love freedom, in their home lands.
In the end, America-the country, may very well not be the best or greatest democracy, but perhaps America - the idea, would have been an inspiration for such a place.