Friday, 14 December 2007

Thinking World Historically, by Rick Richman

This is a piece by Rick Richman from Jewish Current Issues:

"... what is happening in Iraq -- the attempt to create representative government in the heart of the Arab world -- is a potentially world-historical event, the latest chapter in what David Gelernter has termed the "fourth great Western religion:" "Americanism:"

From the 17th century through John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Americans kept talking about their country as if it were the biblical Israel and they were the chosen people. . . .
Freedom, equality, democracy: the Declaration held these truths to be self-evident, but "self-evident" they were certainly not. Otherwise, America would hardly have been the first nation in history to be built on this foundation. Deriving all three from the Bible, theologians of Americanism understood these doctrines not as philosophical ideas but as the word of God.
Hence the fervor and passion with which Americans believe their creed. Americans, virtually alone in the world, insist that freedom, equality, and democracy are right not only for France and Spain but for Afghanistan and Iraq.

George W. Bush is only the latest in a long line of American presidents -- including Lincoln, Truman, Kennedy and Reagan -- who considered Americans "an almost chosen people" (in Lincoln’s phrase), living in a country whose beginning in 1776 "really had its beginning in Hebrew times" (in Truman’s phrase), that is a "shining city upon a hill" (in Reagan’s phrase) and stands ready to "bear any burden and oppose any foe" to insure the survival of liberty (in Kennedy’s phrase).
All five presidents (three Republicans, two Democrats) thought America had a world-historical mission. None of them was a realist."

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