Well, now time passed and now it seems
Everybody’s having them dreams
-- Bob Dylan, “Talkin’ World War III Blues"
I learned to cherish the U.S. long before I had the privilege to live and study there. History can be very personal. What Madeleine Albright called the “indispensable nation” meant the difference between life and death for my family. I was brought up in the firm knowledge that had it not been for those unimaginably brave American boys storming the beaches of Normandy, I wouldn’t have been born, and my parents and the rest of my people would have been extinguished. No doubt I’m leaving out entire libraries of nuance, but that is the quintessential truth.America today is what it has always been: a flawed society, like all others, but also a unique force for good in the world. No other multiethnic, multireligious society can credibly claim to be more democratic, more prosperous and more just than the U.S.
America can’t remain the leader of the free world if it is itself no longer free. To be the guarantor of Western security requires military and economic power, but also a sense of mission. And right now Americans are committing mass character suicide. If the country goes beyond acknowledging that racism and inequality persist and must be fought, and instead convinces itself that it’s inherently and irredeemably racist, it can’t possibly continue to believe that it has any right to lead. Such an America would reject the notion that the West is worth defending and regard Europe as also inherently oppressive. We know who will fill the vacuum left by an America in retreat and at war with itself. As they watch America’s self-immolation, leaders in Moscow, Beijing and Tehran surely can’t believe their luck.
Any functioning society must extend tribal loyalty beyond the ties of blood. Ethnicity and Christianity were the glue that helped hold the more homogenous European nation states together. America’s Founding Fathers laid the foundation of a society worthy of the motto “e pluribus unum”—out of many, one—by replacing ethnic and religious loyalties with liberal ideas and deist ideals. A shared loyalty to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution allows Americans to see each other not as strangers but as fellow citizens.Yes, the U.S. has not always lived up to its ideals. But to claim that the Founding’s “promissory note” was never anything but a scam to maintain a system of white oppression is ahistorical revisionism that will erode the country’s foundation (emphasis added).
This is more or less what John Lewis was talking about in the essay he wrote just before he died.