The American Ideal
The American Ideal
Throughout human history, the vast majority of nation states took shape as a result of military conquest with the victorious king or dictator seizing power and imposing his or her will upon the newly conquered.
Yet, arising out of the American Revolution in the late 18th century came one event that sent shock waves across Europe as an unprecedented marvel. It was not a military victory nor any grand display of force. Quite the opposite. When the war was won, General Washington willingly stepped down from power, yielding the fate of the new nation not to any king or military office, but rather, to a collection of lawyers, economists, historians, and farmers. For them, Washington had secured a peace and carved out the space with which they could do something never before seen on Earth: forge a nation based solely on republican ideals, rather than ethnic, cultural, or territorial boundaries.
This was unprecedented in recorded history. It was, indeed, a great experiment, and one that would spread democracy around the world.
As with any community facing unrest or even a crisis of character, it is important to return to our roots so that we may regain clarity about what shapes us, what defines us, and what has nurtured us. For the citizens of the United States, the answers to many of these questions can be found in our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution (mostly in the Bill of Rights), and for the more eager readers, perhaps the Federalist Papers.
During these tumultuous and divisive times as government and corporate actors push the boundaries of what is moral, or even what is constitutional, we would do well to take a step back and remind ourselves exactly what is the United States? If we are unclear about our foundation and how that foundation enabled our country to constantly grow and improve itself for hundreds of years, forging a path to the future could very well get us all lost.