This is the last in the series of, “Love Changes Everything” for now, but I’m sure to revisit the topic later on. So far I’ve been discussing national issues but haven’t really discussed international issues and America’s relationship with the other countries of the world. In recent years the concept of American Exceptionalism has become misunderstood by many people, because the meaning has been distorted by all of the political debate. There is an excellent article in Wikipedia about American Exceptionalism for anyone who is looking for a detailed historical review of the subject. These days conservatives would have us think that America is somehow better than other countries around the world and that we can do no wrong; while liberals would rather have us believe that America is no better or worse than any other country around the world – no matter the facts or the issues involved. The reality is that the concept of American Exceptionalism refers more to our values than anything else.
From the very beginning, the great American experiment was unique in almost every way – a new land on a new continent, founded by immigrants in the first successful modern democracy under a Constitution of equality and freedom given to us by God. Everything about America was new and rooted in the values of equality and freedom while acknowledging our divine origins. We were indeed an experiment in such a very unique and wonderful setting that the same combinations could never again be assembled in such a fresh and original way. So in more than one way the very existence of our nation validates and proves that equality and freedom can work in a world where the individual is often not valued or respected in some other countries around the world.
We have also made mistakes along the way as a nation in many different areas, such as the treatment of African-Americans, Native Americans, the treatment of women and the environment just to mention a few. What is important is that we have learned as a people and as a nation – and continue to attempt to right wrongs that have deep historical roots going back into the very history of civilization. It is our pursuit of noble values and ideals that have given flesh to the concept of American Exceptionalism, through our unwavering support for freedom and democratic values, the importance and value of the individual and our belief in a divine origin – that has given us a unique responsibility for keeping the flame of freedom burning brightly around the world – despite being confronted at times by an overwhelming shadow of darkness.
I talked with a man from Africa a few months ago who was a very experienced airline and military pilot, who in his lifetime had experienced the different styles of both communist and western democratic political systems. He was very concerned that America was starting to lose its leadership role in the world and that our support for democratic values around the world was on the verge of slipping away for good. He almost begged me to reassure him that this wasn’t happening, because he was afraid for everyone’s future if America was someday no longer a voice and defender of democracy and freedom around the world. He didn’t want to face a future world where America wasn’t the steady defender of free people everywhere because of our values, our words, our beliefs – and because of our selfless defense of these noble rights that have enabled so many Peoples around the world to live in liberty. I think he thought that if America’s support ever slipped away then freedom and democracy would quickly unravel for everyone.
American Exceptionalism is about how our country has stood up against sometimes impossible odds to defend life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness around the world. One need only do a quick review of the 20th Century to see how America spent her treasure and shed the very blood of her best and brightest youth to face down the forces of evil – totalitarianism, fascism and communism – as they attempted to crush the spirit of freedom, liberty and democracy around the world, and will always remain as a potential treat in the future. In spite of her selfless defense of the noble values that lift up the nature of mankind to its highest levels, many nations and people around the world have forgotten so very quickly how America has helped save the world from a future of darkness and misery on multiple occasions in her history.
When I first arrived in Germany in the fall of 1983, Europe was an entirely different landscape that was deeply entrenched in the Cold War. As a result of the selfless efforts of NATO, politicians, civilians and religious leaders; the Cold War was brought to a peaceful end and Europe emerged as the free and democratic European Union that it is today. It has been the concept of American Exceptionalism throughout our history that has allowed us the ability to freely defend other countries and lands overseas, far away from our continent of North America for the purpose of defending freedom and democracy around the world. Yet, for all of America’s blood and treasure that she has committed to defending freedom around the world, America often endures the criticism and forgetfulness of some who deny our country’s selfless role in helping to liberate oppressed Peoples around the world without holding terrain or establishing an empire.
So what does the future hold for America and the many like-minded countries that seek to preserve freedom and democracy around the world? I believe that freedom and democracy can only be maintained in the future through a strong network of overlapping Intergovernmental Organizations, where nations organize in cooperative regional organizations to address specific regional, cultural and cooperative approaches to solving the problems of today and into the future. Wikipedia has an article titled, “List of intergovernmental organizations” that details many of today’s regional organizations around the world, such as: the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Nordic Council, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the African Union, the Organization of American States (OAS), the Commonwealth of Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement and the World Organization for Animal Health. These are just a handful of the many Intergovernmental Organizations that have been established around the world for cooperation between nations.
Why are Intergovernmental Organizations the key to the future of world peace and democracy for our world? In the past there was little direct knowledge of distant lands around the world and their people – everything far away from the familiar was a nebulous world of mystery and exotic languages, animals and images – recalling the old phrase, “deepest, darkest Africa.” Tales emerged from explorers of new continents, lands and people that were simply unbelievable to the established, “civilized world” of their day. Today the world is becoming a very small and intimate place, where people can communicate with each other instantly around the entire world through the internet and via telecommunications. Yet there are still dictators and tyrants that attempt to keep their people uninformed and in the dark about the rest of the world and deny them their freedom. This is the darkness in our world that must never be allowed to spread.
World-wide communication brings information to people, which leads to understanding, which leads to familiarity, which leads to economic trade and cooperation, which leads to travel and cultural exchange, which leads to friendship, which leads to sharing ideas, which leads to common and shared bonds, which leads to – Love. It is only when people see the people of the entire world as their own sisters and brothers – a.k.a to, “have skin in the game” – that real peace can be established. The more contact and cooperation that the people of one country have with another, the lesser the possibility of future conflict between them – and at a certain point conflict becomes literally an impossibility. That is the path we should all travel down, the path of familiarity and friendship that leads to – Love.
The United States has always had a strong independent streak of self-reliance and the undying notion that as a nation it can accomplish anything given the resources and willpower to commit to accomplishing it – such as putting men on the Moon or helping to liberate Europe twice during the 20th Century. It has been this concept of American Exceptionalism that has given our country the courage and willpower to be a beacon of freedom, liberty and democracy around the world throughout our nation’s history. The future needs both of these qualities in our country still today – the spirit of independent minded American Exceptionalism – however the world is a very different place today as we all head into an uncertain future together.
Terrorism combined with political and ideological propaganda are today’s very real opponents, and will become even more so as the future unfolds. World-wide travel, instant communications, international wire transfers and harmful electronic viruses all allow people, countries and organizations to harm any country in the world at a moment’s notice – almost at will. If democratic countries are to hold back this threat to the very existence of freedom and liberty in the world, all of the free Peoples of the world need to be united within a framework of close cooperative efforts around the world. It will be through Intergovernmental Organizations cooperating in a united front – while at the same time confronting malicious ideological propaganda within these organizations head-on at their source – that we will all be successful together in defeating terrorism and tomorrow’s emerging threats.
The days of America rushing in to defend freedom and help liberate oppressed people have not necessarily come to an end, but the opponent is now often masked behind a vapor of hidden threats, malicious communications, electronic viruses, electronic wire transactions and ideological propaganda. No longer is it always a single country that a threat can be identified with and a territory that has to be liberated or conquered. This will require a cooperative effort of free Peoples everywhere in order to hold back the threat of darkness, which means the more we all love the people of the world – the more we will be able to care for and trust each other in a united effort to help ensure our combined defense, safety and security. Because in the deepest analysis – it is literally love that leads to peace - and once we all take the middle road that leads to love we will find that - Love Changes Everything.
Cheers & Love,