January 21, 2013
FROM THE ARCHIVES: A CREED, NOT A BREED:
Why We Keep This Creed (Michael Gerson, July 4, 2007, Washington Post)
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized that America has a "schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against herself." But we are redeemed, he argued, by our creed, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, which manages "to forever challenge us; to forever give us a sense of urgency; to forever stand in the midst of the 'isness' of our terrible injustices; to remind us of the 'oughtness' of our noble capacity for justice and love and brotherhood." Americans, he said, believe in "certain basic rights that are neither derived from nor conferred by the state. . . . They are God-given, gifts from his hands."
"You may take my life," King said, "but you can't take my right to life. You may take liberty from me, but you can't take my right to liberty." And this creed of "amazing universalism" calls "America to do a special job for mankind and the world . . . because America is the world in miniature and the world is America writ large."
The privileged and powerful can love America for many reasons. The oppressed and powerless, stripped of selfish motives for their love, have found America lovely because of its ideals.
It is typical of America that our great national day is not the celebration of a battle -- or, as in the case of France, the celebration of a riot. It is the celebration of a political act, embedded in a philosophic argument: that the rights of man are universal because they are rooted in the image of God.
Which is why the nativist, with his particularist claim that America is for him and his, can not succeed in the long run.
[originally posted: 7/05/07]Posted by oj at January 21, 2013 1:00 AM