The concept of a “shining city on a hill” has been invoked in modern times by politicians, from JFK to Ted Cruz.
“A City upon a Hill” is a concept from a New Testament account of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells his followers “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” In 1630, John Winthrop, invoked this passage in the Book of Matthew, as he reminded the fledgling Massachusetts Bay colony that they were to “set an example of communal charity, affection, and unity to the world”. He said “History will not judge our endeavours—and a government cannot be selected—merely on the basis of colour or creed or even party affiliation. Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these. For of those to whom much is given, much is required …” A shining city on a hill.
This concept of American exceptionalism may have had its nascent moment in that instance, and for good (or bad) inspired the sprawl of manifest destiny across an impossible continent and promised to the hope of a new world. Freedom from tyranny inspired the minds that established the rule of law and institutions that made America great. For generations, men and women left everything they knew, in order to come to America to help stoke the industries, and build a “shining city on a hill” that truly inspired the world. Who among us cannot be deeply moved by the Statue of Liberty?
So, how quickly did the light go out? Exactly when did the USA lose its claim to be the moral authority in the world?
For me, it is now.
You know what I’m talking about.
Get your shit together, America.
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