“America and the Kingdom”
© Steven Schwartzberg, 2017
Presented to the Chicago
October 2, 2017
The promise of the American Revolution runs deep. Yet it does not run as deep as the promise of the Kingdom of God. And it is the relationship between America and the Kingdom that I want us to think about tonight. I intend to argue that if the promise of America is to be saved from the dangers that now confront us—as a country and as a world—the promise of the Kingdom must be articulated anew, perhaps in a language more acceptable to secular folk, and maybe even to some atheists, so that the dynamic tension between America and the Kingdom that strengthened the American experiment at the founding, and that helped renew it at numerous critical junctures in our past, can be restored and redeemed. The alternative of collapsing the Kingdom into America by claiming that the End of History has arrived—and that it is liberal capitalism—has been tried and found wanting since the end of the Soviet Union. The alternative of collapsing America into the Kingdom and claiming that all our sins from slavery and genocide to bigotry and misogyny—from Indian removal in the nineteenth century to the invasion of Iraq in the twenty-first century—are somehow to be ignored because America is “great” relative to other nations, or allegedly on its way back to “greatness,” is bankrupt as well. So, too, would be a failure to acknowledge and build on American goodness: on the good that we have done from establishing a flawed but tangible democracy—a democracy with a proven capacity to correct mistakes and expand the frontiers of self-government in the direction of including all of the inhabitants of our land as equal citizens who are part of a common nation, dedicated, at least rhetorically, to the ideal of liberty and justice for all—to helping to turn former enemies into friends in both Germany and Japan after the Second World War—to numerous other less well known good deeds in which America has sought to help others pursue political liberty and sometimes even social justice as well as liberal capitalism.i
Any atheist willing and able to defend what is good in what the contemporary philosopher Charles Taylor has called the modern moral order is a potential political ally, as far as I am concerned, and indeed probably a superior one to any religious adherent unwilling to do so.ii The Kingdom, as I see it, cannot be brought about by human will and human skill. We participate in it only by grace and it is open to all regardless of faith, at least regardless of what we call our faith. Yet, as I hope to show my atheist friends, the idea of the Kingdom has strengthened the promise of the American Revolution in the past and holds out hope for its redemption. Now for secular folk, and especially for atheists, I appreciate that the idea of a relationship with God—to say nothing about a relationship with a Kingdom of God—is a problematic idea. They may wish to remember, as the sociologist W. I. Thomas once put it, that if people “define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”iii Belief in God’s ultimate and immanent sovereignty over humanity has had very powerful consequences in this world. So, too—for good and for ill—have conflicting ideas of the Kingdom.
People of strong Christian faith among the white Americans of the new republic—and to an extent among the Cherokee Nation as well—largely led the opposition to Indian removal in the 1830s, the opposition to the American version of “ethnic cleansing” that would become known as the Trail of Tears and Death.iv Like subsequent mobilizations on behalf of the abolition of slavery, and in support of women’s rights, and other progressive causes, opposition to removal helped to shape not only who we are as Americans, but the articulation of aspirations that have become global in scope—part of the modern moral order. While people of deep Christian faith continued, and continue, to be involved in subsequent endeavors, at some point this common culture of mobilizing on behalf of social justice ceased to be simply or even predominantly Christian-inspired. In his fine book, A Secular Age, Charles Taylor suggests that this breach with the culture of Christendom was probably necessary “for the impulse of solidarity to transcend the frontier of Christendom itself.” “We might even be tempted,” he writes, “to say that modern unbelief is providential.”v
In purely secular language, the political fight that is now before us turns on the question of whether the United States will uphold the vision of the most progressive framers of the Constitution—that the American people as a whole are sovereign under an international moral and legal order that also guarantees other peoples, and ultimately every individual, their rights—or whether we will slip further back into something more like the Articles of Confederation and the vision that the states are sovereign or, worse yet, into a new vision of a sovereign federal government in which that government is answerable not to the American people but to the whims of a demagogue or to what Bernie Sanders refers to as “a handful of billionaires, their Super-PACs and their lobbyists.”vi
The most progressive of the founding fathers saw the American people ourselves as ultimately answerable to God for our conduct.vii That is what our self-government meant. This was a view of what it means to be sovereign that is profoundly at odds with the conception of sovereignty as a capacity to lord it over those who are somehow deemed not sovereign, who are somehow deemed inferior. The struggle between these two views of sovereignty has informed much of American and much of world history. If we are less likely than previous generations to see any authority as capable of embodying virtue, the challenge of holding all authority accountable remains, especially when that authority is our own.
Thanks to my father’s many papers before this club on James Wilson, the most brilliant jurist among the founding fathers, and a member of the committee of detail in the constitutional convention who actually crafted much of the Constitution, there is no need for me to further introduce James Wilson to this audience.viii But I do wish to present at length some of his arguments, arguments that should be better known. Wilson argued that in being answerable to God, the first and most necessary duty of nations, as well as of individuals, was to do no harm. But they were also commanded to do good to one another. Sociability was part of the law of nature for nations as well as for individuals.ix
“It may, perhaps, be uncommon, but it is certainly just, to say that nations ought to love one another. The offices of humanity ought to flow from this pure source. When this happily is the case, then the principles of affection and friendship prevail among states as among individuals: then nations will mutually support and assist each other with zeal and ardour; lasting peace will be the result of unshaken confidence; and kind and generous principles, of a nature far opposite to mean jealously, crooked policy, or cold prudence, will govern and prosper the affairs of men…. The love of mankind is an important duty and an exalted virtue. Much has been written, much has been said concerning the power of intellectual abstraction, which man possesses, and which distinguishes him so eminently from the inferior order of animals. But little has been said, and little has been written, concerning another power of the human mind, still more dignified, and, beyond all comparison, more amiable—I may call it the power of moral abstraction.”x
Wilson’s name for this living capacity for benevolence and sociability—“the power of moral abstraction”—did not catch on. In our own day, the social theorist Edward Shils has proposed the term civility, by which he means the virtue of the citizen—the virtue of concern for the common good—and not merely good manners.xi For Wilson, this alternative would have been acceptable only if it was understood that the citizen in question was a citizen of the world as well as of the United States. The power of moral abstraction was “not confined to one sect or to one state, but ranges excursive through the whole expanded theater of men and nations.”xii It was as necessary to the progress of exalted virtue, as the power of intellectual abstraction was to the progress of extensive knowledge. By this power, the commonwealth of a state, the empire of the United States, the civilized and commercial part of the world, and the inhabitants of the whole earth become the objects of the warmest spirit of benevolence. By this power, even a minute, unknown and distant group of individuals may become a complex object that will warm and dilate the soul. For James Wilson, love of neighbor and love of God were part of the foundation on which the promise of the American Revolution was raised.xiii
The American Revolution was intended to be liberating and global by the founding fathers. It proved more so than they had intended. I do not want to exaggerate the influence of the American Revolution on the modern moral order, but nor do I wish to underestimate it. One window that I can offer is to be found in an essay contest that the Abbé Raynal organized in France in 1780 on the following set of questions: “Was the discovery of the Americas injurious or useful to the human species? If good came of it, what are the ways to conserve and increase it? If it produced evils, what are the ways to remedy them?”xiv A powerful answer was that the American Revolution was the culmination of the impact of the discovery of the New World on European thought:
“Those who will know how to take advantage of this great example shall never forget what they owe to America, where the standard of liberty was laid out for the entire universe; and when one asks them what the discovery of this continent produced, they will respond that it was very cruel in the beginning and that during several centuries, it compensated great evils with only weak advantages, but having softened, humanized, and enlightened the nations by happy experiences which one could not do elsewhere, [America] showed to all the true path to liberty, that civil liberty, preferable to savage liberty has grown deep roots in North America, and has extended its branches to Europe, and, little by little, will cover all parts of the world.”xv
As far away as China and Japan, there were Confucian scholars who were favorably impressed with the moral and political as well as the economic and technological accomplishments of the United States. In the middle of the nineteenth century, Xu Jiyu, who would later become the first president of Beijing University, stressed the exemplary character of George Washington’s patriotism: “He refused to receive pecuniary recompense. He labored to rear an elective system of government. Patriotism like this is to be commended under the whole heaven. Truly it reminds us of one of our own three great ancient dynasties!”xvi A “country of peace and concord” is the literal meaning of kyōwa koku, the characters selected to render “republic” in Japanese. And in Japan as well as in China, Washington initially appeared as something of a Confucian sage.xvii
The American Revolution, I will argue, promised even more than this as it contained within itself possibilities for social justice of which the founding fathers were not fully aware. Movement toward the realization of these possibilities for social justice—movement toward more genuine self-government—is at the heart of the growth of American civilization. A striking and illustrative example of one of these possibilities—the possibility of a triumphant feminism—can be seen in an exchange of letters between Abigail Adams and John Adams on the eve of the Declaration of Independence.
In a letter of 31 March 1776, Abigail Adams suggested that it would be necessary for the American revolutionary leaders to write a constitution, what she termed a new code of laws. She asked her husband to “remember the ladies” in writing this new code.xviii Such a code, she argued, should put it out of the power of the vicious and lawless to use women with cruelty and indignity: “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”xix
In response, in a letter of 14 April 1776, John Adams refused. He laughed at the idea that a new constitution would be needed and argued that systems of masculine authority were little more than theory. In reality, he maintained, men were obliged to go fair and softly. Nevertheless, these masculine systems were ones that that men would fight for rather than repeal. Giving seeming praise to Abigail for being so “saucy,” he mocked her at the same time. He did so by suggesting that her position offered more of what the revolutionary leaders had already been wrongly accused of unleashing: “We have been told that our struggle has loosened the bonds of government everywhere; that children and apprentices were disobedient; that schools and colleges were grown turbulent; that Indians slighted their guardians, and negroes grew insolent to their masters. But your letter was the first intimation that another tribe, more numerous and powerful than all the rest, were grown discontented.”xx
John Adams’ was confident in the maintenance of the traditional authority of white male property owners, or at least in the avoidance of what he called the despotism of the petticoat. He underestimated the strength of his wife’s position. When it came to the promise of the American Revolution, she saw the future trajectory of developments with a clearer eye:
“I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for, whilst you are proclaiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over wives. But you must remember that arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken; and, notwithstanding all your wise laws and maxims, we have it in our power, not only to free ourselves, but to subdue our masters, and without violence, throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet.”xxi
I think Abigail Adams’ glimpse of a future without male supremacy is very much like our glimpses of the Kingdom of God. Indeed, I think her confidence in this future is part of the Kingdom; part of what it means to have faith in and be part of a moral order rooted in the Word of God—a moral order which is both already here and at the same time still coming into this world. When I speak of the promise of the Kingdom, I am not speaking of repudiating modern dreams of equality and freedom, but rather of seeing them realized on a deeper level—the level at which love drives out fear. Recognition of the existence of such a deeper level does, however, inevitably reframe the meaning of both equality and freedom. In such a reframing, I would suggest that truly free societies are those in which people enjoy a set of media through which they are able to be open to each other, to love one another, without fear—in which they can realize themselves by giving themselves—and in which they are all self-governing with the equality of each human being founded not merely on identity as citizens under the law, but on the fact that each is infinitely precious as a child of God.xxii “If God is love,” Joseph Stoltz told this club more than a hundred years ago in a paper titled “The Message of Judaism for the Twentieth Century”: then “man must deal with man in love and make of this earth a paradise, a kingdom of God, a fit habitation for man who is the image of God.”xxiii For the day will come, as the prophet Habakkuk proclaimed, when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”xxiv The promise of the Kingdom rises above the promise of the American Revolution, continually calling its advocates to aspire to greater things. In terms of equality, the words of Saint Paul from two thousand years ago are still striking: “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave nor free, there is no longer male nor female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”xxv
Lest the secular folk among you worry that you’re now in for some sort of sermon, full of quotations from scripture, let me offer the reassurance—for what it’s worth—that the framers of our Constitution generally believed that in natural law and in moral philosophy they had a language to discuss ultimate political truths that was free from sectarianism. The peaceful religious pluralism to which their efforts helped give birth is part of the promise of the American Revolution that I am seeking to uphold and strengthen. If I employ, say, the language of the prophet Micah, and speak of my belief that in the days to come each will sit under their vine and their fig tree and that they shall “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks,” I will be using such language primarily because I find it more clear and more resonant than whatever more secular equivalent I could come up with.xxvi It will be in the back of my mind that the prophet Micah conceives of the peoples and nations streaming to Jerusalem in his vision of the Kingdom as walking with their gods. It was an early vision of peaceful religious pluralism under a moral order sustained by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.xxvii
The poet and theologian Christian Wiman asks a question that I have wrestled with in this context: “Does the decay of belief among educated people in the West precede the decay of the language used to define and explore belief, or do we find the fire of belief fading in us only because the words are sodden with overuse and imprecision, and will not burn?”xxviii For myself, as Wiman indicates is true for him, and as I would not expect any atheist to agree with, Christ’s life is not simply a model for how to live, but the living truth of our own existence: “Christ,” Wiman writes, “is not alive now because he rose from the dead two thousand years ago. He rose from the dead two thousand years ago because he is alive right now.”xxix While I would not expect any atheist—or people from other faith traditions—to agree with that declaration, I hope to convey what I find to be the basic political implications of this faith, while stressing that many of these implications can also be reached by other paths; paths that may be acceptable to secular folk. A central implication that I do not think can easily be reached by other paths is a rejection of the fear of death that is so prevalent in our society, a willingness to trust that in the end love wins. Politically, this can deepen our hospitality and fellowship with friends and strangers and soften our hostility towards our enemies. We share with all of them—friends and strangers and enemies alike—the fact that we will die. We share with them the fact that we all breathe the planet’s air. And we share with them—or so I believe—the fact that God loves us all. There is a brief poem by the seventeenth century Anglican priest, George Herbert, which captures my faith succinctly:
“Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here.’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.”
I think this poem well conveys the abundance of God’s grace as many believers feel it and also our frequent sense of unworthiness to receive this grace. It conveys our common effort to try to somehow earn this grace through service followed by, finally, an acceptance—on God’s terms—of what God offers. Such acceptance transcends politics and creates a space in which civility and compassion can flourish as gifts that we receive and pass on to others.
The global Charter for Compassion—google it when you get home—is a worthwhile interfaith effort that includes among its signatories Christians, Muslims, Confucians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and secular folk all seeking “to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.”xxx I commend the Charter for Compassion to you as an expression of convictions that should be, at least as a matter of principles, completely agreeable and acceptable to secular folk, including atheists. “Compassion,” the Charter declares, “impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.”xxxi
The Charter for Compassion is an expression of what is best in globalization, an expression of the moral foundations of a movement toward human unity that is always under threat by the centrifugal forces of the nationalisms it both helps to cultivate and to erode. A close examination of globalization’s dynamics reveals a tension between seeking to advance the modern moral order—with its affirmation of ordinary life, proscription of violence, ideals of equality, and its competing economic ethics of liberal capitalism and social democracy—and seeking to be loyal to the demands for justice of the oppressed. From one angle, this is a tension between civility and compassion. The accomplishments of civilization will never live up to the needs discerned by compassion. The most civil society possible is radically inadequate to the demands of justice. And a serious outbreak of love in any society would be deeply unsettling to the social order.xxxii From another angle, there is a tension within compassion between an urge to fight for justice and a willingness to offer mercy and forgiveness, even to oppressors, especially as part of a nonviolent campaign to transform hearts and minds.xxxiii
As an historian by training, the forgiveness I offer usually takes the form of seeking what the German sociologist Max Weber called Verstehen, or understanding, of the reasoning of historical actors within the context of a simplified reconstruction of what they saw as their reality.xxxiv Yet I am speaking here not only as an historian, but also as a man of faith, of a faith born of the confluence of the Judaism in which I was raised, the Christianity into which I was baptized, and the love of Confucianism that helps inform my outlook. And I am hoping to make that outlook intelligible, and perhaps even agreeable, to secular folk in such a way that they might see in an interfaith conception of the promise of the Kingdom a standard against which the promise of the American Revolution can be measured and perpetually revivified.
In a purely secular language, I would say that every group and collectivity of which one is a member is informed by a moral order and the traditions that help constitute it.xxxv These moral orders help the individuals and groups who adhere to them pursue both civility and compassion in their relationships, at least to the extent that they do so, by helping to provide a shared framework in which to express and understand what is good. From a mystic’s perspective, the idea of a relationship with God can be seen as something similar to the idea of a relationship with all of the goodness there is in all of these moral orders. Here it is perhaps helpful to look at the meaning of Heaven, and its relationship to humanity, in the New Confucian tradition articulated by the contemporary philosopher Tu Weiming:
“Copernicus decentered the earth, Darwin relativized the godlike image of man, Marx exploded the ideology of social harmony, and Freud complicated our conscious life. They have redefined humanity for the modern age. Yet they have also empowered us, with communal critical self-awareness, to renew our faith in the ancient Confucian wisdom that the globe is the center of our universe and the only home for us and that we are guardians of the good earth, the trustees of the Mandate of Heaven that enjoins us to make our bodies healthy, our hearts sensitive, our minds alert, our souls refined, and our spirits brilliant. We are here because embedded in our human nature is the secret code for Heaven’s self-realization. Heaven is certainly omnipresent, and may even be omniscient, but is most likely not omnipotent. It needs our active participation to realize its own truth. We are Heaven’s partners, indeed cocreators. We serve Heaven with common sense, the lack of which nowadays has brought us to the brink of self-destruction. Since we help Heaven to realize itself through our self-discovery and self-understanding in day-to-day living, the ultimate meaning of life is found in our ordinary, human existence.”xxxvi
As a Christian, my take on the ultimate meaning of life is related, but somewhat different. I see the self-giving of God that is Jesus as the meaning of human history because what human beings are meant for, what we are summoned to, is to share in God’s life—on the analogy of a child growing up to share in the life of their parents.xxxvii Whenever we use language, whenever we speak to and about each other, we are either being God’s partner in Her work of sustaining creation, or else seeking to subvert it.xxxviii Even with something so small as which pronoun we use to refer to God, we can influence the way others think and feel, and we can express our love, although not necessarily in a way that will be received as we intend.
The idea that God does not comprehend and transcend whatever is masculine and feminine in each of us seems to me a very poor idea. God can easily be referred to as “She,” as “He,” as “One.” The inadequate language with which we try to talk about God does not diminish the inexhaustible reality of God in the least, though it can affect our conduct toward each other. My United Church of Christ pastor Matt Fitzgerald sometimes refers to God as She. I think he feels, as I do, that this conveys an aspect of who God is—a Mother to us as well as a Father—and that it helps to make our church more welcoming to use a variety of pronouns for what believers can perceive as the immanent transcendence in whom we live, and move, and have our being.
While compassion and civility are great banners under which to rally people to help build a better world, what they are ultimately grounded in—at least as seen by a believer such as myself—is an endeavor to be fully human in one’s personal relations, in one’s relationships in all of the communities to which one belongs, including the entire human community, and in one’s relationship with God. We are all who we are within networks of relationship. Each of us can say with the Anglican theologian John Mbiti, “I am because we are.”xxxix This is simply a more accurate way of looking at the matter than René Descartes’ Cogito ergo sum, “I think therefore I am,” or its contemporary version, Tesco ergo sum, “I shop therefore I am.”xl Our relationships—always in need of cultivation, and sometimes in need of restoration—are central to the fullness of our humanity. Let me say directly what is probably the most abrasive part of what I have to say for people of other faith traditions, or for atheists, to hear: namely what I mean by being “fully human.” In my use of that phrase, I am following the Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe:
“So my thesis is that Jesus died of being human. His very humanity meant that he put up no barriers, no defenses against those he loved who hated him. He refused to evade the consequences of being human in our inhuman world. So the cross shows up our world for what it really is, what we have made it. It is a world in which it is dangerous, even fatal, to be human; a world structured by violence and fear. The cross shows that whatever else may be wrong with this or that society, whatever may be remedied by this or that economic or political change, there is a basic wrong, persistent through history and through all progress: the rejection of the love that casts out fear, the fear of the love that casts out fear, the fear that without the backing of terror, at least in the last resort, human society and thus human life, cannot exist…. With the cross the alienation of humankind is recognized as sin, and for that very reason recognized as something that can be forgiven.”xli
In his book, Love, Law & Language, McCabe asks whether humanity is unified not only genetically, as a single species, and to some extent linguistically, but also in terms of a common story and, if so, how? Glancing at some of the most widespread stories that are shared across the planet, there is a tendency in many of them toward finding the meaning of human history in an idea of progress and an End or goal toward which humanity is allegedly moving. For the last couple of centuries, the dominant trend in these stories has conceived of that End in secular terms—nationalism, liberalism, and socialism have all done so—and have made themselves, in effect, into secular narratives of salvation. In the nationalist narrative, a world in which every nation has its own strong and sovereign state has been the End. In the liberal narrative, it has been a world in which every society is a liberal democracy, or at least in which every society has a liberal capitalist economy. And in the socialist narrative it has been the variously defined triumph of the working class in every country.
While the self-confidence of its narrators was shaken by the grotesque horrors of the twentieth century, and to some extent by more recent developments, the story that finds the meaning of human history in progress towards a universal commonwealth of liberty—a world of democracies at peace—is still a popular story. The historian Akira Iriye has observed that an unprecedented sense of shared humanity emerged out of the common calamity of the two world wars.xlii Where the nineteenth century was the century of empires, and the twentieth century the century of sovereign states, he suggests that the twenty-first century may be the century of civil societies, and perhaps of a global civil society as well.xliii One aspect of these developments that is receiving increasing attention, Iriye notes, is the role of international organizations; institutions whose “only weapons are ideas, a sense of commitment, and voluntary service. They have not spent billions on arms, nor have they engaged in mass killing. They are civilized societies, and so they have a mission to turn the world into a civilized community.”xliv
Without diminishing the civility or importance of many international organizations, it is worth noting in addition the changing strength of the civility of the world’s peoples and its influence on the politics of states and on the course of global history. But even if the civility of the world’s peoples has at times helped move the planet closer toward the establishment of a universal commonwealth of liberty, the fact remains that the community of democracies as it exists is still rife with brutalities and injustices that are often hidden and sometimes masked with legality, as the Black Lives Matter movement has recently reminded us. Even if its scope were universal, the community of democracies would be far from a realm governed by a generous and abundant love. A universal commonwealth of liberty would involve a more or less “peaceful” political order that was largely maintained by a moderate degree of friendship—by a moderate degree of compromise and consensus—and even less affinity could be found in the relationships that make up its economic order; an economic order in which most of us often wouldn’t even know the names of the people we were buying from and selling to in the marketplace. It would be very far, in other words, from what Christians like McCabe would call the Kingdom of God.xlv
A world with a universal commonwealth of liberty would not be made up of free societies in the fullest sense of the word. For freedom fundamentally, as McCabe notes, “means being able to give oneself and thereby realise oneself; a free society is a set of media in which people are able to be open to each other, to love each other without fear.”xlvi
Contrast that vision with President Bill Clinton’s. Speaking to the General Assembly of the United Nations, in September 1993, Bill Clinton championed the United States’ international leadership by emphasizing an American commitment to democratic solidarity:
“In a new era of peril and opportunity, our overriding purpose must be to expand and strengthen the world’s community of market-based democracies. During the cold war we sought to contain a threat to the survival of free institutions. Now we seek to enlarge the circle of nations that live under those free institutions. For our dream is of a day when the opinions and energies of every person in the world will be given full expression, in a world of thriving democracies that cooperate with each other and live in peace. With this statement, I do not mean to announce some crusade to force our way of life and doing things on others or to replicate our institutions, but we now know clearly that throughout the world, from Poland to Eritrea, from Guatemala to South Korea, there is an enormous yearning among people who wish to be the masters of their own economic and political lives. Where it matters most and where we can make the greatest difference, we will, therefore, patiently and firmly align ourselves with that yearning.”xlvii
Here was an American president seeking to join in common cause with every person in the world, and every nation, implicitly suggesting that at critical junctures the United States could serve as a global good citizen capable of deciding which movements in other countries to support and oppose, and sound ways of doing so, in pursuit of democratic political progress. It is a claim for which the history of America’s relations with the rest of the world provides more support than is commonly realized, although it provides grounds for fundamental criticism as well.xlviii As that is my field of expertise as an historian I am always happy to discuss it, but what I want to do here is underline not how far our world is currently from Clinton’s vision, or how we might be helpful in advancing that vision, but how far Clinton’s vision is from the Kingdom.
Consider again McCabe’s formulation of freedom. Fundamentally, he claims, freedom “means being able to give oneself and thereby realise oneself; a free society is a set of media in which people are able to be open to each other, to love each other without fear.”xlix
Hierarchy seems an unavoidable part of social life. It does not make love impossible. But where love forms it erodes hierarchical structures and vice-versa.l For believers in God, feeling what we perceive as God’s love, and the realization that this love transcends our differences, can become a reason for sharing the spaces in which we live more enthusiastically. “What gives us elbow room, what gives us space to grow and become ourselves, is the love that comes to us from another. Love,” according to McCabe, “is the space in which to expand, and it is always a gift. In this sense we receive ourselves at the hands of others.”li In this sense the peoples, civilizations, and religions of this world are at best only just beginning to realize themselves by making room for each other instead of trying to seize room for themselves. They are only just beginning to realize that the common good of each is part of the common good of all.
There are, it should be remembered, alternatives to liberal capitalism—and to social democracy—that have proved much, much worse: misguided and twisted over-emphases on the value of “class” and “race” that left no room for either civility or compassion. One of the most powerful images of the Kingdom of God is an image of the complete unity of civil and political society. The idea that such unity can be brought about by human will and human skill is at the heart of the totalitarian temptation.lii It involves simultaneously making an idol of our own theories of the Kingdom and seeking to take God’s place to bring them about—something that believers can seek to do every bit as much as atheists can. The dream that the abolition of private property will bring about the Kingdom (the summary of the program of the communists in Marx and Engels’ manifesto) becomes a nightmare when people seek to bring it about (as the Bolsheviks did) by force and violence.liii
We should learn from these totalitarian visions, these profound mistakes, and shun them and their present-day imitations.liv Both Bolshevism and Nazism were attempted usurpations of traditions that are part of the global common good. Just as Bolshevism was an attempted usurpation of a traditional socialism that had increasingly come to rely on political democracy as an essential part of its program, so Nazism was an attempted usurpation of a traditional German national identity that had increasingly come to include German Jews as members of the nation. Both totalitarian movements promised “action” as against the sluggishness and gridlock of the politicians with their endless parliamentary “talking shops.” Both were bitterly hostile to social democracy and to liberal capitalism. And both were opposed to the secular religion of life characteristic of the modern moral order. This hostility was perhaps most succinctly expressed in Leon Trotsky’s famous book of 1920, Terrorism and Communism: “As for us, we were never concerned with the Kantian-priestly and vegetarian-Quaker prattle about the ‘sacredness of human life.’ We were revolutionaries in opposition, and have remained revolutionaries in power. To make the individual sacred we must destroy the social order which crucifies him. And this problem can only be solved by blood and iron.”lv
Precisely because the Bolsheviks’ claim to legitimacy rested on the demonstrably false assertion that they were delivering social justice through their program, it is worth stressing the totalitarian political hierarchy that Bolshevism in fact cultivated and championed. To again quote Trotsky:
“The foundations of the militarization of labor are those forms of State compulsion without which the replacement of capitalist economy by the Socialist will forever remain an empty sound. Why do we speak of militarization? Of course, this is only an analogy—but an analogy very rich in content. No social organization except the army has ever considered itself justified in subordinating citizens to itself in such a measure, and to control them by its will on all sides to such a degree, as the State of the proletarian dictatorship considers itself justified in doing, and does. Only the army—just because in its way it used to decide questions of the life or death of nations, States, and ruling classes—was endowed with powers of demanding from each and all complete submission to its problems, aims, regulations and orders.”lvi
The Nazi notion of a master race is perhaps more easily seen as reprehensible than the Bolshevik notion that private property should be eliminated by force and violence. We more readily see a foundation for evil in the gratuitous hatred for human beings, and especially Jews and the disabled and gays and Slavs in the Nazi era—today it is often Mexicans and Muslims as well—and in the scapegoating and paranoid conspiracy thinking that informs such hatred. To Adolf Hitler, it was the advocates of democracy in the political sphere, and social democratic trade unionists in the economic sphere, and behind both of them the Jews, that were working for a hated and unnatural equality, an equality that should constrain neither Germany internationally nor the Nazi leadership within Germany: “Marxism presents itself,” Hitler writes in Mein Kampf, “as the perfection of the Jew’s attempt to exclude the pre-eminence of personality in all fields of human life and replace it by the numbers of the mass. To this, in the political sphere, corresponds the parliamentary form of government, which, from the smallest germ cells of the municipality up to the supreme leadership of the Reich, we see in such disastrous operation, and in the economic sphere, the system of a trade union movement which does not serve the real interests of the workers, but exclusively the destructive purposes of the international world Jew.”lvii We dare not forget what evil resides in such ideas.
The recovery of the German and the Japanese peoples’ attachment to the modern moral order in the aftermath of the Second World War, the deepening of that attachment, and the consequent growth of civility in those societies, helped draw the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to the modern moral order. It was the successful struggle of these peoples to free themselves from the oppression of the Soviet regime—far more than anything else—that brought about the end of the Cold War. Seeing Western civil accomplishments and idealistic rhetoric as overwhelming the alternative vision of modernity that the Soviet regime had sought to embody and advance is not a totally inaccurate perspective, but it is an inadequate one. It underemphasizes the role of the local actors who were most directly involved and whose actions were most consequential to the course of events. The same point applies to any effort to credit the United States—and especially the American occupations—for the successes of postwar Germany and Japan. The United States played a major, and on balance a strongly positive role, but it was the strength and skill and luck of local allies—sharing some common understandings with Americans about how to advance the values of the modern moral order—that determined the outcome.lviii
It could be argued that the much greater American generosity of the postwar period, with its Marshall Plan and more social democratic economic policies, perhaps helps account for the better outcomes in postwar Europe and Japan in comparison with post Cold War Russia. In our international relations, we were more civil and compassionate in the late 1940s than in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and we have become less civil and compassionate since then. Contrary to mythology, it was not Ronald Reagan standing tall and saying “tear down this wall,” that brought an end to the Cold War.lix In fact, the mythology of an essential, sufficient, and decisive American “leadership” has proved enormously destructive—an illusion that contributed to disaster in Iraq. And an illusion that contributes to a contemporary sullen and bullying attitude toward others—the attitude that we should seek to lord it over them rather than seek to serve them because we somehow allegedly deserve more than we have received.
Believing that American “leadership” had won the Cold War, and having been told that the End of History was now apparent, the American people were traumatized by the attacks of 11 September 2001. We responded with more fear and hatred than civility and compassion and—rather than repenting—have been doubling down on that mistake ever since. Determining American policy after the heady experience of the end of the Cold War—in other words with an exaggerated sense of the ability of the United States to contribute to democratic progress in other countries, and with an exaggerated sense of the capacity of democratic progress to resolve international conflicts—the Bush administration overemphasized support for democratic self-government in its policy toward Iraq and pursued that objective incompetently, beginning with violent means that could have been expected to prove as counterproductive as they did.lx
Beyond their concern that Iraq might be developing weapons of mass destruction, Bush administration officials decided to invade Iraq as part of a broader effort to attack what they presented as the roots of terrorism in prevailing political and social conditions in the Middle East. “A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions,” George W. Bush declared on the eve of the invasion. A transformed Middle East would not be a source of threats to the United States any more than, say, postwar Germany or Japan. “America’s interests in security, and America’s belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction,” Bush asserted: “to a free and peaceful Iraq.”lxi There were additional reasons for the invasion of Iraq, but this was the combination that most forcefully cut away at the traditional American moral arguments for nonintervention.lxii
As might have been expected, given America’s experience with coercive democracy promotion in Latin America during the first third of the twentieth century, American interventions in the Middle East have intensified anti-American sentiment and contributed to its growth.lxiii Even the Obama administration’s drone strikes—preferable as they were to having large numbers of American soldiers on the ground—probably generated far more terrorists than they killed while establishing a terrible precedent and making us guilty of terrorism of our own toward the many innocents fearful of our drones or wrongly killed by them.lxiv We have not yet sunk back into the depravity of torturing our prisoners of war, as the Bush administration did, but it is not clear how long that will remain true.lxv Meanwhile, the American people remain generally uninformed about the genuine allies we have in the Muslim world such as the more than a hundred and twenty Islamic scholars who crafted and signed an open letter to Baghdadi, the leader of the so-called “Islamic State,” which concludes “But as can be seen from everything mentioned, you have misinterpreted Islam into a religion of harshness, brutality, torture and murder. As elucidated, this is a great wrong and an offence to Islam, to Muslims and to the entire world.”lxvi Instead of recognizing the truth of this statement, far too many Americans seem ready to blame the Arab world for not successfully adopting the democracy we proffered at gunpoint, and are inclined to scapegoat the more than a billion Muslims on the planet not only for the violent extremism of a handful but for America’s seemingly diminished place in the world.
After the Vietnam War—another juncture at which we felt our place in the world was diminished—we took in more than 800,000 Indochinese refugees. Now we cower in fear at the thought of taking in any Syrian refugees at a time when Germany, a quarter of our size, has taken in more than a million. If people want to get all fired up over the grotesque horrors going on in Syria and Iraq and Yemen and Libya—horrors to which our interventions have directly contributed—then let them champion our accepting a million Syrian refugees or, if we’re too scared for that, then at least offering major financial assistance to Germany in its efforts. There are doubtless Syrian democrats with whom we should seek to be in solidarity, but I think the best that we can do for them at this juncture is to help them become American citizens. The recent track record of our use of military force in the Middle East is abysmal.
Nor is the recent track record of our economy at home inspiring. Having left the corrupt crony capitalism of Italy for the more liberal capitalism of the United States in the 1980s, the economist Luigi Zingales has recently warned that America is coming to resemble the Italy he left behind and to call for a movement to restore liberal capitalism.lxvii One of the greatest advocates of liberal capitalism in the world—our fellow club member Deirdre McCloskey—has written a trilogy of books stressing the central importance of moral virtues and bourgeois cultural ethics for the emergence of liberal capitalism and suggesting that such ideas and values must be rearticulated and reaffirmed if liberal capitalism is to flourish anew.lxviii
For myself, I am a life-long social democrat. I would stress the good that government can do—and that the market cannot do—through such endeavors as improving public education, cleaning up toxins in our environment, especially the lead that poisons young minds, and working with other governments, institutions, and individuals to combat global warming.lxix The simple fact of the matter is that the wages of the vast bulk of the population have hardly shared in the gains from the economic recovery that the country has experienced since the Great Recession—a recession that for many has yet to end. Nearly half of all Americans, according to a recent Federal Reserve study, couldn’t cover an emergency expenditure of $400 because they have so little in savings.lxx Ninety percent of the children born in 1940 ended up higher in the ranks of the income distribution than their parents, only forty percent of those born in 1980 have done so.lxxi In part, this reflects the weakness of the labor movement. But government policies favoring the rich through preferential tax cuts, preferential bailouts, and preferential treatment generally are also part of the story. In 1980, the top 1 percent took home 10 percent of household income whereas by 2015 they took home more than 21 percent—more than double.lxxii That money could have been used to invest in the nation’s infrastructure, expand Social Security, and make public universities tuition free. To be fair, we should also view the broader global picture and note that hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in China during these years. Economic globalization has had some positive consequences and could have more if we would guide it social democratically and seize the opportunities it presents.lxxiii We should be willing to learn from the experience of others. Above all, we should recognize that, for every other advanced democracy, health care is a right that people enjoy simply by living in the land. This should, in my opinion, be true in the United States as well.
We have yet to begin to cope with the creeping hold of bureaucracy, and a stifling culture of “management,” over our lives and our institutions.lxxiv In the practice of medicine, for example, the autonomy and professionalism of doctors and nurses is steadily being eroded by both private sector and public sector “health bureaucracies” whose economists have little grasp of the art and science of medicine and who are attempting to “manage” medicine either without such knowledge or, at best, on the basis of simplistic lessons drawn from “big data”—attempting to treat populations and not individuals. The idea of a self-governing medical community, answerable to God for its conduct, seems all too remote from our experience even if most doctors and nurses, thankfully, probably still see medicine as a calling and probably still believe, as my favorite doctor—my mother—once put it: “that the reason we were put on this earth was to take care of and help people who were sick and suffering.”lxxv Much the same point can be made with regard to the weaknesses and flaws of self-government in the academic world and in many other walks of life.lxxvi Good work continues to be done despite bad governance, but much less than there might be.
How do we, as a society, regain our bearings? And then how do we cope with the very serious dangers of the dystopias that confront us? Even if one believes, as I do, that the current wave of regress will pass, like the regress of the internment of Japanese Americans in WWII, or the regress of McCarthyism during the Cold War, or the even worse and more durable regress of Jim Crow that came with the end of Radical Reconstruction, how do we get from here to something better? Personally, I think we need a moral revolution in this country—another great American religious awakening—a revival of what is best in our diverse faith traditions that renews and deepens our relations to each other and builds a new politics and a new economics on that foundation.
At this juncture, I would like to distinguish between hope and optimism. I believe we need to have both hope in the coming of the Kingdom and optimism about the prospects for democratic progress over the long term, and we need to share our hope and optimism with the world. Being optimistic over our short term prospects, in our present circumstances, would be Pollyannaish, but over the long term the basic decency of the American people and the quality of the traditions that have informed our accomplishments over several centuries must weigh in the balance of our assessments as must the intelligence and moral seriousness of the coming generations. We have shown resiliency in the past and must do so again now. We must remind ourselves of where we have been and toward where we are going. We can view the coming of the Kingdom as something that will take place in the fullness of time. We can also see the coming of this Kingdom—and the fact that in some ways it is already here—as we are invited to enter into its goodness in incidents of abundant love. Let me share three such incidents that have touched me. The first is from a story I heard on National Public Radio:
It’s about a 31-year-old social worker named Julio Diaz who always gets off his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early to eat at his favorite diner. One night, as he stepped onto a nearly empty platform, a teenage boy approached him with a knife. He gave the teen his wallet and, as the kid was walking away Diaz said: “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.” The kid was dumbfounded and asked Diaz why he was offering it. Diaz replied: “If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you really want to join me … hey, you’re more than welcome.” So they go into the diner together and the manager comes by to say hi, and the waiters come by to say hi, and the dishwasher comes by to say hi, and the kid is like: “You know everybody here. Do you own this place?” And Diaz says, “No, I just eat here a lot.” “But you’re even nice to the dishwasher,” the kid says. “Well, haven’t you been taught you should be nice to everybody?” Diaz asks. “Yea, but I didn’t think people actually behaved that way,” the teen said. When the check came Diaz said: “Look, I guess you’re going to have to pay for this bill ‘cause you have my money and I can’t pay for this. So if you give me my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.” Without hesitating, the teen gave him his wallet back. Diaz gave the teen $20 and then asked for something in return—the teen’s knife—and he gave it to him. Afterwards, when Diaz told his mother what had happened, she said that as a child Diaz was the kind of kid who would give his watch away if someone asked him the time. Concluding the story on NPR’s “storycorps,” Diaz said: “I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”lxxvii
What I want to stress is that, in this situation, simply doing the right thing required both courage and grace. Courage to see an opportunity in the face of a threat and grace because there is no amount of human will and skill that could have guaranteed or made predictable that outcome. Participating in the Kingdom as a self-governing citizen under God’s sovereignty is not about “calculability,” though it does involve the assurance that doing the right thing will ultimately be vindicated, if not necessarily in this life.
A second glimpse of the Kingdom that comes to my mind is the incredibly moving forgiveness that was offered to the murderer Dylann Roof by the families of those he had killed at the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina. At the time, I thought it marked a turning point in American history, the moment in the battle when everything decisively shifted in the civil war of words over the Civil War of the 1860s that our nation has been fighting ever since 1865. The funeral for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney amplified that message of forgiveness.lxxviii President Obama’s remarkable address at that funeral showed, I believe, that the Christian faith that has been at the heart of black America is at the heart of the American story. In practice, and not merely in aspiration, that Christian faith has helped sustain the unfolding of the potentialities for social justice in the American Revolution. This is part of what the black church means, as Obama suggested:
“Our beating heart. The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate. There’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel — (applause) — a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes. (Applause.) When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps. A sacred place, this church. Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion — (applause) — of human rights and human dignity in this country; a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all.”lxxix
In suggesting that the Christian faith that has been at the heart of black America is at the heart of the American story, I certainly intend to include the tragedies as well as the triumphs of that story. The theologian James Cone captures this powerfully in his book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Cone says that for oppressed blacks the cross was a “paradoxical religious symbol because it inverts the world’s value system with the news that hope comes by way of defeat, that suffering and death do not have the last word, that the last shall be first and the first last.”lxxx Cone continues:
“That God could “make a way out of no way” in Jesus’ cross was truly absurd to the intellect, yet profoundly real in the souls of black folk. Enslaved blacks who first heard the gospel message seized on the power of the cross. Christ crucified manifested God’s loving and liberating presence in the contradictions of black life—that transcendent presence in the lives of black Christians that empowered them to believe that ultimately, in God’s eschatological future, they would not be defeated by the “troubles of this world,” no matter how great and painful their suffering. Believing this paradox, this absurd claim of faith, was only possible in humility and repentance. There was no place for the proud and the mighty, for people who think that God called them to rule over others. The cross was God’s critique of power—white power—with powerless love, snatching victory out of defeat.”lxxxi
The cross, for Christians such as myself, is an indictment of all power that does not proceed from abundant love—in other words all political power in this world. I would argue that this indictment extends to the power of “identity politics,” however the identities are defined, except insofar as the identity involved is the one that we all share as children of God.lxxxii This does not mean that our more particular identities are necessarily evil, quite the contrary, as long as we do not make idols of them, and so use them to oppress others, they are a blessing. It does mean that they stand indicted. They may involve a sense of affinity for all those who share this identity—and rest on love as well as on exclusion—but, disgracefully, they may also frequently, and sometimes even systematically, involve denying equality to those who are deemed “other.” As one of my heroes, the great civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin once put it: “My activism did not spring from my being gay, or for that matter, from my being black. Rather it is rooted, fundamentally, in my Quaker upbringing and the values that were instilled in me by my grandparents who reared me. These values are based on the concept of a single human family and the belief that all members of that family are equal. Adhering to those values has meant making a stand against injustice, to the best of my ability, whenever and wherever it occurs.”lxxxiii
A third place that I caught a glimpse of the Kingdom was in reading the Cherokee jurist Steve Russell’s extraordinary book, Sequoyah Rising: Problems in Post-Colonial Tribal Governance. Here it may be a little harder to see at first, but consider the compassion behind Russell’s words as he remarks on an almost bottomless well of collective guilt that “keeps the modern beneficiaries of genocide from finishing the job,” and later adds: “We know the colonists could not now go home if they were so disposed. Our lot is intertwined with the colonists as black South Africans are with the British and the Dutch. They have nowhere to go. While they have not historically been the best of neighbors, they are still our neighbors and we must do our best to civilize them.”lxxxiv
In contrast with the courage that Julio Diaz showed, our country has so far failed to show courage when faced with the grace that was made available through the Mother Emmanuel parishioners’ forgiveness, or the grace that was made available through Steve Russell’s offer to help us get civilized—an offer the Sanding Rock Sioux and other Indian nations reiterated with their nonviolent protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
A thousand years ago, the Chinese philosopher Zhang Zai observed: “Heaven is my father and Earth is my mother, and even such a small creature as I finds an intimate place in their midst. Therefore that which fills the universe I regard as my body and that which directs the universe I consider as my nature. All people are my brothers and sisters, and all things are my companions.”lxxxv Wang Yangming, another Chinese scholar, expressed the matter similarly half a millennium later: “The great man regards Heaven and Earth and the myriad things as one body. He regards the world as one family and the country as one person.”lxxxvi Exploring the history of the United States’ relations with the rest of the world from a similar perspective over the past few decades, I have concluded that countries can indeed be seen as collective individuals under a common moral order. A country, on this view, is largely a territory, the people who live on it, and the stories they tell about their shared history. Such narratives inform a country’s collective self-consciousness, shape its moral character, and legitimize and challenge its institutions and authorities. They inform its sense of self and the ways it acts at home and abroad. They are also part of the transnational conversations about our shared history that are helping to make the world a single place by furthering a globalization whose dynamics are not merely technological and economic, but political and moral.lxxxvii
Since 9-11, we have been listening with too much attention to stories privileging fear and hate. We have better stories to hear and to share. In her “Letter to a Young Activist in Troubled Times,” the psychoanalyst and poet Clarissa Pinkola Estés reminds us of the importance of hope and courage in the story she tells of our present moment:
“You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.”lxxxviii
If a new interfaith articulation of the Kingdom of God can help save our country it will be because it helps revivify the promise of the American Revolution. Across the political spectrum, we share a national identity as members of the nation born of that revolution. Our common identity must never become an idol, but—holding on to it in tension with a belief in the Kingdom—we can continue to reach out, with both civility and compassion, toward the promise of liberty and justice for all. Here are some excerpts from a poem by Langston Hughes to help conjure a vision of what is needed:
“Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak….
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again….
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!…”lxxxix
On the last Sunday sermon that he preached before he died for love, Martin Luther King, Jr., quoted the poet William Cullen Bryant: “Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again.” “With this faith,” King concluded, “we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair the stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. Thank God for John, who centuries ago out on a lonely, obscure island called Patmos caught vision of a new Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God, who heard a voice saying, ‘Behold, I make all things new; former things are passed away.’”xc
1 The views expressed are those of the author. As the by-laws of the Chicago Literary Club state, “The Club, as such, shall express no opinions on religion, politics, social science, political economy, or any other subject.”
i I have elsewhere shown how the United States came to make one of its most important contributions to the cause of social justice in another country: see Steven Schwartzberg, “The ‘Soft Peace Boys’: Presurrender Planning and Japanese Land Reform,” The Journal of American-East Asian Relations, Volume 2, Number 2 (Summer 1993), pp. 185-216. The text is available online for free download: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273601891_The_Soft_Peace_Boys_Presurrender_Planning_and_Japanese_Land_Reform. American assistance to others in their pursuit of political liberty has often come through what I have called civil interventions—nonviolent efforts to decisively affect regime maintenance or regime change in another country that are informed by a commitment to democratic solidarity. I have examined successful American civil interventions in Cuba in 1944, Brazil in 1945, Venezuela in 1945-1946, Ecuador in 1947, and Costa Rica in 1948, and a civil intervention that ultimately proved counterproductive in Argentina in 1945-1946. Steven Schwartzberg, Democracy and U.S. Policy in Latin America during the Truman Years (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003).
ii Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).
iii Quoted in Edward Shils, Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 165.
iv “Rough calculations concluded that one of every five Choctaw—perhaps more—died before reaching their new home. Some children had gone as long as six days with nothing at all to eat. Many others died of cholera when the floodwaters overflowed the banks of the Arkansas River…. A reporter from the Arkansas Gazette interviewed a Choctaw chief from one of the first wagons to reach Little Rock. Asked about his journey, the chief replied with a phrase that reverberated through the Northern press. It had been, he said, ‘a trail of tears and death.’” A. J. Langguth, Driven West: Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears to the Civil War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010), pp. 165-166. “An attempt is making in the Eastern States to create a great deal of sympathy for this people; and the attempt is making, so far as I can discover, by what is termed the ‘Christian party in politics.’” Senator John Forsyth of Georgia, 15 April 1830, United States Senate, 21st Congress, 1st Session, Register of Debates, p. 327. See also John A. Andrew III, From Revivals to Removal: Jeremiah Evarts, the Cherokee Nation, and the Search for the Soul of America (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992).
v Taylor, A Secular Age, pp. 371, 637.
vi Bernie Sanders, “Announcement,” 25 May 2015, https://berniesanders.com/bernies-announcement/ (accessed 24 April 2017).
vii “[When] I say that, in free states, the law of nations is the law of the people; I mean that, as the law of nature, in other words, as the will of nature’s God, it is indispensably binding upon the people, in whom the sovereign power resides; and who are, consequently, under the most sacred obligations to exercise that power, or to delegate it to such as will exercise it, in a manner agreeable to those rules and maxims, which the law of nature prescribes to every state, for the happiness of each, and for the happiness of all. How vast—how important—how interesting are these truths! They announce to a free people how exalted their rights; but at the same time, they announce to a free people how solemn their duties are.” James Wilson, “Chapter IV. Of the Law of Nations,” in Kermit L. Hall and Mark David Hall, editors, The Collected Works of James Wilson in two volumes (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007), Vol. 1, p. 532.
viii See Hugh J. Schwartzberg, “One Founding Father, Invisible, with Liberty and Justice for All,” presented to the Chicago Literary Club, 28 April 1997, available for download in the club’s online archives at http://www.chilit.org/content.aspx?page_id=86&club_id=11539&item_id=25713 (accessed 18 December 2016). See also Kermit L. Hall and Mark David Hall, editors, The Collected Works of James Wilson in two volumes (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007); Charles Page Smith, James Wilson: Founding Father, 1742-1798 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1956); and Nicholas Pederson, “The Lost Founder: James Wilson in American Memory,” Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, Vol. 22: No. 2, Article 3 (2010). Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlh/vol22/iss2/3 (accessed 8 August 2016).
ix James Wilson, “Chapter IV. Of the Law of Nations,” in Hall and Hall, editors, The Collected Works of James Wilson, Vol. 1, pp. 532, 539-545.
x Ibid, pp. 541-542.
xi Edward Shils, The Virtue of Civility: Selected Essays on Liberalism, Tradition, and Civil Society (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1997)
xii James Wilson, “Chapter IV. Of the Law of Nations,” in Hall and Hall, editors, The Collected Works of James Wilson, Vol. 1, p. 543.
xiii Wilson believed not only in the equality of citizens under the rule of law but also in the equality of all mankind under the rule of nature: “At last, however, the voice of nature, intelligible and persuasive, has been heard by nations that are civilized: at last it is acknowledged that mankind are all brothers: the happy time is, we hope, approaching, when the acknowledgment will be substantiated by a uniform corresponding conduct.” Nevertheless, he was willing to compromise over slavery in the constitutional convention. He may have thought that the Constitution’s implicit grant of authority to the Congress to end the importation of slaves in 1808 (Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1) would bring slavery in the United States to a gradual end. James Wilson, “Chapter IV. Of the Law of Nations,” in Hall and Hall, editors, The Collected Works of James Wilson, Vol. 1, p. 545.
xiv Quoted in Daniel R. Brunstetter, Tensions of Modernity: Las Casas and His Legacy in the French Enlightenment (New York: Routledge 2012), p. 149. The Abbé Raynal, it might be noted, was one of the early European opponents of slavery: “God is my father and not my master. I am his child and not his slave. How then could I grant to the power of human authority what I deny to the omnipotence of the Deity.” Peter Jimack, A History of the Two Indies: A Translated Selection of Writings from Raynal’s Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements des Européens dans les Deux Indes (Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing, 2006), p. 158.
xv Quoted in Brunstetter, Tensions of Modernity, pp. 154-155
xvi Quoted in Akira Iriye, Across the Pacific: An Inner History of American-East Asia Relations revised edition (Chicago: Imprint Publications, 1992), p. 38.
xvii Marius Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), p. 265. See also, Watanabe Hiroshi, “‘They Are Almost the Same as the Ancient Three Dynasties’: The West as Seen Through Confucian Eyes in Nineteenth-Century Japan,” in Tu Weiming, ed., Confucian Traditions in East Asian Modernity, pp. 119-151.
xviii Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 March 1776, full text available on line at https://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/archive/browse/letters_1774_1777.php (accessed on 18 December 2016).
xx John Adams to Abigail Adams, 14 April 1776, https://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/archive/browse/letters_1774_1777.php (accessed 18 December 2016).
xxi Abigail Adams to John Adams, 7 May 1776, https://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/archive/browse/letters_1774_1777.php (accessed 18 December 2016).
xxii This formulation is indebted to Herbert McCabe
xxiii Joseph Stoltz, “The Message of Judaism for the Twentieth Century,” (paper presented to the Chicago Literary Club in 1905), p. 78. Go to http://www.chilit.org/ and search under Papers for Papers by Subject and then for the category Religion and then alphabetically.
xxiv Habakkuk 2:14
xxv Galatians 3:28
xxvi Micah 4:3
xxvii I am indebted to Walter Brueggemann for this observation.
xxviii Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2015), p. 124. As an aside, I want to stress that science and faith need not be antagonistic. The novelist, essayist, and theologian Marilynne Robinson—who provides more spiritual firewood in her writings than any contemporary author I know—addresses contemporary unbelief with an air of scientific curiosity: “Our comfortable certainties—that if a thing is in one place it cannot be in other places at the same time, that the dimensions that are the architecture of our existence are all the dimensions there are, and so on—these certainties are the things to be marveled at. It is as if we were a quiet city in the heart of a raging sea, no foundation touching the seafloor, no spire rising out of the waves. Some gentle spell prevents us from grasping our situation, and this is all right because the same gentle spell shelters us from it. We know what we need to know to live in this city. Cows give milk, hammers drive nails, books should be returned to the library. But we know now that the overwhelmingly preponderant forms and theaters of existence are utterly alien to such business. Any reasonable standard of possibility would declare us to be impossible.” Marilynne Robinson, The Givenness of Things (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2015), p. 211.
xxix Wiman, My Bright Abyss, p. 165.
xxx See: http://charterforcompassion.org/ (accessed 18 December 2016). Signatories include Karen Armstrong, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Ali Gomaa, Sadhvi Chaitanya, Tu Weiming, and tens of thousands of others.
xxxii I am indebted to Herbert McCabe for this observation.
xxxiii See Walter Wink, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003).
xxxiv See Max Weber, The Methodology of the Social Sciences translated by Edward Shils and Henry Finch (New York: The Free Press, 1949) and Karl R. Popper, Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972). The alternative of monistic interpretations, or of some combination, is available for those who prefer it: “There is no idea behind which we could not, if we so wished, discover another one, and there is no human motivation which we could not, if we tried hard, consider the deceptive expression of another, allegedly more deeply seated, motivation. The distinction between what is deeper, more ‘genuine,’ ‘real,’ ‘hidden,’ and what is merely a disguise, a mystifying form, a distorted translation, is established by the supreme philosophical fiat of anthropologists, psychologists, metaphysicians…. With a sufficient amount of ingenuity—and nobody could deny that the great monistically oriented philosophers, including philosophers disguised as anthropologists, psychiatrists, economists or historians, had it in abundance—any attempt to discover one all ordering, all encompassing and all explaining principle for the whole variety of cultural life-forms will yield irrefutable and thus true results. On the assumption that people can be, or that more often than not they actually are bound to be, unaware of their own motivations or the genuine meaning of their acts, there are no imaginary, let alone effectively known, facts which might prevent a stubborn monist from always being right, no matter how the fundamental principle of understanding is defined.” Leszek Kolakowski, Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 207-208.
xxxv For an exploration of society as a whole as informed by a moral order, including the tentative and still emergent global society, see Edward Shils, Center and Periphery: Essays in Macrosociology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975).
xxxvi Tu Weiming, The Global Significance of Concrete Humanity: Essays on the Confucian Discourse in Cultural China (New Delhi: Center for Studies in Civilization, 2010), pp. 300-301. See also Edward Shils, “Reflections on Civil Society and Civility in the Chinese Intellectual Tradition” in Tu Weiming, ed., Confucian Traditions in East Asian Modernity: Moral Education and Economic Culture in Japan and the Four Mini-Dragons (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), pp. 38-71.
xxxvii This formulation is a paraphrase of Herbert McCabe, Law, Love and Language (London: Continuum, 1968), pp. 126-127.
xxxviii This formulation is a modification of Timothy Radcliffe, What is the Point of Being a Christian? (London: Continuum, 2005), p. 17.
xxxix John S. Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy second edition (Oxford: Heinemann, 1989), p. 141.
xl Radcliffe, What is the Point of Being a Christian?, p. 134.
xli Herbert McCabe, God Matters (London: Continuum, 1987), pp. 97-98. See also Herbert McCabe, God, Christ and Us (London: Continuum, 2003), p. 81
xlii Bruce Mazlish and Akira Iriye, eds., The Global History Reader (New York: Routledge, 2005), p. 12.
xliii Akira Iriye, “The Role of Philanthropy and Civil Society in U.S. Foreign Relations,” in Yamamoto Tadashi, Akira Iriye, and Iokibe Makoto, eds., Philanthropy and Reconciliation: Rebuilding Postwar U.S.-Japan Relations (Tokyo: Japan Center for International Exchange, 2006), pp. 38, 57
xliv Akira Iriye, Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), p. 193
xlv This paragraph is indebted to McCabe, God, Christ, and Us, p. 49.
xlvi McCabe, Law, Love and Language, p. 158.
xlvii Bill Clinton, address to the 48th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 27 September 1993, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, William J. Clinton, 1994, Vol. 2, p. 1614.
xlviii See endnote 1.
xlix McCabe, Law, Love and Language, p. 158.
l See Herbert McCabe, God Still Matters (London: Continuum, 2002), p. 4
li McCabe, God Matters, p. 108.
lii See Leszek Kolakowski, “The Myth of Human Self-Identity: Unity of Civil and Political Society in Socialist Thought,” in Leszek Kolakowski and Stuart Hampshire, eds., The Socialist Idea: A Reappraisal (New York: Basic Books, 1974), especially pp. 24-25.
liii “The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few. In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Communist Manifesto”  in David McLellan, ed., Karl Marx: Selected Writings (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 232.
liv My impression is that for some people in literary criticism these days, the abstract ideal seems to be the abolition of privacy or interiority and its replacement by shared theory. Joseph Conrad, in Under Western Eyes, has Natalie Haldin say: “I must own to you that I shall never give up looking for the day when all discord shall be silenced … and the weary men united at last … feel saddened by their victory, because so many ideas have perished for the triumph of one…” See Lisa Ruddick, “When Nothing is Cool,” The Point, https://thepointmag.com/2015/criticism/when-nothing-is-cool (accessed 9 April 2017). See also Patrick Lee Miller, “Truth in the Age of Trump,” 7 November 2016, http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2016/11/truth-in-the-age-of-trump.html#more (accessed on 9 April 2017).
lv Leon Trotsky, Terrorism and Communism: A Reply to Karl Kautsky  (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1961), p. 63.
lvi Trotsky, Terrorism and Communism, p. 141.
lvii Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf  translator Ralph Manheim (Boston: Houghton Mifflen, 1971), p. 447.
lviii “It would be difficult to find another cross-cultural moment more intense, unpredictable, ambiguous, confusing and electric than this one. The Americans arrived anticipating, many of them, a traumatic confrontation with fanatical emperor worshippers. They were accosted instead by women who called ‘yoo hoo’ to the first troops landing on the beaches in full battle gear, and men who bowed and asked what it was that the conquerors wished. They found themselves seduced (far more than they realized) by polite manners as well as by elegant presents and entertainments. Most of all, they encountered a populace sick of war, contemptuous of the militarists who had led them to disaster, and all but overwhelmed by the difficulties of their present circumstances in a ruined land. More than anything else, it turned out, the losers wanted both to forget the past and transcend it.” John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999), pp. 23-24.
lix Ronald Reagan, quoted in Peter Robinson, “‘Tear Down This Wall’: How Top Advisers Opposed Reagan’s Challenge to Gorbachev—But Lost,” Prologue, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Summer 2007) text available online at https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2007/summer/berlin.html (accessed 18 December 2016). For a helpful study, see Robert D. English, Russia and the Idea of the West: Gorbachev, Intellectuals & the End of the Cold War (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000).
lx The apparent success of such violent means in the American military intervention in Panama in 1989-1990 was an additional contributing factor to the outlook that led to American military intervention in Iraq in 2003. However, it must be stressed that in Panama the United States had a vital local ally in Guillermo Endara, who enjoyed widespread legitimacy as the victor of a presidential election recently stolen by the dictator Manuel Noriega. On the invasion of Panama, see Robert A. Pastor, Exiting the Whirlpool: U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Latin America and the Caribbean second edition (Boulder: Westview Press, 2001), pp. 93-98. See also Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006), pp. 239-259.
lxi George W. Bush, address to the American Enterprise Institute, 26 February 2003, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/feb/27/usa.iraq2 (accessed 18 December 2016).
lxii The contemporary observer Thomas Friedman referred to the vision of transforming the Middle East as the “right reason,” the brutal character of Saddam Hussein’s regime as the “moral reason,” and the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as the “stated reason.” This was in contrast to what he called the “real reason”; a reason that he embraced but which appears particularly dubious, especially in retrospect: “The ‘real reason’ for this war, which was never stated, was that after 9/11 America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world. Afghanistan wasn’t enough. Because a terrorism bubble had built up over there—a bubble that posed a real threat to the open societies of the West and needed to be punctured. This terrorism bubble said that plowing airplanes into the World Trade Center was O.K., having Muslim preachers say it was O.K. was O.K., having state-run newspapers call people who did such things ‘martyrs’ was O.K. and allowing Muslim charities to raise money for such ‘martyrs’ was O.K. Not only was all this seen as O.K., there was a feeling among radical Muslims that suicide bombing would level the balance of power between the Arab world and the West, because we had gone soft and their activists were ready to die. The only way to puncture that bubble was for American soldiers, men and women, to go into the heart of the Arab-Muslim world, house to house, and make clear that we are ready to kill, and to die, to prevent our open society from being undermined by this terrorism bubble. Smashing Saudi Arabia or Syria would have been fine. But we hit Saddam for one simple reason: because we could, and because he deserved it and because he was right in the heart of that world.” Thomas Friedman, “Because We Could,” The New York Times, 4 June 2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/04/opinion/because-we-could.html (accessed 24 August 2015).
lxiii See Alan McPherson, The Invaded: How Latin Americans and Their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
lxiv See Conor Friedersdorf, “This Yemeni Man Loves America, Hates al-Qaeda, and Says Drone Strikes Make Them Stronger,” The Atlantic, 24 April 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/04/this-yemeni-man-loves-america-hates-al-qaeda-and-says-drone-strikes-make-them-stronger/275248/ (accessed 18 December 2016). See also Farea al-Muslimi’s testimony before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEetY2svxUE (accessed 18 December 2016). See also Conor Friedersdorf, “How America’s Drone War in Yemen Strengthens Al-Qaeda, The Atlantic, 28 September 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/drone-war-yemen-al-qaeda/407599/ (accessed 18 December 2016).
lxv United States Senate, 113th Congress, 2nd Session, S. Report 133-288, Report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program, 9 December 2014, https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-113srpt288/pdf/CRPT-113srpt288.pdf (accessed 18 December 2018).
lxvi Open Letter to Dr. Ibrahim Awwad Al Badri, alias “Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi,” 19 September 2014, http://www.lettertobaghdadi.com/ (accessed 18 December 2016).
lxvii Luigi Zingales, A Capitalism for the People (New York: Basic Books, 2012).
lxviii See, especially, Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016).
lxix See C. Kirabo Jackson, Rucker C. Johnson, and Claudia Persico, “The Effects of School Spending on Educational and Economic Outcomes: Evidence from School Finance Reforms,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2016), Vol. 131 (1), pp. 157-218. Laura Bliss, “An American History of Lead Poisoning, The Atlantic, 12 February 2016, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/02/an-american-history-of-lead-poisoning/462576/ (accessed 22 April 2017). Jennifer L. Doleac, “New evidence that lead exposure increases crime,” 1 June 2017, the Brookings Blog, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2017/06/01/new-evidence-that-lead-exposure-increases-crime/ (accessed 5 June 2017).
lxxi Raj Chetty, et al., “The fading American Dream: Trends in absolute income mobility since 1940,” Science (28 April 2017), Vol. 356, Issue 6336, pp. 398-406. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6336/398.full
lxxii Jeffrey D. Sachs, Building the New American Economy forward by Bernie Sanders (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), p. 2.
lxxiii Our trade deficit, for example, is matched by inflows of capital investing in the United States. The federal government could borrow that money—at historically low interest rates—and invest it in repairing our crumbling roads, bridges, railways, and airports, etc. In the long run, such investment would more than pay for itself through its contributions to economic growth and the happiness of our fellow citizens.
lxxiv See Lyndon Shakespeare, Being the Body of Christ in the Age of Management (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2016).
lxxv Remarks presented to the annual meeting of the Institute of Medicine of Chicago, 2002 by Joanne G. Schwartzberg, MD, recipient of the “Exemplary Compassion in Health Care” Henry P. Russe Citation from the Institute of Medicine of Chicago and the Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center.
lxxvi See Bill Readings, The University in Ruins (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996).
lxxvii Storycorps, “A Victim Treats his Mugger Right,” 28 March 2008, National Public Radio, http://www.npr.org/2008/03/28/89164759/a-victim-treats-his-mugger-right (accessed 18 December 2016).
lxxviii See the video of the funeral: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVqbU0bV4FM (accessed 18 December 2016).
lxxix Barack Obama, “Remarks of the President in Eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney,” 26 June 2015, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/06/26/remarks-president-eulogy-honorable-reverend-clementa-pinckney (accessed 18 December 2016).
lxxx James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2011), p. 2. See also Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited  (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996).
lxxxi Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, p. 2.
lxxxii In his open letter to his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates, writes of the people brought up to believe that they are white: “These new people are, like us, a modern invention. But unlike us, their new name has no real meaning divorced from the machinery of criminal power. The new people were something else before they were white—Catholic, Corsican, Welsh, Mennonite, Jewish—and if all our national hopes have any fulfillment, then they will have to be something else again. Perhaps they will truly become American and create a nobler basis for their myths.” By saying that this is something that hopefully “they” will do—rather than something that hopefully “we” will do together—Coates suggests that his primary contribution will be that of someone focusing attention on injustice rather than that of someone helping to cultivate an American identity with a nobler basis: “I cannot call it. As for now, it must be said that the process of washing the disparate tribes white, the elevation of the belief in being white, was not achieved through wine tastings and ice cream socials, but rather through the pillaging of life, liberty, labor, and land; through the flaying of blacks; the chaining of limbs, the strangling of dissidents; the destruction of families; the rape of mothers; the sale of children; and various other acts meant, first and foremost, to deny you and me the right to secure and govern our own bodies.” Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015), pp. 7-8.
lxxxiii Bayard Rustin to Joseph Beam, 21 April 1986, file folder 8, Box 6, Bayard Rustin Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. See also: John D’Emilio, Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin (New York: The Free Press, 2003); Michael G. Long, ed., I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2012); Devon W. Carbado and Donald Weise, eds., Time on Two Crosses: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin (New York: Cleis Press, 2003).
lxxxiv Steve Russell, Sequoyah Rising: Problems in Post-Colonial Tribal Governance (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2010), pp. 48, 148.
lxxxv Quoted in Tu, The Global Significance of Concrete Humanity, p. 243.
lxxxvi Quoted in Tu, The Global Significance of Concrete Humanity, p. 385.
lxxxvii I am indebted for the description of the world becoming a single place to Roland Robertson, Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture (London: Sage Publications, 1992), p. 6.
lxxxviii Clarissa Pinkola Estés, “Letter to a Young Activist in Troubled Times,” http://mavenproductions.com/index.php/services/dr-clarissa-pinkola-estes/dr-clarissa-pinkola-estes-letter-to-a-young-activist-during-trou/ (accessed 18 December 2016).
lxxxix Langston Hughes, “Let America be America Again,” https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/let-america-be-america-again (accessed 18 December 2016).
xc Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution,” delivered at the National Cathedral, 31 March 1968, http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_remaining_awake_through_a_great_revolution/ (accessed 18 December 2016).