Monday, September 13, 2010

a brit on the american ideal

I was struck by an excerpt from Tony Blair's new book, A Journey: My Political Life.

Americans can be all that the rest of the world sometimes accuses them of: brash, loud, insular, obsessive and heavy-handed. But America is great for a reason. It is looked up to, despite all the criticism, for a reason. There is a nobility in the American character that has been developed over the centuries, derived in part, no doubt, from the frontier spirit, from the waves of migration that form the stock, from the circumstances of independence, from the Civil War, from a myriad of historical facts and coincidences. But it is there.

That nobility isn't about being nicer, better or more successful than anyone else. It is a feeling about the country. It is a devotion to the American ideal that at a certain point transcends class, race, religion or upbringing. That ideal is about values, freedom, the rule of law, democracy. It is also about the way you achieve: on merit, by your own efforts and hard work. But it is most of all that in striving for and protecting that ideal, you as an individual take second place to the interests of the nation as a whole. It is what makes the country determined to overcome its challenges. It is what makes its soldiers give their lives in sacrifice. It is what brings every variety of American, from the lowest to the highest, to their feet when "The Star-Spangled Banner is played. Of course the ideal is not always met--that is obvious. But it is always striven for.

Never before have I read such an accurate assessment of America. To have it written by a foreigner shows incredible insight, perhaps only attainable by an outsider. It has intrigued me enough to read his book. If only it had come out during the summer when I had a bit more free time!

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