America's Global Purpose
In a world of trouble, what is America's purpose? This is not a new question for our nation. When the American Republic was founded, the great men who created our nation knew that most of the world moaned under the lash of tyrants. They were not indifferent, but they also grasped that even a large nation on a new continent could not digest all the wretched people of the world. America was intended to be a model for the world, not a refugee camp.
As one great example, America rejected anti-Semitism – the quotes of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin are utterly unequivocal. The first Jews elected to general public office were Francis Salvador to the Continental Congress in 1775 and David Emanuel as governor of Georgia in 1800.
Although America did become the refuge for German Jews in the mid-1800s and Russian Jews a few decades later, the model that America presented was that of a tolerant nation that accepted Jews as fellow citizens. The American government did, from its first few decades to the present time, encourage nations to treat Jews well, but except for the Second World War, America did not try to force those values on others. Ultimately, America saw Israel, a homeland for Jews, as the global answer to anti-Semitism.
Irish came to America in large numbers a century ago, but as with the Jews, the ultimate answer, supported by the American government, was the creation of an independent Irish state. Today Ireland, like Israel, is an imperfect nation, but a nation where Irish can be free and a nation that is relatively safe, free, and democratic. Not only is there no longer a flow of Irish in the miserable holds of transport ships seeking America, but some American Irish choose to go back to their island.
The same is true of Italians, another wave of immigrants that seemed likely to overwhelm America. Italy united in the middle of the 19th century, and except for the two insane decades of Mussolini, Italy has been relatively safe, free, and democratic. More than a few immigrant Italians have gone back to their homeland. The migration of people between America and Italy is not unilateral or massive because Italy is a decent place to live.
The reformation of the rest of the world to accept the values of America is the answer to the plaintive words of the Statute of Liberty. We do not want and have never really wanted that the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free feel forced to come to America as their only hope. We want instead the nations of the world to move closer to our values and principles.
We want the lands of Latin America from which millions flee to become lands with honest government, free enterprise, and civic safety – lands from which people do not want to flee. We want the Middle East to be like Israel today or like Lebanon and Iran used to be decades ago, nations in which Jews and Christians live securely beside Muslims, where imperfect democracy and liberty are real enough that there is no flood of people seeking anywhere but their native land.
Why is this so hard for politicians to see today? The endless critiques of the imperfections of America swamp all discussion of the unique virtue of America. Contempt for America infects political rhetoric and allows absurd lies to parade as solemn truth.
Consider Bernie Sanders groaning on about the racist origins of America, oblivious of or indifferent to the fact that when our nation was founded, Jews, like Sanders, rightly saw America as their greatest protector and champion in the world, as well as a home. Consider the dreary leftist cant about the "legacy of slavery," oblivious of or indifferent to the fact that blacks in America have repeatedly and from the earliest days of our nation chosen emphatically to stay in America and not to migrate back to Africa (Liberia was created for that purpose) or to black-run nations like Haiti.
America ought to be the model that allows the persecuted and the hopeless to see that where they live today in despair could be instead like America, and that their true hope is making their own homelands places of liberty, safety, and promise. Providing that model, not providing the refugee camps, is America's global purpose.