It would be safe to say that, despite its past and current problems, America has indeed been a “shining city on a hill”, to use the words of Ronald Reagan. We have been and are a generous nation, responsible to no small degree for improved health and living conditions of many people on earth. For at least a century, we have been the largest single component of the world economy, driving many economic advances and serving as a major source of innovation.
The Bad and The Ugly
Despite the net positive influence most people believe America has been in the world, some Americans feel that our nation’s inception and growth to unprecented heights of success were not without some pretty bad behavior along the way. Here are some notable examples that would be quoted in this context as offsets to America’s positives:
- Taking over a land that was occupied by people who were either forced from their homelands or duped into purchases of them for amounts far less than their intrinsic value.
- Enslaving people captured in other parts of the world [mainly Africa] and brought here against their will.
- Treating women as less than full citizens for almost 150 years, not even allowing them to vote.
Those who view negatives such as these as more than offsetting that which is good about America would argue that those who view the scales as being tipped in the opposite direction are essentially adopting an “end justifies the means” mentality. Although I fit generally in the category seeing mainly the good [but not espousing the claim of “end justifies the means”], my purpose here is not to debate the issue, but simply to acknowledge that in the eyes of some Americans, we are certainly not “squeaky clean”.