My mood is reflected in this song at the moment. It encompasses the automatic monotony of every day, driven by unfeeling, unhuman forces; but it also reflects a soul-deep transition. The feeling is the phoenix rising from its ashes, after a delicate and hard-fought battle. It is the new forest growth after a scorched Earth campaign. It is emerging from shelter after an atomic explosion to view the fallout, and instead of seeing only devastation, seeing hope for better things to come.
Right now, that is where I stand. I feel the way I imagine Alice felt as she saw herself reflected in the looking glass. Not a simple superficial image, but the essence of what made her Alice. Who am I? What actions did I take (or not take) that landed me where I am, both physically and metaphysically (or metaphorically, if that’s an easier concept)? How do I define myself? And for other people so concerned about how the world sees them, why do they spend so much time defining themselves with what they’ve done, yet simultaneously ignore the past?
While there are certainly many negative things that could be concentrated on, there are also many positive things. In many failures, new opportunities present themselves. Even if I feel rejected, there are now new avenues available.
I’d like to take this time to bring your attention to America. Americans have always been “forward thinkers,” so to speak. Throughout our history, going as far back as the 1600s (when we were still European colonies), we have viewed ourselves as somehow exceptional. We viewed ourselves as a “beacon of hope and prosperity,” as basically being better than the rest of the world. Since we are on the verge of another kind of Civil Rights movement, I believe a review of our own history is necessary.
I will begin with Governor John Winthrop’s “City Upon a Hill” speech, June 1630, to give you an idea of the revolutionary zeitgeist, and how that attitude carried us to where we are.
Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck and to provide for our prosperity is to follow the Counsel of Micah: to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. We must be knit together in this work as one man, we must entertain each other in brotherly affection, we must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities for the supply of others’ necessities, we must delight in each other, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our Commission and Community in the work. So shall we keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness, and truth than formerly we have been acquainted with. We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when He shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations: the Lord make it like that of New England. For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God and all professors for God’s sake; we shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into Curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land where we are going. And to shut up discourse with that exhortation of Moses, that faithful servant of the Lord in his last farewell to Israel, Deut. 30, Beloved, there is now set before us life and good, death and evil, in that we are commanded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another, to walk in His ways and to keep His Commandments and His Ordinance and His laws, and the Articles of our Covenant with Him that we may live and be multiplied, and that the Lord our God may bless us in the land where we go to possess it. But if our hearts shall turn away so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced and worship (serve) other Gods, our pleasures, and profits, and serve them; it is propounded unto u this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land whither we pass over his vast Sea to possess it: Therefore let us choose life, that we, and our seed, may live; by obeying His voice, and cleaving to Him, for He is our life, and out prosperity.
This is an important document because it reflects the views held by the largely Puritan population of New England. It stores echoes of American Exceptionalism. It marks the emergence of a new culture, a culture which is part of the reason we have landed where we are today.
Until we meet again,
*Citation for the above: Gov. John Winthrop, “Governor John Winthrop Envisions a City Upon a Hill, 1630,” in Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, Vol. I: to 1920, ed. Dennis Merrill and Thomas G. Paterson (Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010), 31-32.