Jewish World Review Dec. 22, 2009 / 5 Teves 5770
Dems Ensure America Will No Longer Be the Last Best Hope of Earth
By Dennis Prager
That description of America was not, as more than a few Americans on the left believe, made by some right-wing chauvinist. It was made by President Abraham Lincoln in an address to Congress on Dec. 1, 1862.
The bigger the American government becomes, the more like other countries America becomes. Even a Democrat has to acknowledge the simple logic: America cannot at the same time be the last best hope of earth and increasingly similar to more and more countries.
Either America is unique, in which case it at least has the possibility of uniquely embodying hopes for mankind — or it is not unique, in which case it is by definition not capable of being the last best hope for humanity — certainly no more so than, let us say, Sweden or the Netherlands.
Indeed, President Obama acknowledged this in April, when asked by a European reporter if he believes in American exceptionalism. The president's response: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."
The president was honest. In his view, as in the view of today's Democratic party, America is special only in the same way we parents regard our children as "special." We all say it and we all believe it, but we know that it is meaningless except as an emotional expression of our love for our children. If every is child is equally special, none can be special, in fact. If every country is exceptional, then no country is exceptional, or at least no more so than any other.
With the largest expansion of the American government and state since the New Deal, the Democratic party — alone — is ending a key factor in America's uniqueness and greatness: individualism, which is made possible only when there is limited government.
The formula here is not rocket science: The more the government/state does, the less the individual does.
America's uniqueness and greatness has come from a number of sources, two of which are its moral and social value system, which is a unique combination of Enlightenment and Judeo-Christian values, and its emphasis on individual liberty and responsibility.
Just as the left has waged war on America's Judeo-Christian roots, it has waged war on individual liberty and responsibility.
Hillel, the most important rabbi of the Talmud (which, alongside the Hebrew Bible, is Judaism's most important book), summarized the human being's obligations in these famous words: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"
What does this mean in the present context? It means that before anything else, the human being must first take care of himself. When people who are capable of taking care of themselves start relying on the state to do so, they can easily become morally inferior beings. When people who could take care of their family start relying on the state to do so, they can easily become morally inferior. And when people who could help take care of fellow citizens start relying on the state to do so, the morally coarsening process continues.
There has always been something profoundly ennobling about American individualism and self-reliance. Nothing in life is as rewarding as leading a responsible life in which one has not to depend on others for sustenance. Little, if anything, in life is as rewarding as successfully taking care of oneself, one's family and one's community. That is why America has always had more voluntary associations than any other country.
But as the state and government have gotten bigger, voluntary associations have been dying. Why help others if the state will do it? Indeed, as in Scandinavia, the attitude gradually becomes: why even help myself when the state will do it?
Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are right about one thing — they are indeed making history. But their legacy will not be what they think. They will be known as the people who led to the end of America as the last best hope of earth.
JWR contributor Dennis Prager hosts a national daily radio show based in Los Angeles. Click here to comment on this column.
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