“Towards A New Jerusalem: America as the new Israel.”
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and get glory through your father who is in heaven,” Jesus Christ, the sermon on the mountain, Matthew 5:14-16.
“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 to cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world, we shall open the mounds of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God in all professors for God’s sake,” John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Bay colony, “City Upon a Hill,” 1630.
“I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipments on the flagship Arbella 331 years ago as they too faced the task of building a new government on a perilous frontier. We must always consider, he said, that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. Today, the eyes of all people are truly upon us and our governments in every branch at every level, national, state, and local, must be as a city upon a hill, constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust and their great responsibility,” president-elect John F. Kennedy, 1961.
I’ve spoken to the shining city, all my political life, but I don’t know if I’ve ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it, but in my mind, it was a tall, proud city built on rock, stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace. A city with free ports that’s hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still,” president Ronald Reagan, 1989.
“Americans know that our future is brighter and better than these troubled times. We still believe in the hope, the promise, and the dream of America. We still believe in that shining city on the hill,” presidential candidate Mitt Romney, 2012.
Almost 400 years have passed since John Winthrop wrote the words: “We shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us,” words that have come to define and bolster the myth known as American exceptionalism.
And like any giant lie, this fiction is responsible for the massive bloodstains splattered across the canvas of American history, centuries of Holocaust and enslavement accompanied by centuries of the always in-vogue reality of perpetual state-sanctioned terror, also known as the murder and mayhem of war.
American leaders have been invoking this mythical city upon a hill since Winthrop paraphrased the sermon on the mount to justify the land grab about to take place with its subsequent atrocities heaved upon the Pequot and Narragansett Indians, brutal massacres often launched against non-combatants.
Governor Winthrop even declared the colony a vacuum, concluding that the indigenous inhabitants had no legal rights or standing to their land. It was as if the existing population simply did not exist, and soon, that would be fact Winthrop and all the latter day propagandists envisioned America as Shangri-La, a mystical and harmonious place, almost supernatural, where liberty, justice, democracy, and peace, not to mention affordable electronics, were the guiding principles.
Well, like any good fairytale, this American rhetoric sounds good, even sounds great, but has no basis in reality. There’s no Easter Bunny, no Santa Claus, and there’s definitely no utopian city upon a hill protected by a special sky God who represents American exceptionalism over all nations and cultures. Just like with James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon, once you put down the fictitious and make-believe fable, there’s no Shangri-La hidden at the western end of the mountains.
American mythology preaches that John Winthrop and his Puritan brothers left England in pursuit of religious tolerance and freedom. But in fact, Winthrop, the de facto father of American exceptionalism, was no proponent of religious tolerance or democracy in any way, shape, or form.
If we should change from a mixed aristocracy to mere democracy, Winthrop wrote, we first should have no warrant in scripture for it, for there was no such government in Israel. A democracy is, among civil nations, accounted the meanest and worst of all forms of government. To allow it would be a manifest breach of the fifth commandment.
You’ve been listening to an excerpt from Murder Incorporated by Mumia Abu-Jamal and Steven Vittoria. This is Dreaming of Empire, Book One.