Monday night, Mitt Romney closed the third and final presidential debate by telling the American people that he has what it takes to protect and restore this great nation, which, in his estimation, serves as the hope of the earth.
Though rhetorically powerful, there is reason to pause over this notion that the decision we make on November 6 is somehow intimately tied up in the fate of dreamers throughout the world. That the conclusions we draw in the ballot box somehow set the tone for the flourishing of humanity as a whole.
Let me be clear that my concern with Governor Romney’s statement goes above and beyond my own liberal leanings. I would argue that his hyper-patriotic sentiment symbolizes more than just an emphatic sound bite to play at the Republican rallies of the next two weeks; it, instead, is representative of the kind of thinking that has come to define and then confine the mindset of American citizens.
Recently enrolled at Yale Divinity School, I have been struck over the past two months by the way in which students situate themselves in the global struggle for social justice for all. In classrooms filled with cultural reformers of both the ministerial and secular variety, one can’t help but get the sense that the hope of the earth is individuals like these, not the political system of one dominant nation.
For much of the last two centuries, America has been able to impose its agenda on foreign countries because its voice was louder, its currency stronger and its borders safer. In recent years, however, this country has felt the sting of economic struggles, watching in horror as other countries have become the international standard for healthcare systems, job initiatives and solutions to poverty.
Shocked and unsettled, we have nestled ever deeper into the warm embrace of the American dream, insistent that despite setbacks, we remain the place where freedom reigns supreme, confident that if we say this is the greatest nation in the world enough times, the world, including ourselves, will continue to believe it.
Ever thankful for the privileges that an upbringing in this country has given me, I don’t mean to disparage men and women who, throughout the ages, have accomplished great things for love of this country. I only wish to take note of the danger of loving the work of this country to the exclusion of the work of the rest of the world.
In calling America the hope of the earth, Governor Romney played into a worldview that feels very natural to a nation raised to believe that within its borders can be found the foremost thinkers, the greatest innovators, the best vision for the construction of a global community built on fairness and equality.
But he also exposed our greatest weakness, our crippling American hubris that routinely blinds us to the bigger picture of global progress as we focus on crafting further assertions of superiority.
As this election season draws to a close, let us remember that in casting a ballot on November 6, we do impact the path our country will follow for the next four years.
But as for affecting the hopes of the world’s citizens? That potentiality does not rest in the hands of the American political system. It lies, instead, with the individuals who view themselves as not just the citizens of one nation, but as party of a global community that must listen to the voices of all its members.