Richard Warren FieldRichard Warren Field - Writer/Musician

Why the United States Must Embrace Its Destiny with Pride

June 15, 2006

Copyright © 2006 by Richard Warren Field

It is not fashionable among the intellectual elites of the United States to point to American values or American history with any feeling of pride. The mainstream of the so-called intellectual elites look down their noses at those of us who feel proud and fortunate to be part of this country at this time in history. The elites consider us unsophisticated, deluded, mired in primitive, backward notions of nationalism and patriotism.

I do not assert the United States has always acted flawlessly as a country. At times, we have acted with incompetence. At other times, we as a nation have acted immorally. But at this point in humanity’s evolution, we are necessary. We are not just a luxury—the United States, with our values and way of looking at the world, may be essential for species survival. We need to embrace our values with pride, and advocate them as forcefully as possible to prevent humanity from falling into a dark chasm.

Scientists and science fiction writers who think about the possibility of life on other planets consider the odds of intelligent life evolving on other planets. At this point, we have evidence of planetary systems around other stars, but no evidence of intelligent life. Suppose this is because once intelligent creatures reach a certain level of technology, they also develop the means to destroy themselves, and that intelligent life cannot survive long after gaining possession of this capability? This is a depressing idea, that our own accumulation of knowledge will eventually destroy us—the culmination of Pandora’s Box, the ultimate eviction from the Garden of Eden. But maybe self-destruction is not automatic. Maybe some species survive gaining possession of the capability of species self-destruction, while some don’t. If that is true, what characteristics would intelligent species need to increase their prospects of avoiding species self-destruction?

They would need to adopt certain values—mutual respect of the religious and cultural differences among peoples including a willingness to coexist with those differences without prejudice or penalty, a policy of engaging nations as partners, not as subordinates, and a belief in mutual prosperity. With the mutual prosperity belief comes the idea that prosperity is a not a zero-sum enterprise, where one group prospers at the expense of another, but that prosperity is built on win-win relationships where each person’s prosperity actually feeds everyone else’s. With the end of a zero-sum approach to prosperity, and mutual respect among the intelligent species on the planet, people are not as likely to participate in mutual destruction. These sound like fundamental American values. That is why we are necessary. Our values, spread throughout humanity, could make the difference in the fate of humanity.

Arguments will immediately be offered against this proposition. Some will argue that these American values may be fine on paper, but that the United States does not live up to those values and uses them as a cover for domination and subjugation of the world. A debate on this point could stretch into book-length. And issues such as this can always be cluttered with minutia, isolating some trivial event to defeat the generalities reflected in the stated values. But an objective appraisal of the overall American approach to the world supports that the United States operates on the basis of these values most of the time. After World War II, the defeated nations of Germany and Japan were not treated as conquered nations to dominate, but as nations capable of prosperity as free nations. The United States occupied them long enough to assure their smooth functioning, then withdrew from them. They operate now as independent nations, not always agreeing with American policies, but as friends, not as defeated subordinates. When the Soviet Union disintegrated, the United States became the unquestioned superpower of the world. Throughout history, nations have taken that status as an opportunity to rule the world. From Alexander, to Caesar, to Genghis Khan, world conquest has been a driving force within powerful nations. The United States has not expressed so much as a hint toward such an aspiration. A mutually prosperous world is the American Dream. Do we always behave in a manner consistent with that goal? No, not always. And well-intentioned people can debate how we should behave to attain that goal. But it is our generally accepted goal, and that does make us different.

To those who argue that the United States simply has more subtle ways of establishing itself as an exploitive colonial power, I ask them to truly study imperial, exploitive relationships. We don’t need to go all the way back to the Roman Empire. We can look to recent history, to the British relationship with India, or even more recently to the Russian relationship to the fourteen nations captured in the Russian imperial creation of the “Soviet Union,” and the Soviet Union’s relationship to the nations of Eastern Europe after World War II. When we contrast the treatment of post World War II Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union with the treatment of post World War II Western Europe by the United States, we can only laugh at the idea that Russians were calling Americans “imperialists”! (It wasn’t as funny back then.)

Some will argue that claiming we are different means we are claiming “superiority,” a dangerous idea that in the past has led to genocide in other societies. I will not apologize for my assertion that our society is different, and that those differences make our society superior. But there is a huge difference between claiming superiority for American values, and claiming we are superior people. (The genocides have stemmed from a belief in ethnic or racial superiority.) First, being American is not limited to birthplace or parentage. Over the last five hundred or so years, human beings from every corner of the planet have come together at this place we call America. The values are what we have in common. I live in Los Angeles. When I walk into a local drugstore, I could be waited on by a white teenager, a middle-aged Muslim woman wearing a head-covering, or an elderly black man. We all come together in this place, this America, and we prosper because we accept the differences among us, even at times celebrating the diverse backgrounds. This is the American way of life. So while I am claiming “superiority” for America, I am arguing that everybody has the opportunity to attain this superiority. “America” is even possible outside our borders when people embrace those values of mutual respect among peoples, and a belief in mutual prosperity.

In fact, I believe humanity was fortunate the United States was the first nation to gain the technology of nuclear weapons. Yes, we were the only country ever to use them in a war. Whether we should have dropped those two bombs in 1945 continues to be an issue for debate. I tend to agree with Truman’s decision, and believe he saved more lives, American and Japanese, by dropping the bombs to end a war America did not start. But I am glad this issue remains a subject for debate. Morality demands that the decision continue to be scrutinized. Imagine the state of the world today if Nazi Germany had acquired this technology first. They had scientists hard at work on it. Would Nazis have debated anything? Does anyone doubt that the weapons would have been used without conscience? The Nazis might very well have used the nuclear weapons to make their policies of genocide more efficient. And, suppose Stalinist Russia had acquired this technology before the United States? If Stalin had possessed nuclear monopoly in the years immediately following World War II, would he have tolerated the American/Soviet confrontations of that period the way the United States did?

It baffles me that educated people in my country look for ways to argue that we are at best, simply another in a long line of dominating states, and at worst, that we are a source of evil, deserving contempt. At this point in history, the world needs an America operating in the world, advocating America’s stated values. By accident of history, we are here, on this piece of land, embracing these values. Humanity’s successful progress through the peril of possessing the means of species self-destruction could depend on the adoption of these values all over the world.


Richard Warren Field is the author of the award-winning novel, The Swords of Faith.


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