Ideals, the Better Criterion

Since the dawn of civilization people around the world have grouped themselves based on these five criteria:

Blood
Ethnicity
Soil
Religion
Socio-Economic status

There are those who are tied by blood: siblings, parents, children and ancestors. There are those with the same ethnicity: African, Anglo Saxon, Asian, Arab, who feel connected by the way they look, skin color, hair type, etc. There are those from the same village, city or country who have feelings of pride for the land where they were born, and they feel compatriots of the same soil. There are others grouped by the religion they practice, regardless of other criteria. There are those who form groups based on their socio-economic status: rich, poor, clergy, royalty, merchants, plebeians, commoners, slaves. These five criteria have been present forever in Europe, Africa, Asia, and also in the pre-discovered new continent of America.

In 1492 Europeans moved to the “new” continent and occupied its land. Spaniards and Portuguese conquered from the South of Argentina to the southern part of America, while British and French conquered most of North America from the North to southern areas of America. The reasons for moving to the new world were for the expansion of European kingdoms and the gaining of power. However, the American leaders of 1770’s felt unhappy with some of the old grouping criteria, specifically, they disliked the socio-economic status given to royalty and clergy. They didn’t see ethnicity or religion as a divisive issue since most of them where Judeo-Christian white European descendents, and the minority of African slaves were not even considered citizens. The fathers of the independence movement were clever and wise enough to build a new vision based on a different criterion that would “form a more perfect Union.” The new criterion was a set of ideals. Ideals of liberty, equality, freedom of religion, etc. This was very attractive to the locals, and so the leaders were successful in expelling the British army by convincing the people to rebel and promote those ideals. It was a very concise set of ideals that captured the imagination of Americans, and propelled them to see the future in a hopeful and bright way.

In South of America the independence movement in the 1800’s had initially the same intentions and ideals as in America. It was pioneered by Francisco de Miranda (a Free Mason like George Washington and several American independence leaders) but he was sent to prison by his apprentice, Simon Bolivar, who unfortunately didn’t succeed in establishing a one-single-nation in South America with the same ideals of Jefferson, Franklin, Washington and Hamilton in the north. South America was left with several countries with military governments that diverged from the civilian-commanded society in North America.

For the next 230 years, all presidents of the United States, from Washington to Obama, including Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan, have followed the premise of bonding the American society based on the ideals written in the U.S. Constitution and its Amendments. Americans feel they are a group of people not bind by blood or ethnicity or soil or religion or socio-economic status, but simply by the ideals put forward by the founding fathers in 1789. It is the reason why this country has welcomed and let live here important people from other places around the world, such as the founding father Alexander Hamilton (from British West Indies), the physicist Albert Einstein (from Germany), Steve Jobs’ father (from Syria), and the entrepreneur Elon Musk (from South Africa); people that have transformed this country in positive valuable ways. It is thanks to this openness of mind that this country, and countries with similar ideals (e.g. UK, France), have been able to prosper so much for the past two centuries.

Unfortunately, Americans have lost their way lately. They elected a new leadership that seems to favor the old grouping criteria and could destroy the hopeful and bright beacon that the fathers of the Constitution created. The nationalist world movement is threatening the ideals of 1789 and is spreading fast (e.g., UK brexit, Spain-Catalunya) with a facade of patriotism. They are confounding patriotism and nationalism which were clearly differentiated by Charles de Gaulle, the former French president and WWI & WWII General: ”Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.

Only when we dispel the fallacy of a better future promised by nationalists using the aforementioned grouping criteria, can we recover the path towards coexistence, prosperity and peace among the inhabitants of this country that the founding fathers had in mind.

C.A. Soto Aguirre©