From Michael Gerson’s essay in the WaPo on Why We Keep This Creed.
Why love such a country? Why celebrate its birth? The answer was given from the pulpit of the Ebenezer Baptist Church on Independence Day 1965.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized that America has a “schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against herself.” But we are redeemed, he argued, by our creed, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, which manages “to forever challenge us; to forever give us a sense of urgency; to forever stand in the midst of the ‘isness’ of our terrible injustices; to remind us of the ‘oughtness’ of our noble capacity for justice and love and brotherhood.” Americans, he said, believe in “certain basic rights that are neither derived from nor conferred by the state. . . . They are God-given, gifts from his hands.”
“You may take my life,” King said, “but you can’t take my right to life. You may take liberty from me, but you can’t take my right to liberty.” And this creed of “amazing universalism” calls “America to do a special job for mankind and the world . . . because America is the world in miniature and the world is America writ large.”
The privileged and powerful can love America for many reasons. The oppressed and powerless, stripped of selfish motives for their love, have found America lovely because of its ideals.
And here’s a quote from C. S. Lewis, in an essay on “Equality,” written in 1943:
I am a democrat [believer in democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. . . . I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation. . . . The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters. (“Equality,” in C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, ed. by Lesley Walmsley [London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000,] p. 666). Cited by John Piper.