Jürgen Moltmann on Before the American Dream was America as Dream

StatueoflibertyJürgen Moltmann's political theology book, On Human Dignity: Political Theology and Ethics, contains a chapter on "America as Dream" that is appropriate to share since today is Independence Day. The American Dream, according to Moltmann, is a dream for all of Humanity, not just the internal affairs of the U.S.A.  The American Dream began as a dream in Europe and for all people who were without freedom or justice. And it is a dream that is incomplete until all of Humanity shares this dream.

For Europeans there exists a simple beginning point for understanding the American Dream: before there was an American dream there was America as dream. But America as dream was dreamed in Europe. It was and is the dream of freedom for every human being: the land of unlimited possibilities and of justice without privileges. This was the dream of the politically oppressed, the religiously persecuted, the socially humiliated and racially defamed. America as dream was also, to be sure, wanderlust, gold fever, and Karl May romanticism. But it was in every case a European dream which motivated the emigration.

The American dream is basically nothing other than the transferal of the European dream of America to American soil. It is the fulfillment and disappointment, the continuation and the reshaping of the European dream of America. Consequently, the American dream did not represent a hope limited to America but had universal significance for all people who sought America as the fulfillment of the hope for freedom and justice. For this reason, on the other hand, an international discussion of the American dream is not an illegitimate meddling of foreigners in the internal affairs of the United States. Yet precisely at this point their lies already the first ambivalence of the American dream: the ambiguity between universalism and particularism, between messianism and Americanism.

The nation entered world history two hundred years ago with all the passions of political messianism. It lives from the power of the vision to be "a new nation conceived in liberty" (Abraham Lincoln).

Jürgen Moltmann, On Human Dignity: Political Theology and Ethics, pg 147-148


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