A Citizen of 3 Nations Ponders the American Dream
November 6, 2012, is going to be a very special day for me. For the first time in my life, I will be an active part of the election for the President of the United States of America. I was born Italian, from Italian parents, on Italian soil. For 52 years, I have been proud to be an Italian citizen. I was a guest in the United States for three years as a legal resident alien, trying to adapt to American culture. Effective June 2, 2010, I was bestowed the honor and responsibility of American citizenship as defined in the Constitution (Art. 4, Sect. 4).
This will not be the first time in my life that I will vote. I have executed that right several times, but this presidential election has a particular weight on my heart. The actual situation of this country is not easy and is, in many ways, getting worse instead of improving. When I stop to consider all the changes I have seen since coming to America, I am surprised that man still does not learn from his past mistakes. The Roman orator and statesman, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC), proclaims that “historia magistra vitae est”—“history is teacher of life” (De Oratore II, 9). Solomon considers: “Is there any thing of which it may be said, ‘See this is new?’ It has already been in ancient times before us” (Ecclesiastes 1:10). He then affirms: “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). For some inescapable reason, it seems to me that today, more than ever, history is no longer accepted as a teacher!
President Ronald Reagan boldly affirmed: “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” While I can understand some politicians want to remove God from life and politics, I cannot accept that “We the People,” especially “We the People of God” (1 Peter 2:10; Hebrews 4:9; 11:25) silently accept becoming a nation gone under, not because of a bad economy, bad policies, bad treaties, but because IN GOD WE TRUST no more! It is sad and discouraging when Christians are conforming to what is considered to be “politically correct” and allow the government of man to run their lives and limit their freedom, not only materially, but also spiritually speaking.
For most of my life, I have lived in the “bel paese” (beautiful country) of Italy where New Testament Christianity is in the very minute minority. The vast majority of the people are part of the Roman Catholic Church, whose influence is extremely strong in all aspects of the Italian’s life: social, political, economical, and cultural. This is the result of more than 1000 years of temporal power in association with spiritual power. History tells us that from the 6th century to 1870, part of the Italian peninsula was politically ruled by the Pontifical State. The citizens of that state were not only forced into the religious community as soon as they were born, but also were indoctrinated on how to belong to the “community of the majority,” letting the ecclesiastical hierarchy be in charge of running their life by taking care of them, not only spiritually but also politically. The general idea is that they cannot: (1) have a personal relationship with God and grow as a spiritual being, and (2) have individual identities and be active participants in the government of the nation, unless guided all their life by someone who “knows better” than them: the central government. Contrary to the principles of our Founding Fathers, many today believe this condition to be true, not only in the Old Continent, but also in this Republic. It is always more evident that our government believes that we must be told what to do, how to do it, what to believe, how to believe it—how to be taken care of!
In the eyes of most Italians, Europeans, and I believe most of the world as well, the United States of America is (perhaps was) a land of dreams. All my life I have heard about how Americans are better, because they live “il sogno Americano” (“The American Dream”), which has been well described in one of the most important and read Italian newspapers:
Locating an American is very easy, according to economist Robert Reich. In the group, he is always the happy and optimistic, positive and strong-willed. The American is solar and naïve, does not see any insurmountable obstacles in front of him. He does not know impossible challenges. He is the one equipped with an enthusiasm often with adolescent traits and sometimes even dangerous. Even in times of crisis, these epic elements of the American being remain well firm in the Yankee’s spirit. . . . Americans are like that, country, family and barbecue, even now that unemployment is at ten percent, the values of houses has fallen and cannot be seen the light at the end of the tunnel. The point is that the pursuit of happiness is not only a fundamental principle of the Declaration of Independence born July 4, 1776, but it is also a biological element engraved in their DNA, especially of those who arrived in America to seek fortune. “We hold these truths to be self-evident”—reads the text written by Thomas Jefferson—“that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The myth of the pursuit of happiness coincides with American optimism, with the pursuit of the American dream, with the awareness of being different from others, exceptional. Optimism is the driving force of economic power, the reason why the United States is a nation of inventors, innovators, experimenters . . . .” (Christian Rocca, trans. Paolo Di Luca)
For all my life as an Italian, I looked to what is America and who are the Americans as something different, special, something to look up to! But, when I came to live in the States, I discovered something very disappointing. Many Americans do not appreciate their being exceptional, part of a unique special nation built on different premises. Many Americans want to adopt the European style of government and become just like all the other nations in the world. Many have forgotten what the French political leader and historian Alexis De Tocqueville wrote: “the position of the Americans is quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one” (36-37). According to G.K. Chesterton, the exceptionality of the United States is based on the American Constitution, “that it is founded on a creed. America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature” (7). Unique in the world is the appeal of the Founding Fathers to the self-evident truths of “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” as reason for our liberty. America is an exceptional republic not because of what has been achieved or accomplished but because its foundation was based and dedicated to the principles of human liberty, grounded on the truth that all men have been created equal by God and endowed with equal rights; not opportunities as is demanded by some today.
As one who has been blessed to be given the opportunity to move from the “normal” forms of government to the exceptional one, it really hurts and upsets me to see how people do not want to learn from the failures of the Old Continent’s style of life. Some have proposed “hope” based on models and ways of government that history has proven ineffective. The proposal of a global government based on social redistribution is just a mere kimera that has never been obtained! To me, it is really frustrating to be a spectator of what I have seen NOT WORKING in Italy or in Europe, destroying the only possible alternative: The American Experiment.
However, I do not have to be a SPECTATOR! I can make the difference now! I can vote. In the Psalms is written: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). President James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States and a gospel preacher, wrote in 1877: “Now, more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand those high qualities to represent them in the national legislature” (486).
Yes I can make the difference by voting, not according to a party or a movement, but according to the values that are godly and biblical. As I have become more involved in living as an American, I have noticed that many Christians have forgotten that we have another citizenship which is much higher and more important: we are the people of God, the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). As a Christian, I am told that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Patrick Henry affirmed: “Righteousness alone can exalt [America] as a nation. Reader! Whoever thou art, remember this: And in thy sphere practice virtue thyself and encourage it in others” (qtd. in Henry 82). As a Christian, I must make sure that the world hears what are the values of God proclaimed in the Bible. As a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, my goal is to influence the earthly nation of which I am a citizen with God-honoring values, that will make God-honoring policies, that will result in God-honoring actions that will exalt my nation! Unfortunately, many in the past have cast their vote in allegiance to a party or a political philosophy and that is why we have the present situation. It is time to change and to choose our representatives according to their ethical/moral/religious convictions. When we examine the declarations of the Founding Fathers, and of the framers of the Constitution, it is absolutely astonishing to notice how strong were their godly moral values, and how much those documents were based on the Bible. We must go back to biblical values in political choices. This is what made the United States of America an exceptional nation. This is what will restore the United States of America as an exceptional nation!
Paolo Di Luca was born in Milan, Italy, and grew up in Ferrara, Italy. He served in the Italian Army. For nearly 25 years, he ministered to churches of Christ in the nation of Italy. His father, the late Gilberto Di Luca, preached the gospel in Italy for a half century. Paolo now resides in New Martinsville, WV, with his wife Cindy. They have one son, Marco, of Henderson, TN. This article, written at the invitation of Warren Apologetics Center, brings a unique perspective to the literary contributions being made to the far-reaching cultural battle presently being waged in America.
Chesterton, Gilbert Keith. What I Saw in America. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1923. Web.
De Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America: Part the Second, The Social Influence of Democracy. Pt. 2. New York: Langley, 1840. Web.
Garfield, James Abram. “A Century of Congress.” The Works of James Abram Garfield. Vol. 2. Boston: Osgood, 1883. Web.
Henry, William Wirt. Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence and Speeches. Vol. 1. New York: Scribner's, 1891. Web.