America: The “Shining City” on the Hill is truly a Mirage


Ronald Reagan extolled the fantasy version of America as did many presidents before and after him. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“I’ve thought a bit of the shining city upon a hill… after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the Pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”–President Reagan Jan. 12, 1989.

In his farewell address to the nation, as well as in a few other speeches, President Reagan used this “shining city upon a hill” metaphor. It was previously used by President Kennedy and later used by President Obama and others. American politicians have used this phrase to communicate their vision of America and how they hope we are perceived globally. Americans have been indoctrinated to believe that this country is on a special mission, ordained by God to civilize the “heathens” and the “savages” and spread democracy around the world.

There have been other doctrines and worn yarns spun over the years such as Manifest Destiny, American Exceptionalism, and White Man’s Burden. All of them used to justify or rationalize militarism, colonialism, and oppression.

What a true reading of history has taught and continues to teach the rest of the world; the victims of America’s “largesse”, is that this “shining city on a hill” is truly a mirage. “American Internationalism” comes at a very high cost to those it is imposed upon. American or “Jeffersonian – democracy” is not about one-person one-vote, sovereignty, and self-determination. It’s really about unbridled capitalism, the insatiable lust for resources and the exploitation of foreign labor and markets.

Following in Reagan’s imperialist and hegemonic footsteps, in December 2021 President Biden held the first Summit for Democracy. It’s stated purpose was to bring together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector to confront authoritarianism, fight corruption and promote human rights. Let’s unpack some of these terms to understand the true purpose of the Summit.

It’s important to not only look at who attended, but also look at who was not invited. The Venezuelan Juan Guaido’ (a president without a country) was in attendance. One could reason that the very definition of authoritarianism is the US’s appointment of him as president of Venezuela, since the US does not like the democratically elected president of Venezuela, Nicholas Maduro. The racist Zionist government of Israel was in attendance. Yet, the human rights plight of the Palestinians was not addressed. China, Russia, Iran and Cuba (yes, they are democracies) were not invited. Also not invited were countries like Ecuador, El Salvador, Chile, and Nicaragua. All of these countries have just held elections where the people voted out those corrupt politicians who support American neo-liberal policies and replaced them with those who support self-determination and protecting the rights and interests of all the citizens of their countries, not just the elite.

Civil society organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID were in attendance. Both of these organizations are front operations for the CIA. According to teleSUR, they “…meddle in the internal affairs of key Latin American countries, under the flagship of “human rights”, “democracy” and “entrepreneurship.””

Since the end of the Cold War, the language of American Internationalism has evolved. During the forties, fifties and sixties the focus was on Communism. Now, the fight is against authoritarianism.

Biden, Secretary of State Blinken and others say Chinese President Xi is an authoritarian. However, according to the Harvard Gazette, “In 2016, the last year the survey was conducted, 95.5 percent of respondents were either ‘relatively satisfied’ or ‘highly satisfied’ with Beijing. In contrast to these findings, Gallup reported in January of 2020 that their latest polling on U.S. citizen satisfaction with the American federal government revealed only 38 percent of respondents were satisfied with the federal government.” The US also refers to Vladimir Putin as an authoritarian. Pew research shows, “Despite the negative economic mood in Russia, President Putin still receives overwhelming support from the public. In the domestic realm, overwhelming majorities support his energy policy (73%) and his handling of the economy (70%). Nearly nine-in-ten (88%) also express confidence in his ability to handle international affairs, including 66% who have a lot of confidence.”

According to Aljazeera, In Cuba, “Nearly 87 percent of Cuban voters approved new constitution, which updates some financial, electoral and criminal laws… Both President Miguel Diaz-Canel and his predecessor, Raul Castro, received 94 percent approval in their last elections.”
If people in China like their president and government and people in Russia and Cuba support theirs, who is the US to say that such “authoritarians” are bad for their countries. Especially when, according to the LA Times, “As of Dec. 21, 40% of registered voters had a favorable opinion of (VP) Harris and 53% had an unfavorable opinion of her. According to Reuters, “The national poll, conducted Dec. 9-10, found that 48% of U.S. adults approved of Biden’s performance in office, which is up about 4 percentage points since mid-November. Meanwhile, 48% disapproved.”

If the US stands for democracy, why is it fomenting “regime change” in foreign countries that are pleased with their governments? Could the real reason be that truly free democracies will no longer tolerate the US and other western countries intervention and stealing their resources to enrich western-based, multinational corporations? That was not a summit for democracy, it was a summit of hypocrisy.

During his Democracy Summit, Biden said, “We have to stand for justice and the rule of law, for free speech, free assembly, a free press, freedom of religion, and for all the inherent human rights of every individual.” President Biden, if you really stand for these principles then you should have sent a delegation to Nicaragua to witness the inauguration of President Daniel Ortega. You should lift the sanctions against Iran. Stop supporting the Saudi atrocities in Yemen. Lift the sanctions against Venezuela, Cuba and allow for real democracy to develop in Haiti.

Secure the rights of democracy for those in your own country. Make America the shining city on the hill for Americans first! Otherwise, it will continue to be a mirage. Remember, charity begins at home.

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the author of Politics Another Perspective, Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon,” on SiriusXM Satellite radio channel 126. Go to or email: [email protected]. and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at

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