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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Exceptionalism hinges on morality
In "'Oddball heaven' works for America" (Commentary, Tuesday) Victor Davis Hanson seems confident that American exceptionalism will continue - and he concludes that American exceptionalism will end when we end the freedom of the individual. This poses the question, are we losing our individual freedom?
John Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, defined freedom as the luxury enjoyed by men of virtue. On the subject of virtue, Samuel Adams observed that "[w]hile the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader." What, then, is virtue? Is it not the pursuit of moral goodness and excellence? In previous times, there was a common and enduring understanding of right and wrong, of moral goodness. Now it seems to me that we as a nation no longer share a common understanding of moral values, but rather each person determines his or her own values. How are we to determine when morals have been violated without a common understanding of right and wrong?
Consequently, I believe that we are weakened as a nation by this loss of a common virtue - and we will be subject to an erosion of our freedoms as suggested by Samuel Adams and others. I think we are seeing a certain loss of individual freedom occurring in our present day.
DANIEL P. McKIM
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