In 1630 John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in a sermon titled, “A Model for Christian Charity,” said that their new settlement should be as “a city upon a hill,” visible for all to see. According to a recent article by Abram Van Engen, this sermon and “city upon a hill” phrase were rediscovered and widely publicized by Perry Miller, a Harvard professor, in the mid-20th century.

During the Cold War, Winthrop’s goal was misinterpreted and misappropriated as a fact applicable to the U.S. This notion of U.S. exceptionalism has resonated with a number of presidents. Former President Reagan took the statement a step farther when he made the phrase into “a shining city upon a hill.”

U.S. history courses in most kindergarten to 12th grade school districts reinforce this idea of U.S. exceptionalism. Instead of supporting or encouraging teachers to provide a full and accurate history, including events that reflect poorly on the U.S., many school districts instead mislead students in order to instill patriotism. As a result, this exceptional nation belief seems to be widely held by many, if not most Americans.

It is really disappointing that Winthrop’s goal has not been critically examined by the corporate media or many U.S. history books for class curriculum. For just one example, the Puritans’ treatment of American Indians was appalling and hardly a model of Christian charity. In the same way, the idea that U.S. behavior is a model for Christian charity is a bad joke that runs headlong into its two original sins, the genocide of American Indians and the enslavement of Africans and African-Americans for over 200 years. The “shining” city image is clearly a fraud. More evidence of this fraud is the sordid U.S. role in ousting governments around the world since WWII.

However, given the acceptance of this exceptionally false claim of U.S. exceptionalism by Americans, our leaders know that they and the corporate media can convince most of us that the U.S. has the moral high ground to be judge and jury of whether or not another nation is violating international law. If we feel another nation is in violation, we may take the case to the United Nations. However, if the U.N. fails to act as we want, we may then bypass it and take unilateral steps — such as imposing cruel and illegal sanctions or other more extreme actions — in an attempt to bring the perceived offending nation back into our line. Note that bypassing the U.N. is going outside the rules-based system that we claim to follow.

A key crisis area today is the Cold War with Russia. The U.S. and its media falsely claim Russian aggression as the cause of the increased tensions. However, a close examination makes clear it’s the U.S. who is the aggressor through its expansion of NATO to the east — in violation of a promise made by the George H.W. Bush administration. Russia rightly fears a hostile military alliance on its borders. The U.S.-led war games, including the current operations in the Black Sea, needlessly add to these fears and tensions.

Clearly the U.S. does not have a legitimate claim to the moral high ground or to being an exceptional nation that is an example for the world. If the world is to survive, the U.S. must end its imperial ambitions.