Builders of states, architects of revolution: these are usually idealists, who believe that what they create shall be different, better, other, more, than all that came before.
If wishes were horses . . . .
John Winthrop, Puritan prelate of the Massachusetts Bay Company, promised to plant on the shores of North America a beacon for all the world: “the eyes of all people are upon us,” he said, and “we shall be as a city upon a hill.” Yet before his people could even properly feed themselves, they were busy hanging one another for adultery.
Nearly 400 years later, the animatronic Ronald Reagan proclaimed that Winthrop’s fabled American city had taken on a glow—we were now “a shining city on a hill.” To which William Burroughs was heard to grumble: “America may well be the hope of the world. It is also the source of such emotional plagues as drug hysteria, racism, Bible belt morality, Protestant capitalistic ethic, muscular Christianity, that have spread everywhere, transforming this planet into an annex of Hell.” My own observation, expressed at the time, was that the only American city I could see with much of a shine, there during Reagan’s time, was Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, then all aglow from the near-meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear facility.
In a 1972 interview with the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, then-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir confessed her deep disappointment with the reality of the Jewish state.
You’ll think me foolish, naive, but I thought that in a Jewish state there wouldn’t be the evils that afflict other societies. Theft, murder, prostitution. I thought so because we had started out so well. Fifteen years ago in Israel there were almost no thefts, and there were no murders, there was no prostitution. Now instead we have everything, everything. And it’s something that breaks your heart[.]
So too, Iran.