America has endured the exhaustion of a decade of war and the insult of a battered economy. Now many Americans reject all foreign entanglements as expensive, fruitless and, ultimately, futile.
In a recent Pew Research poll, 80% of those answering agreed with the statement, "We should not think so much in international terms but concentrate more on our own national problems and building up our strength and prosperity here at home."
For the first time since Pew began asking the question in 1964, more than half said they believed "the U.S. should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own." In the past that figure has topped out around 40%.
Yet even as Americans work to draw the blinds along the nation's borders, the country celebrates the life of former South African President Nelson Mandela, a leader who looked relentlessly outward.
"Our human compassion binds us the one to the other," Mandela is quoted as saying, "not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learned how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future."