This week, America took the first steps back towards realizing the ideals “for which it stands.” We have once again declared that our policy and practice does not permit torture.

America has historically been known as a country that behaved with honor and dignity. We didn’t “play dirty.” Americans fought and won the hard fights, fairly. We won through superior strength that included a certain bit of moral superiority as well as our powerful military might.

There have been exceptions throughout our history, and I guess we’ve just come through another of those times. For a while, early in the 21st century, we lost our way. We forgot what it meant to be a moral compass, a standard by which the rest of the world judged appropriate behavior, especially in times of conflict.

I grew up in the shadow of WWII. Television shows featured the war, from the desert (Rat Patrol), to the battlefields of Europe (Combat!) and beyond. We played war games, sans computers, when I was of that age. Even as kids, we knew the difference between right and wrong!

One thing has always stood out in our history. Americans, with rare exception, acted with honor. We were better than those who engaged in torture, who killed prisoners — directly or through indifference, and otherwise turned away from the standards of moral behavior.

This week, by once again affirming that America knows the difference between right and wrong, and by declaring that we will no longer torture as a matter of policy, we’ve taken a powerful first step back towards reclaiming our standing as a nation that “does the right thing.” We’ll never be perfect, but we’ll also never stop trying to achieve the greatness that is within our capabilities.

As a result, I’m very proud that my country took the first steps back towards the ideals “for which it stands” and look forward to regaining our place on the world stage as a country to be admired and emulated, not pitied and scorned.