Skip to comments.America: A Nation Apart (We're #1! We're #1!)
Posted on 11/08/2003 6:26:47 PM PST by quidnunc
At nine o'clock on the morning of September 11th 2001, President George Bush sat in an elementary school in Sarasota, Florida, listening to seven-year-olds read stories about goats. Night fell on a different world, he said of that day. And on a different America.
At first, America and the world seemed to change together. We are all New Yorkers now, ran an e-mail from Berlin that day, mirroring John F. Kennedy's declaration 40 years earlier, Ich bin ein Berliner, and predicting Le Monde's headline the next day, Nous sommes tous Américains. And America, for its part, seemed to become more like other countries. Al-Qaeda's strikes, the first on the country's mainland by a foreign enemy, stripped away something unique: its aura of invulnerability, its sense of itself as a place apart, the city on a hill.
Two days after the event, President George Bush senior predicted that, like Pearl Harbour, so, too, should this most recent surprise attack erase the concept in some quarters that America can somehow go it alone. Francis Fukuyama, a professor at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University, suggested that America may become a more ordinary country in the sense of having concrete interests and real vulnerabilities, rather than thinking itself unilaterally able to define the nature of the world it lives in.
Both men were thinking about foreign policy. But global terrorism changed America at home as well. Because it made national security more important, it enhanced the role of the president and the federal government. Twice as many Americans as in the 1990s now say that they are paying a lot of attention to national affairs, where they used to care more about business and local stories. Some observers noted a return to seriousness and indeed frivolities do not dominate television news as they used to.
But America has not become a more ordinary country, either in foreign policy or in the domestic arena. Instead, this survey will argue that the attacks of 2001 have increased American exceptionalism a phrase coined by Alexis de Tocqueville in the mid-19th century to describe America's profound differences from other nations. The features that the attacks brought to the surface were already there, but the Bush administration has amplified them. As a result, in the past two years the differences between America and other countries have become more pronounced.
Yet because America is not a homogeneous country indeed, its heterogeneity is one of its most striking features many of its people feel uneasy about manifestations of exceptionalism. Hence, as this survey will also argue, the revival and expansion of American exceptionalism will prove divisive at home. This division will define domestic politics for years to come.
From the outside, the best indication of American exceptionalism is military power. America spends more on defence than the next dozen countries combined. In the nearest approach to an explicit endorsement of exceptionalism in the public domain, the National Security Strategy of 2002 says America must ensure that its current military dominance often described as the greatest since Rome's is not even challenged, let alone surpassed.
In fact, military might is only a symptom of what makes America itself unusual. The country is exceptional in more profound ways. It is more strongly individualistic than Europe, more patriotic, more religious and culturally more conservative (see chart 1). Al-Qaeda's assaults stimulated two of these deeper characteristics. In the wake of the attacks, expressions of both love of country and love of God spiked. This did not necessarily mean Americans suddenly became more patriotic or religious. Rather, the spike was a reminder of what is important to them. It was like a bolt of lightning, briefly illuminating the landscape but not changing it.
The president seized on these manifestations of the American spirit. The day after he had defined America's enemies in his axis of evil speech, in January 2002, Mr Bush told an audience in Daytona Beach, Florida, about his country's mission in the world. We're fighting for freedom, and civilisation and universal values. That is one strand of American exceptionalism. America is the purest example of a nation founded upon universal values, such as democracy and human rights. It is a standard-bearer, an exemplar.
But the president went further, seeking to change America's culture and values in ways that would make the country still more distinctive. We've got a great opportunity, he said at Daytona. As a result of evil, there's some amazing things that are taking place in America. People have begun to challenge the culture of the past that said, If it feels good, do it'. This great nation has a chance to help change the culture. He was appealing to old-fashioned virtues of personal responsibility, self-reliance and restraint, qualities associated with a strand of exceptionalism that says American values and institutions are different and America is exceptional in its essence, not just because it is a standard-bearer.
On this view, America is not exceptional because it is powerful; America is powerful because it is exceptional. And because what makes America different also keeps it rich and powerful, an administration that encourages American wealth and power will tend to encourage intrinsic exceptionalism. Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations dubs this impulse American revivalism. It is not an explicit ideology but a pattern of beliefs, attitudes and instincts.
(Excerpt) Read more at economist.com ...
No one knows which of these ideas will be more influential in the world in future: America's top-dog exceptionalism or the EU's basket of squealing puppies.
How true. Excellent article.
In the 2000 election, 63% of those who went to church more than once a week voted for George Bush; 61% of those who never went voted for Al Gore. About 70% of those who said abortion should always be available voted for Mr Gore; 74% of those who said it should always be illegal voted for Mr Bush. As Pete du Pont, a former governor of Delaware, pointed out, a map showing the sales and rentals of porn movies bore an eerie resemblance to the map of the 2000 election results.
Indeed, for even more of them, Europe is decadent and self-destructive.
Later, maybe - I'm going to have to chew on this one awhile.
Does he mean this exceptionalism will cause trouble on the national political scene for decades to come because that exceptionalism has become deluted as the nation has balkanized?
Maybe politicans like Clinton had better weigh the cost of the loss of that exceptionalism before embracing and proclaiming their desire to bring to an end the dominance of the european culture in this nation.
Very true. This is a passage from the article previous to the posted:
In 1929, Jay Lovestone, the head of the American communist party, was summoned to Moscow. Stalin demanded to know why the worldwide communist revolution had advanced not one step in the largest capitalist country. Lovestone replied that America lacked the preconditions for communism, such as feudalism and aristocracy. No less an authority than Friedrich Engels had said the same thing, talking of the special American conditions...which make bourgeois conditions look like a beau idéal to them. So had an Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, and a British socialist, H.G. Wells, who had both argued that America's unique origins had produced a distinctive value system and unusual politics.
Works for me.
Two charts are very interesting. One shows the collapse in Democratic Party identification from roughly 50% to roughly 30% between the election of Jimmy Carter and the end of the Reagan administration. The second was Democrat approval of President Bush. This spiked to very high levels after 9/11, but has fallen in straight line fashion ever since to below 20% today. The great majority of Democrats cannot tolerate a President who will actively defend the American people and interest. They are the Party of Treason. If the patriots in that party, such as Zell Miller, can be brought into the Republican fold, a major realignment of the body politic will be complete. Conservatives need to argue for a limited government agenda within that realignment.
I trust that to mean divisions within the country. It sounds soooooo leftist. I disagree that President Bush exaggerated existing divisions. Look at the left's "issue" du jour. Sixteen words, "imminent" threat, "Mission Accomplished!" banner, and many more. "Issues" are weapons. I watched the left destroy the Vietnam era wartime administration. They are trying to do it again. That was one reason we lost the Vietnam war here not in Vietnam.
Not all Americans agree that exceptional is good.
Robert Jensen, an employee of the journalism school at the University of Texas at Austin, says journalism should never yield to patriotism. It is journalism's job he suggests to bring every American to ask: Can we move beyond being American?
Why should we do that? Well, you see "Given the destructive capacity of the United States -- and our history of using it in the interests of power, not people -- never before has our answer been more important."
Others of his ilk agree and they are the majority in many mainstream sectors. It is the European chattering class attitude. It is here also and it is potent. They are one.
Even another 9/11 will not unite us, our left will blame America -- again!
Unlike the Vietnam war this one is for all the marbles. It's bad enough that it's turned into another politicians' war where PC is the scourge while the politicians' "graduated response" was it for Vietnam.
There is only one option. A temporary patriot-dictator to lead America through our early 21st century wars. If President Bush won't do it then we need to have another man step forward.
Perhaps if I had not seen the political quagmire of the Vietnam era I too would recoil at losing constitutional rights even temporarily. IMO if we want to keep our exceptional Nation we must take exceptional actions.
How to make it happen? One way might be to force the left into violent action by bringing back 1950s congressional investigations of their loyalty. A more risky way is a Democrat in the White House and trust patriots in the military and law enforcement to watch him (her?) closely and act to protect our Republic. These are interesting times.
Oh, lest we forget. There's Red China looking our way.