Skip to comments.For A Return To American Exceptionalism
Posted on 08/26/2010 4:36:06 PM PDT by Kaslin
During an interview last year, when asked if he believed in American exceptionalism, President Obama replied, "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."
It is remarkable that the first black president would not recognize American exceptionalism simply by looking in the mirror. President Obama's election is itself a prime example of American exceptionalism.
To understand what makes America unique, we must look to history. Our nation was largely settled by the English, who came to the new world with a unique legal culture based on the Magna Carta, which was the foundation for the rights of all Englishmen.
The settlers also brought a commitment to making money, as the colonies were commercial propositions. By making money for investors in England, the colonists created wealth for themselves. Separated from England by thousands of miles, the self-reliance needed to live in America's frontier communities and to begin new lives had major political implications that ultimately led to a revolt against English authority.
The outcome of the American Revolution boosted the elements of American exceptionalism and led to its most fundamental element: the first national constitution in history. Our Constitution reflects key elements of American exceptionalism, which led to the development of the wealthiest and strongest nation in the world.
The Constitution creates a federal union, allowing for local experimentation. It ensures "a republican form of government," which means, as President Lincoln said, "a government by the people, of the people, and for the people."
(Excerpt) Read more at investors.com ...
I really liked that answer because it shows so clearly exactly how smart Obama thinks he is and, at the same time, how smart he actually is.
I was never convinced that he is smart. The point is the idiots who voted for him were ignorant (and many still are)
Greek exceptionalism -- the beginnings of free inquiry and free institutions versus Asiatic despotism. If ancient Greek armies and navies hadn't beaten the Persian invaders, Western civilization would have been crushed in its early years.
Brit exceptionalism -- the fight for political freedom against European despotism and British monarchs claiming absolute power. Our freedom is rooted in Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights and the philosophy of Locke.
Obama left out Hebrew exceptionalism. An equally important contribution.
As they put it,
It was, to simplify, the most individualistic elements of English society basically, dissenting low-church Protestants who came to the eastern seaboard of North America. And the most liberal fringe of English political thought, the anti-court country Whigs and republican theorists such as James Harrington, came to predominate here. All of this made America an outlier compared with England, which was an outlier compared with Europe.
Obama misses the point that our exceptional country was made up of the best from many nations. Nobody thought it necessary to teach Barry actual history? No wonder he acts like an ignoramus - he’s ignorant.
Look at it in terms of people. Somebody who has good ideas and right principles will impress others by acting upon them and living up to them. Somebody who keeps talking about how different and special and unique he is can be really irritating.
American exceptionalism is like the "Anglosphere" -- an idea based on the exceptionalism of the English-speaking peoples. You can believe in the idea and act on it -- it could very well be true -- but if you talk about it too much it will really get on people's nerves.
Moreover, Smith is arguing in a circle. Look at his conclusion: "By returning to the ideas that underlie American exceptionalism, we can again lead the world." But if we are truly exceptional, truly different from other countries, then it's going to be harder for us to "lead" them anywhere.
If we should be leading them anywhere, we'll only be able to do so by talking about what we have in common, not our own uniqueness. If we are truly unique in a good way it will be our example, not our talk of our own exceptionalism that impresses people.
We have let others call that teaching a myth and those myth makers are running the country.
And physical culture, which we recognize as athleticism (good Greek word, aqloV meaning "deed, feat"). The Marathon run, for example, and the uniquely Greek shield race.
You're talking about the verisimilitude of the salesman, not leadership. About "building dialogue" and all that liberal claptrap. The author is talking about showing people who don't know, how to design a community sewer system and to get their minds around ideas hitherto unguessed-at in their culture, like rise and run -- engineering concepts foreign to them. And concepts unique in the "Anglosphere", like equity, fair play, and equal justice under law and why they are good for you, no matter what dialect your great-grandfather spoke.
Rhetoric, the art of persuasion was quite important in politics. It still is, but nowadays people seem to get off more on antagonism, thinking it's more honest.
It's easy to put down persuasion, but if you don't know how to put things in a sellable form you may be a deeper thinker, or you may just be muddled.
The author is talking about showing people who don't know, how to design a community sewer system and to get their minds around ideas hitherto unguessed-at in their culture, like rise and run -- engineering concepts foreign to them.
But then talk of "exceptionalism" or uniqueness is out of place. If you want to say, here's a formula for building a decent society, fine, but the more you get into saying that this is our unique model that belongs to us, the less likely you are to win people over.
Too much talk of American exceptionalism looks like an attempt to convince oneself of something. If you really believe in the country and its values, you aren't so desperate to prove that we are unique.
With international conspirators and domestic degenerates cooperating at multiple levels to overreach America as an idea and as a polity, and reduce people again to early-modern acceptance of Leviathan and the uniquely credentialed empowerment of benevolent autocrats and the societal soundness of privilege, class, and perquisite, why would anyone be anxious about our chances of pulling through against a host of enemies armed not just with money and thermonuclear weapons, but with the black arts of conspiracy, treason, and cabal?
Huh? That's the thing about "American exceptionalism," though. People use to mean all kinds of things, to mean everything and nothing.
American exceptionalism started with the idea that we were an exception to the way things were in the rest of the world, but lately more and more politicians use it to mean that we are exceptional, a model and an example for the rest of the world to follow.
The first concept was defensive and isolationist, the second is expansionist. The concepts can be contradictory, and it's not always easy to follow what people mean when they use the expression. If we really are a model, we aren't going to be an isolated exception. If we want to be left alone, we can't demand a right to lead people anywhere.
My point was that the world has become more "American" over recent decades. It may not go that deeply -- farmers in China or India or the Congo or Peru may remain as they always were. It may not be irreversible. It may not be an "America" you like, but American popular culture and American consumerism have had great influence on the rest of the world.
Ideas like "American exceptionalism" and the "Anglosphere" have a defensive, protectionist, or isolationist tendency. I don't quarrel with that. It may be the right way to go.
But you can't retreat into yourself and then demand the right to "lead" them somewhere. That's another reason why this debate about American exceptionalism tends to be confused and confusing.
But "American exceptionalism" has also become an advertising slogan. You might accept it because you don't want change or because you want a return to how things were, but once you buy the product, you get told part of our exceptionalism is the necessity of spreading freedom or democracy to the rest of the world, that it's up to us to "lead the world." Not only does that get us into a variety of foreign involvements that may or may not be for the best, it also means changes at home.
So the contrast you're making between "selling" America to foreigners and retaining a proud exceptionalism doesn't pan out in practice. Whether it's John F. Kennedy or George W. Bush, talk of American exceptionalism does mean entanglements abroad and changes at home.
I'm not saying that isolation or intervention or exceptionalism or unexceptionalism is good or bad in itself. A lot hangs on the particular situation. What I'm saying is that when you buy the slogan you also end up with a lot of stuff you may not have wanted to begin with.
I don't disagree with the bulk of what Congressman Smith is saying, but it was striking to me how things that may not be expected or desired by people can creep into op-eds like this.
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