On American Exceptionalism

purelyspeculationIn our recent article on ‘On Combatting Jihad’ (Link), we explained that if the ‘Western World’ was to successfully combat the tides of Jihad, their best breakwater would be not in armaments, but in exceptional and inspiring ideas. Well don’t take it from us—this sentiment was recently echoed by President Obama himself (Source).

But the main problem with this goal is that by a great majority, it is already deemed accomplished.

You hear it all the time: America is exceptional. Hell, it’s so ubiquitous as to merit its own definition on Wikipedia (Link). It’s right at the head of the article: “American exceptionalism is the theory that the United States is inherently different from other nations.”

Well, this at least may be true.

As the first ‘new nation’, it has long been assumed that America represented an opportunity to redefine what a country could be: Both within its borders, and as a beacon to the world without.

Again, it can hardly be argued that this opportunity has long been afforded to, and occasionally even seized by America. But the problem here is the built in assumption of positive affect. ‘America is exceptional’ is virtually always taken to mean ‘America is Great’, or ‘America is better’. It’s repeated ad nauseum, and finally taken to be axiomatic fact—that is to say, it’s taken as true by its very nature, and no longer are facts needed to support the notion.

There is nothing inherently exceptional about America. Not in the happy-go-lucky, ‘liberty, freedom ra ra ra’ way it’s so often portrayed to be at least. Of course, the key word there is ‘inherently’. Certainly, America has the potential to be exceptional. They are no different in that respect from any other country in the world. But to be exceptional, one must act in an exceptional way–that is, to take actions and make decisions which are above and beyond the standard. This, America is failing to do, and has been for a long time.

We’ve discussed in several articles, most notably ‘The Global Scale’ (Link) how American Imperialism has a devastating impact on the world at large. Politics driven by the greedy impulses of corporations have shifted this potentially great nation into something far more dark and sinister than was ever envisioned.

Yet it remains common rhetoric to use ‘American Exceptionalism’ as the justification for poor decisions. The assumption is that anything America does is exceptional by definition–because America is exceptional. This is misled, and serves only to justify the continuing trend of poor–and potentially disastrous–decisions.

Here, we see the axiom of American Exceptionalism become tautological, and thus it not only loses its meaning, but becomes a means of bolstering against any positive change. As global politics continue to heat up, and the dream of a future resplendent with peace and prosperity grows ever dimmer, exceptionalism is used as a pacifier, and the placated citizens are endlessly assured that not only are they alright (Link)…but even more damning, that they are, simply, right.

But it is not enough for a nation to claim it’s exceptional because it was founded on the principles of liberty and freedom, as this only allows it to rest on its withering laurels. Rather, one must accept that the country is in decline, and actively work to re-establish that once proud tradition.

America claims to be exceptional, yet falls ever short of being so. What would it take to live up to these claims? There are myriad areas to improve for sure. Rather than the strong focus on overwhelming might, or the ongoing bludgeoning of American Exceptionalism, perhaps it could be shown through greater commitments to issues such as education, infrastructure, debt relief, third world aid, equal rights, etc. If these priorities are seized upon internally, and a greater effort established at promoting them worldwide, then America could again be the beacon of hope it so desperately wishes to be. For these are the hallmarks of a truly great nation, which no flag, slogan, or axiomatic battle-call can ever replace.

-Brad OH Inc.

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