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Sat Mar 10, 2012, 07:54 AM

Why do so many cling to the idea of american exceptionalism?

Something I started thinking about while responding to this thread http://www.democraticunderground.com/1002407164
With our some times less then impressive history what is it that makes wingnuts so hell bent on saying we are the best the Planet has?
I know we have corrected some things such as slavery but even then racism clearly remains and it took almost 200 years to get the civil rights act passed.

46 replies, 6125 views

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Reply Why do so many cling to the idea of american exceptionalism? (Original post)
libtodeath Mar 2012 OP
pipoman Mar 2012 #1
libtodeath Mar 2012 #7
no_hypocrisy Mar 2012 #2
libtodeath Mar 2012 #9
DavidDvorkin Mar 2012 #31
no_hypocrisy Mar 2012 #32
nadinbrzezinski Mar 2012 #3
libtodeath Mar 2012 #8
jwirr Mar 2012 #40
leveymg Mar 2012 #4
nadinbrzezinski Mar 2012 #6
leveymg Mar 2012 #16
nadinbrzezinski Mar 2012 #25
leveymg Mar 2012 #33
dynasaw Mar 2012 #5
oldhippydude Mar 2012 #11
libtodeath Mar 2012 #13
bhikkhu Mar 2012 #10
longship Mar 2012 #12
lumberjack_jeff Mar 2012 #14
HopeHoops Mar 2012 #15
raouldukelives Mar 2012 #17
libtodeath Mar 2012 #19
hughee99 Mar 2012 #18
arely staircase Mar 2012 #39
hughee99 Mar 2012 #41
arely staircase Mar 2012 #42
hughee99 Mar 2012 #43
SATIRical Mar 2012 #20
libtodeath Mar 2012 #21
SATIRical Mar 2012 #23
DisgustipatedinCA Mar 2012 #29
SATIRical Mar 2012 #36
libtodeath Mar 2012 #44
nadinbrzezinski Mar 2012 #30
SATIRical Mar 2012 #35
nadinbrzezinski Mar 2012 #46
Kingofalldems Mar 2012 #34
cottonseed Mar 2012 #22
Zanzoobar Mar 2012 #24
Bigmack Mar 2012 #26
Rex Mar 2012 #27
Tierra_y_Libertad Mar 2012 #28
Robb Mar 2012 #37
Generic Other Mar 2012 #38
iverglas Mar 2012 #45

Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 08:06 AM

1. And I really don't know why so many

wish to discount, disregard or discredit the many very good things the US has contributed to the world we live in.

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Response to pipoman (Reply #1)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 08:35 AM

7. Who is doing that?

Accepting the facts of one doesnt eliminate the other.

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 08:11 AM

2. My theory: It started with competition with The British Empire.

Predicated on a Freudian feeling of inferiority and insignificance and desire to be a competing empire. Then the "exceptionalism" spread to being the dominant country of all countries.

It's just mislabeling exceptionalism for dominance.

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Response to no_hypocrisy (Reply #2)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 08:39 AM

9. That makes sense,thank you.

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Response to no_hypocrisy (Reply #2)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 02:42 PM

31. I think it predates that

Many of the early English colonists felt that they were New Men for a New World and that they were creating something better than the world had seen before. I think that's when it started.

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Response to DavidDvorkin (Reply #31)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 02:45 PM

32. Sounds plausible. I concede.

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 08:16 AM

3. It is not just wing nuts

Many Americans cling to the American myth, which includes Exceptionalism. The idea, and it is mythical, that we are the city on the hill, and all that is part of the Imperial credo.

Yes, the US has done great things, it's contributed to the world in positive ways. Like Rome, England and Spain, oh I forgot the Netherlands and the Middle Kingdom, we have this believe that God selected us (or the gods). Empires cling to this well after the end has come. And like other empires in history we are destined to go down in power, and become a second tier power. The process will be very painful, especially for those who cling to myth and not history.

This is also the reason why many dirty bits of American history, like oh food riots during the 1930s, or the Harlan County War, are rarery found in textbooks. They are contrary to the myth.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #3)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 08:38 AM

8. Wingers are always preaching personal responsibility which means learning from mistakes yet

they refuse to acknowledge and learn from our national ones.
To me true patriotism is saying we were wrong,we are sorry and we can do better.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #3)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 03:58 PM

40. Much of it is learned in grade school and high school history classes. I was a student in the 50s

and we did not learn anything that sounded bad except for the Civil War which ended slavery. We did not learn about slavery - just how we liberated the slaves. Same with the Native American story. That was just ignored.

So if you were in a class like that and did not go on to a higher education that included the truth then you really think we are somehow perfect. Today when we have so much of our higher education targeted at a specific career unlike the four year college degrees I suspect it is even worse. When do we teach real history with a system like we have today?

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 08:22 AM

4. Collective guilt, denial, and scapegoating. It's like Absolution of Sin, there's a

psychological need to revere the people we've destroyed and to assume that we've inherited their virtues and cleansed our own sins in the process. That's why we name our sports teams and attack helicopters after Native American tribes we've annihilated.

Read Rene Girard's, "Violence and the Sacred." You won't look at American History, mass culture, politics, government, wars and foreign policy the same way afterwards.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #4)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 08:28 AM

6. Damn, another book to read!



It is also called institutional violence.

Thanks for book recomendations. I stopped looking at history in a sanitized way a while ago.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #6)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 12:07 PM

16. Go out and get "Violence and the Sacred" today. It's essential and revealing reading.

There will be a snap quiz on Monday!

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Response to leveymg (Reply #16)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 02:17 PM

25. I ordered from amazon

Actually.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #25)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 02:58 PM

33. We'll put off the quiz for a week, then. ;-) Let me know what you think about it

once you've had a chance to digest it.

If you like that one, companion work is by another French political anthropologist, Pierre Claustres, whose Society Against the State (1974), traces a lot of civilization's nastiness -- war, slavery, human sacrifice, capitalism -- through the Mayan example back to the advent of organized agriculture and the resulting need for mass labor, the creation and outfitting of armies to conquer peoples and territory, and internalized social control mechanisms (organized religion and ideologies of power) that enabled landowners to get and stay rich through accumulation of surplus value. One of Claustres great insights was an answer to why man in a state of nature would voluntarily subject himself to the exploitation of another. The answer he says, beyond violent duress, is the attraction of "magical thinking" held by a priestly class who created the myth that some men have higher wisdom. Embrace of the myth of superior intelligence and secret knowledge makes obedience possible, along with the maintenance of those who know how to wield that myth as power over others. Think Alan Greenspan at his height.

Jerod Dimond's book, Collapse (which you may already have) goes with that, whose application of Chaos Theory explains why even little flaws in the original condition of complex social systems will result in sudden, catastrophic collapse -- when people stop believing that the system works, systems built upon surplus value and the manipulation of illusions fall apart.

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 08:24 AM

5. Collective Narcissism

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Response to dynasaw (Reply #5)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 09:12 AM

11. from listening to a couple of my right wing aquaintances

i see it as a tool of projection... where the ends justify the means, ususally in the "gods on our side" theme.. this gives cover for war crimes, environmental destruction, and miriad other destructive consequences..

it ties in well with Christian Dominionism.. after all Jesus is coming to fix everything.. juat believe..

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Response to oldhippydude (Reply #11)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 09:34 AM

13. Then the fundies will run around

with the I hate the sin but love the sinner bullshit while trying to destroy them in the name of god.

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 08:48 AM

10. ...same reason every 3-year old boy thinks he's the fastest runner there is

and 6 year old boys will fight each other over who's dad is "the best", and high schoolers will work themselves into a frenzy at the big-rivalry football game, and so on.

Being an asshat is human nature, to some extent, which in normal circumstances should be cured by a little maturity, experience and reflection. Culturally, we haven't been as good at development as some older societies.

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 09:14 AM

12. A simple case of the contrary

The US had the largest particle accelerator on the planet at Fermilab.

In the early 90's Congress funded the Superconducting Super Collider which was to eclipse any other accelerator in existence or planned, even the now champion of physics technology, the LHC

Here's the story on the SSC. They dug part of 56 mile long tunnel for it in TX at a cost of 2 billion bucks (including significant infrastructure to support it). Then, Congress killed the project over President Clinton's objections. It cost another 2 billion to shut the project down! The argument was that we couldn't afford both the SSC and the ISS, the International Space Station.

So now our excellence in advanced experimental physics has gone over to Europe. And if that wasn't enough, Congress recently shut down the Tevatron, Fermilab's large accelerator which has been at the forefront of physics for decades and still is doing great work including their recent announcement of possible evidence for the Higgs boson

Bummer!

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 11:11 AM

14. Americans do have a lot to be proud of.

Did you know that English citizens didn't have a right to free speech until 1998, and even then the list of exceptions is as long as your arm?

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 11:17 AM

15. We're obviously better because, um, wait. I'll think of it.

 

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 12:34 PM

17. For me it came from my earliest education

From starting the morning with the Pledge on to very positively spun history studies and celebrations of American achievement. Any athletic events held a certain pomp and recital of the National Anthem. I felt like Audie Murphy when I toted that pigskin.
Maybe in the long run that style has created some monsters. I know I continually run into people who still envision history as it was taught to them in the 6th grade.

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Response to raouldukelives (Reply #17)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 12:54 PM

19. Very true

everyone has heard about the alamo and how brave those that fought to defend it were but almost no one understands the mexican american war fought years later when we were the imperialists.

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 12:49 PM

18. Yes, to the national shame, racism clearly remains.

It's amazing that practically all the other countries have managed to completely wipe this out, and yet even with the "exceptionalism" it still remains in America.

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Response to hughee99 (Reply #18)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 03:34 PM

39. practically all other countries have wiped out racism? really? when did this happen?

must have been last night because as of yesterday it seemed to be alive and kicking planet-wide. A bet the Roma people in France and and the few remaining german jews whose graveyards are routinely vandalized by nazis will welcome this news. not to mention abooriginal australians and mexicans of dark indigenous extract.

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Response to arely staircase (Reply #39)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 04:19 PM

41. Sort of my point...

saying that we haven't wiped out racism as evidence of our lack of exceptionalism isn't exactly a compelling argument, as you can find this anywhere else you'd go too. It's not like this is something that many other countries have figured out and we're behind the curve (like, for example, health insurance).

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Response to hughee99 (Reply #41)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 04:24 PM

42. then i misunderstood your point

i thouught you were literally saying the us is the last country where racism is a problem.

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Response to arely staircase (Reply #42)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 04:30 PM

43. Sorry, I actually have a bad habit of forgetting the

and it usually leads to this sort of confusion. My fault.

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 01:20 PM

20. You use racism as an example

 

But it exists in pretty much every other country in the world. Heck, look at the racism issues France is facing. In some other countries, you don't hear much about it because the country is so homogeneous.

So America has a lot of the bad things other countries have, but we do have an amazing record of innovation and development as well as a record for being willing to stick our neck out for what we believe is freedom and liberty for others around the world.

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Response to SATIRical (Reply #20)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 01:28 PM

21. Tell that to the millions of Iraquis and Afghans who have had family killed by us over oil.

I bet they dont have much use for what you think is freedom and liberty for them.

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Response to libtodeath (Reply #21)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 02:03 PM

23. Don't you mean billions?

 

I mean, if you are going to exaggerate, at least go big.

So you think president Obama still has troops in Afghanistan for the oil?

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Response to SATIRical (Reply #23)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 02:35 PM

29. He made a true statement.

Millions of Iraqis and Afghans have had family members killed by the US. Why aren't you able to process and/or admit this?

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Response to DisgustipatedinCA (Reply #29)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 03:15 PM

36. Provide your evidence

 

I provided evidence in the reply above.
Better yet, here is a summary

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Iraq_War

More than half of the collections of data put it in the 100,000 range. A business survey that asked questions (instead of looking at actual physical evidence) came up with over a million.

I'll trust the ones that actually count bodies over one that asks questions.

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Response to SATIRical (Reply #36)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 04:32 PM

44. This article adresses it clearly

http://www.alternet.org/world/123818/

That doesnt even talk about Afghanistan and is from 2009.
I stand by my statement.

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Response to SATIRical (Reply #23)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 02:38 PM

30. According to those who know at least one million Iraqis died

And at least a million afghanis. I have no clue how you do math, but to me it translates to millions.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #30)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 03:13 PM

35. By reliable counts

 

it is 100,000. Notice I did not say "just". 100K is obviously a lot and even one innocent dying is a travesty.

http://www.iraqbodycount.org/

However even by your wrong count it is not millions.

A million is not millions. If I have a cat, I do not have cats. Words mean things and we should use them properly.

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Response to SATIRical (Reply #35)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 05:14 PM

46. Sorry but the UN has calculated deaths in Iraq alone at million plus

Projections from a public health perspective due to depleted Uranium over the course of a generation adds another million.

There is more, 5K American KIA, but between TBI, depression, PTSD and other things you will have to quadruple official WIA. I guess Congressman Filner made those numbers up. And given suicide rates, they will surpass KIA within a year or two.

The American people are lied to regularly. It is also the logic of Empire, in this case a waning one.

I guess the Trillions we have spent already, we haven't either.

By the way, I am paraphrasing at the American people have been lied to and it is high time we are told the truth. Don't worry, none will be foolish enough to do so. At least not yet.

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Response to SATIRical (Reply #23)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 03:09 PM

34. Oops, guess you were wrong.

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 01:30 PM

22. So your view of America is the correct one?

What are you clinging to?

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 02:10 PM

24. There is some history behind it.

 

"Exceptional" doesn't necessarily mean "Better". In this case it means, "as an exception to a rule".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_exceptionalism

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 02:20 PM

26. Because we are an anti-intellectual country....

Historically, we hate smart people.

Read Hofstadter's book... "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life"

We ignore facts that don't tell us how great we are.

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 02:23 PM

27. Ego.

Pompousness, hubris, a false sense of piety.

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 02:29 PM

28. "Patriotism is the most foolish of passions, and the passion of fools." Schopenhauer

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 03:17 PM

37. Anti-anti-anti-intellectualism. Obviously.

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 03:28 PM

38. Krueger Dunning effect

The American Exceptionalism corollary.

Too dumb to assess the facts accurately.

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Response to libtodeath (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 04:49 PM

45. it's a powerful tool for social cohesion

 

and adherence to the policies that benefit those who can persuade others to support them by appealing to this self-image. We are exceptional = we are special, we do everything better than anybody else, we are entitled, and we have nothing to learn from anyone.

Gun control, universal health care and other social welfare measures, labour and employment rights, regulation of various economic activities, protections of vulnerable groups, social justice and equality measures of all kinds, all the rest of the beneficial aspects of the modern world that the most closely comparable societies all enjoy to varying degrees but always to a far greater extent than in the US ... they'd never work in the US, because the US is "exceptional", doncha know.

And as long as allegiance to the mythology of anybody-can-succeed, what benefits the rich benefits us all, can be sustained, then opposition to all the policies that stem from recognizing the falseness of that mythology can also be sustained.

Great masses of ordinary people in the US buy into this delusion that they are the only ones in the world who enjoy true "freedom", and thus that the present economic system by which they are ground into dust is the only bulwark against becoming slaves and subjects like the rest of us out here in the outer darkness. Somehow, the rest of us manage to have less violent, more just societies and have no freedom.

From the wiki:

Historian Gordon Wood has argued, "Our beliefs in liberty, equality, constitutionalism, and the well-being of ordinary people came out of the Revolutionary era. So too did our idea that we Americans are a special people with a special destiny to lead the world toward liberty and democracy."

Somehow, a whole lot of the rest of us have managed to make our own way toward similar goals, and do a hell of a lot better job of it.

Basically, as has been noted on this thread, continuing belief in USAmerican exceptionalism really does depend on ignorance. It would be hard to keep believing that one was leading anybody or anything if one actually saw what was just over the horizon way up in front of one.

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