American politicians forever talk about the nation’s “exceptionalism,” a special greatness that sets the U.S.A. apart from all others. But this jingoism requires whitewashing much of U.S. history and ignoring much of the present, too, says Lawrence Davidson.
By Lawrence Davidson
Everyone wants to be exceptional, to be special, to be great at something. Parents spend a lot of time assuring their children that they are indeed exceptional, even though they often know that the their offspring will spend their working lives selling mattresses or cars.
When it comes to individuals there is a very wide range of achievements that can make you stand out. Everyone can be exceptional in some way or other. Yet it is not only individuals who need to feel themselves exceptional or great.
It seems that entire nations, working at some level of collective consciousness, yearn for this status as well. This is particularly true of the citizenry of the USA, who are often told by their politicians that their country is exceptional, special, great – the most talented child in the family of nations.
The nation that can provide these primary needs for its people is well on its way to greatness. Indeed, the other things that Americans so value, such as freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights or even the right to vote, are only fully convincing as “inalienable rights” when you are not chronically hungry and your kids aren’t dying of curable diseases. ...............(more)