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Thu Sep 19, 2013, 01:04 PM

Why American Exceptionalism Is a Dangerous Sham

Why American Exceptionalism Is a Dangerous Sham
Perhaps we're not the hero of every story and God has not blessed us over all others.
The American Prospect via Alternet * By Paul Waldman * September 18, 2013

In a democracy, politicians seldom counsel the public to be modest. They flatter and praise the voters, telling them that they are just and wise, hardworking and principled, possessed of boundless vision and common sense. And here in America at least, they also generalize those virtues from the people to the nation itself. America, Americans are endlessly reassured, is unique and special among the world's countries. It isn't just that we're the most important country, which is undeniable, since we have the biggest economy, the biggest (and most frequently deployed) military, and the most influential popular culture. Those things could change someday. Instead, what voters are told over and over again is that we're "exceptional." We're not just stronger or richer; we're better. Indeed, we're stronger and richer because we're better. And we may well be exceptional in how often we're told that we're exceptional. My knowledge of the electoral politics of other nations may be limited, but I don't recall hearing about presidential candidates in Portugal or Peru who feel the need to convince voters that their country is superior to all others and they are the world's best people.

So some people were taken aback last week when Vladimir Putin, in his op-ed inThe New York Times last week, took exception to Barack Obama's talk of exceptionalism. "I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States' policy is 'what makes America different. It's what makes us exceptional,'" Putin wrote. "It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation." He probably didn't realize that every American president says that sort of thing; it's our national program to build self-esteem. That's how politicians put a gold star sticker on our papers, pat us the head and tell us that we're smart and kind and good-looking, and if the other countries don't like us then that's their problem, not ours.

It was a bit amusing to see Barack Obama being chastised by Putin for his comments on American exceptionalism, since it put conservatives in the uncomfortable position of defending the president for the very thing they spent so much time criticizing him for in the past. It seems like a distant memory now, but Republicans spent most of their 2012 presidential primary competing to see who was most appalled by Obama's allegedly insufficient belief in America's uniqueness. There was barely a Republican contender's stump speech that didn't feature thunderous insistence that, unlike that anti-American socialist in the White House, they knew deep in their red, white, and blue bones that this great land stands alone. Mitt Romney titled his book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness; Newt Gingrich offered A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters. "America is different," wrote Tim Pawlenty in his book. "And what makes us different makes us great. Barack Obama doesn't see it that way." Or as Sarah Palin put it in her inspiring tome America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag, Obama "seems to see nothing admirable in the American experience."

http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/why-american-exceptionalism-dangerous-sham

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Reply Why American Exceptionalism Is a Dangerous Sham (Original post)
99th_Monkey Sep 2013 OP
gordianot Sep 2013 #1
Ash_F Sep 2013 #2
yurbud Sep 2013 #8
uriel1972 Sep 2013 #3
JayhawkSD Sep 2013 #4
FiveGoodMen Sep 2013 #5
99th_Monkey Sep 2013 #6
Aristus Sep 2013 #9
LineNew Reply .
blkmusclmachine Sep 2013 #7

Response to 99th_Monkey (Original post)

Thu Sep 19, 2013, 01:13 PM

1. There have been times a case could be made for American exceptionalism, those times are fading.

Republicans are living proof that they are probably gone forever.

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Response to gordianot (Reply #1)

Fri Sep 20, 2013, 03:18 AM

2. Yep, half of this country is Republican

It can't be THAT exceptional.

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Response to gordianot (Reply #1)

Sat Sep 21, 2013, 12:33 AM

8. Republicans are trying to make us a really big third world country

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Response to 99th_Monkey (Original post)

Fri Sep 20, 2013, 03:26 AM

3. "You are not a unique and special snowflake."... nt

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Response to 99th_Monkey (Original post)

Fri Sep 20, 2013, 09:34 AM

4. The dangerous, and seldom mentioned aspect of exceptionalism

is that which makes it okay for us to do things which we declaim as evil when others do it.

We can use white phosporous, napalm, agent orange and tear gas against our enemies, and call it evil when others use chemical weapons.

We can drop nuclear weapons on the innocent civilians of two cities, and call it evil for another nation to even possess those weapons.

We can start wars of agression, and label it war crimes when other nations do likewise.

We can do these things because we are exceptional. That's what exceptional means. It does not mean "better than," it means "not bound by." That's why Putin says, correctly, that it is dangerous to tell the people of a nation that they and their nation are "exceptional." You are telling them that they are not bound by the rules of civilized nations.

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Response to JayhawkSD (Reply #4)

Fri Sep 20, 2013, 02:47 PM

5. Very well put!

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Response to JayhawkSD (Reply #4)

Fri Sep 20, 2013, 03:14 PM

6. I totally agree. US-exceptionalism is at the root of much evil

because it blinds us with delusions of grandeur.

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Response to JayhawkSD (Reply #4)

Mon Sep 23, 2013, 11:24 AM

9. Very well said.

Not to mention: everything we have, we stole from someone else.

That's not exceptional. Over-powerful nations have been doing that for thousands of years...

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Response to 99th_Monkey (Original post)

Fri Sep 20, 2013, 09:07 PM

7. .

.

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