WHAT IS AMERICAN ‘EXCEPTIONALISM’?

Happy Indpendence Day!

Anyone who watches Fox News will hear the term “American Exceptionalism.”   When I first heard the words it seemed to me it was aa mushy phrase without much defined meaning.  Then a meaning of sorts began to emerge. American “Exceptionalism” has two elements.  First, it means that God looks on America with special favour.  Secondly, America has a divine mission to spread freedom through the world.

Does American “exceptionalism” make any sense?   Let’s look at the record.  The United States got into the First World War late.  It got into the secondworld war only after it was attacked.  It screwed up the Vietnam war. 

The one time I can remember that the United States covered itself with glory was the Marshall plan after the secondworld war to rebuild Europe.  In  Many ways, that was America’s finest hour.

Signifcantly, when Obama was asked about American “exceptionalism”, he answered that other coutires prbably felt exceptional too.  The Fox  gang excoriated him for this.

I think American “exceptionalism” is rubbish.  But make no mistake about it.  This benighted belief affects American policy – both foreign and domestic.

Is there such a thing as American “Exceptionalism”?

What do you think?

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25 Comments »

  1. Could this be just another way of stating the “immanent destiny” invoked by the Founding Fathers”?

  2. 2
    Barbara Says:

    My take (for what it is worth) is that American Exceptionalism comes out of its history, especially of immigration and its educational system, not originally from a fundamentalist take on US history. The USA exists because of a revolution, unlike Canada. It has a Constitution which is the model for others around the world. Many, many USAmericans are the children or grandchildren of immigrants, people who sought a better life on its shores. Think of the special place that the Statue of Liberty has in the USAmerican psyche. The children of those immigrants were embraced in the much maligned melting pot and they did better than their parents. It was a dream come true for many. To help integrate those children, the educational system emphasized the greatness of the USA, painted its wars in glorious technicolour. People grew up believing this was the Promised Land and imagining that the folks in other countries must be miserable and yearning to join us. The majority of USAmericans did not have the opportunity to travel and disprove that theory, as did President Obama.

    It is only recently that the fundies have jumped on that bandwagon and brought God into the argument with such vehemence. You watch too much Fox News, Neil. They pander.

  3. 3
    Neil McKenty Says:

    I appreciate your thoughtful comment, B arbara, but when all is said and done does gthe United States have an “exceptionalism” that Canada lacks?

  4. 4
    Barbara Says:

    I don’t think so, Neil. Canada has its own version of “exceptionalism” based on moral superiority rather than economic and military prowess. At least that is my observation.

  5. Moral supoeriority? Not for long since Harper can do whatever he wants.

  6. 6
    littlepatti Says:

    Yes! The United States has 10 times more “exceptionalism” than Canada has.

  7. 7

    I wish Barry would practise what he preached.

    If he doesn’t think much of American Exceptionalism, why the hell is he is bombing innocent civilians in Libya?

  8. 8

    No, Canada has absolutely no sort of “exceptionalism”.

    The only value Canada has is as a pool of natural resources for the Americans. And that’s the way it should be. We are a useless country with no national purpose or national will.

    Any country that allows a law such as Bill 101 to exist doesn’t itself deserve to exist.

  9. 9
    Heidi Gulatee Says:

    Tony,
    this is a country I love. It is not perfect but there are lots of people that want to live here. We do have freedom of speech and freedom of movement and I find especially Montreal has so many kind people. While the patriotismus is more low key Canada has a lot that many people could learn from. I am not especially exsited about bill 101 since my son was forced to go to French school but now he is a grown up and has 4 languages that he has at his disposition. I also think every Quebecker shoul know English and French. It is a real plus to find a job. Montreal is an exciting city with so many cultures and most of the time people live peacefully beside eachother,

  10. 10
    jim Says:

    Before they were USers, they were against everything in their homeland. Once they landed in the U.S., they drummed up exceptionalism with exceptions, and these exceptions apply domestically.They say they are against the aristocracy – well what’s with the “Senators” stolen from Rome. What’s with the “ll, lll,llll”, as in Rochefellers stolen from the Brits, when they said they didn’t want anything that smelled hereditary. What’s with “Major-General, Lieutenant-General, Corporal, Sergeant, etc, also stolen..Then look at all the names they imported from the U.K. “Hampshire, York, Virginia,” etc. In England one does not become “un-English” because nationality is related to the community. In the U.S., with exceptionalism being an ideological commitment one might be painted as “un-American”, ask Jane Fonda.
    So their society is based on a lot of hot air. It all started with the Constitution where coloured people were recognized as being “less than” and they did not all get to vote. Only three-fifths of the blacks had that privelege. From there on it was all “I’m for me and screw you”.

  11. 11

    Heidi:

    Bill 101 is such an abomination that I believe either it should go or Quebec should go (even if that means the country of Canada eventually breaks up).

    If you’re interested, you can click on my name and you’ll see all the reasons why I believe this.

  12. 12
    Neil McKenty Says:

    Tony,

    You are entitled to your view of the language laws. But I never run into any Quebecers of any political stripe who share your views.

  13. 13

    Neil,

    Of course you don’t run into any Quebecers who share my views.

    They all left Quebec!

  14. 14
    littlepatti Says:

    Tony-
    Your rhetoric is so hateful.
    Too bad because you have a certain amount of intelligence, that shines through the vile opinions once in awhile.

    I echo Heidi’s Gulatee’s opinion. Thanks Heidi.

  15. 15

    littlepatti:

    It is quite easy to accuse someone of “hateful” rhetoric. It is a tactic used by people who have no reasoned arguments to give in a debate, so they resort to baseless accusations.

    But now the onus is on you to show exactly where and when I used hateful rhetoric.

    I challenge you to do this, if you can.

  16. 16
    jim Says:

    Tony – Clicking on your name will only indicate that you are a negative person. Your a person who did not stay to help with the injustices you speak of in Quebec. Theodore Roosevelt probably had someone like you in mind when he said “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” Come back to Quebec Tony and fight the good fight. Dueling with frozen horse manure balls at 30 feet is much more invigorating at the crack of dawn than sitting on a park bench in Vancouver’s Stanley Park with all the losers from Eastern Canada who wouldn’t be living in boring B.C. if there had of been someplace else to go West of Vancouver Island.

  17. 17

    jim:

    If you knew my history fighting the “injustices” you wouldn’t make the suggestions that you do.

    And what, pray tell, is “negative” about anything I wrote…other than the fact that you disagree with it?

  18. 18
    jim Says:

    Tony – There is an old adage that says “do people reveal who they are when they take their clothes off, or when they put them on.”.
    You see, your “injustices” are mainly antiestablishment biases. That sells. But to me shit happens, and I’d rather live on the edge, than live in a vacuum.
    Your thinking runs against the flow, continually or continously, of egalitarian agreements.
    Generally speaking, you seem to tear things down, and then what?
    Tony – Let’s test your mettle. Tell me one good thing about people in Quebec (excluding our classy women, which is a given).

  19. 19

    Jim, there is much more “edge” to Tony’s being antiestablishment than there is in your living in the middle of the stream and going with the flow.

    In Tony’s defense, he’s an individual, with his own views, and he has no hesitation about stating them. I do not always agree with him, nor he with me, but that’s allowed; and so are his views. If he appears negative to you, perhaps you should consider that your way of things is negative to him…?

  20. 20
    littlepatti Says:

    “The only value Canada has is…” “we are a useless country”…”doesn’t deserve to exist”
    I would call that hateful rhetoric. “doesn’t deserve to exist???” I would say that is crossing the line and is reminiscent of a very bad man…
    But hey! That’s YOUR opinion: Usually vile.
    That’s MY opinion.

  21. 21
    jim Says:

    Lady J — Where did you get the idea that I go with the flow? When one lives on the edge in Quebec, one watches the passing parade and makes notes. One may see an opportunity to influence an upcoming election and makes plans, organizes, then controls events leading up to voting day. For instance 3 days prior to voting day on the referendum there was a mass demonstration with a huge flag on Canada Square in Montreal. Did this demo influence the 60,000 votes that the referendum to stay in Quebec was won by? Lady J you’ve gotta be sitting on the edge and ready to spring into action.
    Your second paragraph is old hat. Not necessary to have written it
    Tony – You’re in deep doodoo. Watch out, Lady J writes that she is defending you. Lock the doors.

  22. 22

    littlepattie says that the following quotes of mine are evidence of “hateful rhetoric”:

    “The only value Canada has is…” “we are a useless country”…”doesn’t deserve to exist”

    If that’s the best you can come up with, I really have nothing to say, littlepattie. That’s “hateful”? Really?

    If that is your standard for “hateful” I can only imagine what you feel about Neil’s descriptions of the Tea Party and other Republicans.

    You can do better than that.

  23. 23

    jim:

    Quebec is my home and it is the only place on Earth that I feel 100% comfortable.

    But the Quebec I love is an ethnic Quebec, made up of all different groups: French, English, Jewish, Greek, Italian, Black, etc.

    But Bill 101 has segregated us. You are all right with that; I’m not. There’s nothing antiestablishment about it. What I say make people feel uncomfortable because the ROC is so afraid that Quebec will break up their beloved country that they put up with the race law/hate law Bill 101.

    I won’t.

    And I’ll call a spade a spade if I have to…and support the break-up of Canada if that is what will get equality and the elimination of Bill 101 in Quebec.

    Damn Canada for not protecting its minorities and putting up with this bullshit blackmail.

  24. 24
    littlepatti Says:

    I think that’s called “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.
    I think that Quebec will survive, despite some dumb-dumbs running the government.
    I too love it here and am frequently reminded that I did have a choice to leave at one time. I stayed, and am frequently reminded that I should have left to get out of the constant political fray (it’s wearing). Now, I don’t have that choice. My children have their roots here and if they moved to Timbuktu, I would follow-no signs of that, yet!
    BTW: Jim-I was at the Canada support day in 1995. What a day! The referendum was won, but I still wonder about all the “spoiled” ballots & why that wasn’t investigated.

  25. 25
    jim Says:

    Tony – If Quebec is your home, when was the last time you mowed the lawn.
    You said that “What I say make people feel uncomfortable….”, Tony you are giving yourself too much importance. You say “A spade is a spade”, that may be so but you have dug yourself a hole as demonstrated by the negative repetitiveness of your last comment. Your swan song is dead. Bury it in the hole you’ve dug. Tony, your name sounds Greek to me. Suppose that the province had been populated by Greeks instead of the French (God forbid) would you not want to have your own country here? The Greeks, the originators of Democracy, would they say let’s drop our heritage notion in Canada and become Canadians or would they done what the French Canadians have done thru accomodation?


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