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View Diary: We don't need more cheerleading in America (153 comments)

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  •  American exceptionalism may well always have been (1+ / 0-)
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    understood in two different ways. The interpretation more common among liberals and progressives is "America is special because it is the birth place of modern democratic republicanism in the world. So when we fight for America, we don't just fight for a country, we find for an idea, the torch of freedom in the world." Of course, as BBB points out, the legitimacy of this interpretation has constantly changed with the particular historic context. It took on a very different meaning during the Cold War era than at any time before, and in our day and age, with democracy being well ensconced in Europe, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and many other places, it actually runs into a new paradox: America has become an actual obstacle to the process of creating stable democratic institutions for the international community - and ironically America has become an obstacle to this process precisely in the name of American exceptionalism.

    Meanwhile, the competing interpretation of American exceptionalism, which probably has been around just as long, and which doubtlessly is more common among conservatives than among liberals, is what others upthread have denounced as racism - the idea that America is destined to build a global empire because Americans are smarter and more industrious than other people.

    Of course, this second interpretation is imperialist. What makes it arguably exceptionally (pun generously accepted) and tragically stupid for Americans to fall for this idea is that they have met and defeated that very same belief before, when it was tested by other nations trying to build their empires fueled by imaginary cultural and/or racial superiority: Great Britain, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan come to mind.

    "Will the highways of the internet become more few?"
    - GWB asketh, Verizon/Google answereth

    by brainwave on Sun Dec 05, 2010 at 08:04:19 PM PST

    •  There's no difference between the two. (0+ / 0-)

      They're both essentially lies.

      The US isn't the "birth place" of modern democratic republicanism, unless you define it that way. It's part of a historic movement -- a movement that developed from Cromwell's English revolution, Calvin's theocratic republic, that was also occurring simultaneously in France, that was in active struggle in the Spanish colonies.

      It's this very picking out of our particular strand as something over and above what everyone else did and does, that is a fallacy that naturally implies the right-wing variation. It's just a lefty version of Palin, a tool for power and authority under pretty words.

      Both interpretations, in practice, are imperialist. The lefty version is just more subtle -- but at the end of the day, somehow we are magically special, our ideas are supernatural, and our leaders are justified in their expansionary tactics by referring to this.

      Lies are not of value. There is no irony here -- just the natural result of breaking context and history.

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