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Could someone help me out with this vexing question? I try to get my head around something I’ve been hearing a lot: American Exceptionalism. What is it?

It implies a concept not entirely new to me. I mean, I'm Dutch, I love my country, the colour Orange is my favourite and wouldn’t swap our Healthcare, Political or Social System for anything in the world. A long time ago, we revolutionized politics and social cohesion, started capitalism and conquered whole worlds (fortunately we also lost them). Everything though had a price: slave-trade, wars and brutal colonialism, grounded in centuries of European ‘culture’. So, we weren’t exceptional and still aren’t. Great, surely, but exceptional implies a greatness no country or peoples have, because they are still human.

Using ‘Exceptional’ as markings on something that shouldn’t be wanting for them (I mean, the USA is remarkable as it is), shows an uncertainty, a not knowing if you are really that great. Without doubt, many Americans don’t feel so exceptional, whether in life or as a nation, so why this bragging ? For many around the globe it feels like the bully is telling you how great he is, while his teeth are falling out ‘cause of his meth-addiction.

This also implies a more sinister trait of superiority, like “I’m better than the rest, so they can kiss my ass, after I’ve fucked them over” (excusez les mots). As we’ve all seen throughout history the ancient Romans already knew: ‘Homo homini lupus’, roughly ‘Man is as a wolf for his fellow man’. American history has its darker examples of this and even today struggles with ‘growing up as a nation’. So, as a person who comes from a country with a long history of being good and evil, words as ‘American Exceptionalism’ make me laugh, but also weary.

So, my question is really: what makes America EXCEPTIONAL (that means the best of the best, ‘the Master of Disaster’, the King of the Hill, Second to None) ? And please be honest, pile the shit next to the diamonds, so everyone can see ‘exceptionalism’ at work.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

    by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 10:39:19 AM PDT

  •  American exceptionalism is based on (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie, dougymi, Old Lefty, ZhenRen

    the perception of some that America must be a unique nation because they were born there. It is egoism based upon barely challenged power.

    For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

    by Anne Elk on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 10:54:12 AM PDT

    •  you find it linked to religion (4+ / 0-)

      in which the US is identified as the New Jerusalem

    •  American Exceptionalism... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Upie, Bob Duck, gfv6800, skrekk

      means different things to different people.  By some meanings, I would have to say that yes, I am an "American Exceptionalist."  By others, definitely not.

      Madeleine Albright called the USA "the indispensable country" in world affairs.  This is meant in the best way: when events in the world are spinning out of control, ours is the only nation with both the weight and the inclination to force action.  Obama's famous (or infamous) "lead from behind" strategy in Libya is a good example, though she was speaking more in the Bosnian context. While the European NATO countries were capable of taking independent action as Qadaffi's massacring forces approached Benghazi, no action would have happened without America deciding to be a part.  For a horrific parallel outcome, see Rwanda.

      But to the meaning:  For some, it means a God-appointed nation of destiny in the world.  This is often short-handed by reference to Winthrop's famous 1630 sermon aboard the the Puritan ship Arabella, that the New England experiment will be "as a city on a hill" for mankind to look up to; but that woe will become us if we deal falsely with our promise (famously restated as vision of new conservatism by Ronald Reagan). From a less overtly religious tone, we can go back 10 years earlier to the Mayflower Compact, to the pledge among the settlers to work together for a common purpose.

      Another way of looking at the concept of American Exceptionalism is through our roots as the great, lasting political experiment of the The Enlightenment.  Founded on virtuous values, many Americans believe that our values are in fact universal: self-government, a government purposed with protecting Natural Rights, religious tolerance, free speech, due process, etc. - ideals we hope are evinced in our land, and that we generally believe are the birthright of all people.

      Still another lens through which to appreciate the idea is the sheer good fortune of our nation.  Founded by a kingdom that already believed in some inherent rights (unlike the absolute monarchies of Spain, France, or Portugal), spanning a vast landscape of limitless wealth, and protected by two oceans, we are uniquely capable of making our own way in the world.  Add to this a population from all corners of the world, and whether you believe in literal "exceptionalism" or not, we are most certainly different.

      The fact that any one of these points can be used to highlight our historical evils (we hardly had the "good fortune" to "discover" an empty land, and our "universal values" obviously did not pertain to slaves, to women - or, even, to this day, to gay Americans) not only highlights our hypocrisy but the beauty of being in a country where acts of evil or displays of oppression ARE hypocritical.  That's an exceptionally powerful concept.  If this concept does not make sense to you, let's compare two very different, absolute evils:  the Nazi holocaust and American slavery.  While very different, each is certainly evil incarnate; and yet, only slavery in the USA was hypocritical.  In this sense, American Exceptionalism is the opposite of denying our challenges and misdeeds; rather, it is what propels us to overthrow oppression in the very name of our country's best ideals.

      When Martin Luther King expressed his "Dream," he was standing in communication with the great figure of Lincoln seated behind him and referenced the high ideals of the Gettysburg Address, which itself referenced the high ideals of the nation's founding.  In America, those of us who fight for the continuing dream of social justice don't feel we're fighting against our country: we very, very strongly feel we are fighting FOR it, and use the language of our founding to make the point.

      Think of it this way: there's a "Hard" and a "Soft" vision of American Exceptionalism.  The "Hard" version gives us the right to act wherever and however we please in the rest of the world in defense of our self-interest - and its proponents may believe that this right devolves to us from God.  Obviously, it's a troubling view.

      The "Soft" version holds that our extraordinarily privileged station on the planet and our Constitution may well come with a sense of righteousness, but more importantly with a sense of responsibility in the world.  Our democracy, our wealth, and our might create a unique ability to act for the betterment of the world.  Again, the obvious violations of this idea from the Mexican War to Vietnam to Iraq to torture to segregation and so on and on are, well, obvious; but we can also create a list that includes the creation of most of the great movements for social justice in the past 150 years, the defeat of fascism, the creation of the United Nations, and lots more.

      Those of us - I do put myself in this camp - who do hold some "soft" idea of "American Exceptionalism" aren't deterred by our history, but spurred on by it, and believe that we must help our nation to be that unique force for a better world that we are capable of.

      Well - sorry for a loooong reply, and I have lots more to say on the subject... but I hope that helps provide at least this American's view.  It would be my hope that this election will, in part, be about reclaiming the best of the ideal of American Exceptionalism, and discrediting the sectarian, chauvinistic, and nasty version put forward by so many on the America's right wing.

  •  American identity is uniquely defined (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie, Old Lefty

    By our political system, by a shared belief that we are the world's greatest democracy, whereas other countries often define their national identity in terms of culture.  From this perspective, it would be as un-American to claim that the American form of democracy is horrible as it would be un-Frenchlike to claim that French food is horrible.

    •  But democracy and culture are linked, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Old Lefty, ZhenRen

      and to say that your system provides the 'greatest' democracy gives me justification for my question. I didn't imply 'horrible' or 'bad food', just asked why you think America is 'exceptional'.

      'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

      by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:04:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  American culture is based (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Upie, Chi

        On the sense that we are the world's greatest and most perfect democracy.  The strong identification with the long-standing political institutions of this country makes radical reforms, such as the desire of some to abolish or change the composition of the Senate, incredibly difficult (and that's not including the Constitutional barriers to doing that).

        •  I would think that American culture (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ZhenRen, Chi

          is based on just that: the struggle of democracy. But that also implies imperfection, a growing up. So, like the rest of us 'No exceptionalism'.

          'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

          by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:52:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Exceptionalism can mean unique (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            WestCider

            And not necessarily better.

            •  Let's face it: (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Bob Duck, Upie, Chi

              To most Americans it means "better".

              Kids don't learn real American history in school, unless the teacher refers them to works like Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

              Recently, in a conversation with a Californian, it became clear he had no idea we took California by force from Mexico, along with Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming, as part of the expansionism of the United States. He'd not been taught that in public education.

              We get a glossed version of history, from an imperialist perspective.

              "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

              by ZhenRen on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 02:23:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  There is no "real history" (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Upie

                Not Zinn, not Beard, not an AP textbook or the best teacher's version.  As historian Isaiah Berlin has said, "History is not about the past.  It's about the arguments we have about the past."  History in any half-way decent classroom today is taught in reasonably free-thinking states from the vantage of modern sensibilities, with the pro-slavery constitution, Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" stance against the Mexican War, the rise of Jim Crow, the Japanese-American internments, and all the rest of our considerable warts.  But this doesn't mean that survey classes can always cover all multiple perspectives, nor does it mean that students should get all their knowledge from classrooms.
                However, I remember how exciting learning controversies over American Exceptionalism were, and grasping the complications of America's apexes and nadirs. Any education that concentrates on our nadirs to the exclusion of our apexes is every bit as flawed and dangerous as one that teaches "from an imperialist perspective."
                Just my two cents. {smiley-wink emoticom goes here}

                •  Okay... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Upie

                  Mentioning Zinn pushed one of your buttons, I gather.

                  Some things did happen. Some things didn't.

                  So... do you think the U.S. has been imperialistic, at all, in its history?

                  Note that I didn't recommend just Zinn's work.

                  "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                  by ZhenRen on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 04:22:07 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  My question is really about that 'Imperialism', (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ZhenRen

                    or at least of the perception of it around the globe. In that sense the US stands for 'exceptionalism', a flag with stars, apples, windows and a google. But that also implies 'Imperialism' through control, corruption and ultimately No Freedom. People want an iPhone (as soon as they can pay for it or the clone), but without the contract.

                    'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

                    by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 04:53:13 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  No, I like Zinn (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Upie

                    but he's not the be-all and end-all.  His ideas are no longer an "alternative" view, in mainstream discourse or in US classrooms, thanks in part to Zinn himself.  But he is very devoted to a singular view of American history - and it is an important one, among many voices.  From a left perspective, I guess it's true that I don't find him nearly as interesting or insightful as, for instance, Eric Foner, who more readily accepts that people in the past had different bases for their ideas than we do today.

                    Of course American imperialism is a real part of our history - I'm sure I didn't imply I thought otherwise.  But history is complicated - "the past is a foreign country" and all that.

                    I do think that what people remember about their history classes isn't necessarily what "was taught" to them.  After all, I was definitely taught Algebra, but still have a damned hard time remembering it.

                    And upie - The War of 1812 was a kind of sideshow to the Napoleonic conflict, but not the Mexican War (1846-48). Alamo: Texas War of Independence (1836).  Austrian Monarch: during our Civil War (his overthrow is origin of Cinco de Mayo).  Mexican War: very much a war of US expansionism.  The complication is that not all of it was necessarily a "bad" motive, at the time (most was, some wasn't) though I'd hope that, at the time, I would have had the courage to join Thoreau in his jail cell and have my friends ask ME what I was doing in there, so I too could have replied, "What are you doing out there?"  ;)

                    •  To be honest, I'm shocked realizing my limitations (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      WestCider

                      This opens a memory and neglected part of my education. 1848 was a benchmark, not so much in US history, but as a marker in my European education. Before that we had the Greeks, Romans, Dark Ages and Napoleon. After that the Empires, WO I, Interbellum, WO II and Cold War. That leads us to Now.

                      But it's not that. Your description made me think about the old saying: 'The map is not the territory". Exceptionalism needs imperialism, socialism and ruthlessness to survive, so historians can look back and hacks like me can ask questions.

                      'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

                      by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 05:20:13 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Depends on your idea of "exceptionalism." (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Upie

                        However, I'd also note that the extraordinary banner year of revolution in 1848 - shaking up the cozy arrangments of the Congress of Vienna, demanding liberalized constitutions across Europe and some of Latin America, invigorating Europe's nationalist movements, and publication of the Communist Manifesto (!) also did mark an important, ultimately world-shaking revolutionary event in the USA: the Seneca Falls Convention for women's rights.  This watershed event marked the beginning of the effective movement for women's political rights. By 1867, women were finally beginning to win the elective franchise in the USA, starting in America's western territories and states (Wyoming was first).  

                        I would note that this event highlights the best and worst and worst of America:  the women largely came to this cause through their activism around abolitionism (the movement to end slavery); but their great and courageous document, the Declaration of Sentiments, was a reiteration of the Declaration of Independence.  I'd argue that it's another ripple in the current of "American Exceptionalism."

                        But yeah, the map is never the territory; it's the story we project.  Thanks for another provocative comment!

                •  Your discourse shows the limits of my knowledge. (0+ / 0-)

                  Although I might not agree with Berlin, I don't have a detailed clue about the nitty-gritty of American Contemporary History.
                  A teacher told me about the Mexican War as a side-show of European history (wasn't there something with an Alamo?) and an Austrian Monarch.

                  What it should teach us is that arguments about the past are between historians, what we think about the past is because of politicians.

                  'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

                  by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 04:29:56 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Both historians (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Upie, Chi

                    and politicians, often derive from much more privileged class of society, and will have built-in bias.

                    Not many poor people write history books.

                    "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                    by ZhenRen on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 04:43:26 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  Hahaha - but you remember a lot, clearly! (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Upie

                    The War of 1812 was a kind of sideshow to the Napoleonic conflict, but not the Mexican War (1846-48). Alamo: Texas War of Independence (1836).  Austrian Monarch: during our Civil War (his overthrow is origin of Cinco de Mayo).  Mexican War: very much a war of US expansionism.  The complication is that not all of it was necessarily a "bad" motive, at the time (most was, some wasn't) though I'd hope that, at the time, I would have had the courage to join Thoreau in his jail cell and have my friends ask ME what I was doing in there, so I too could have replied, "What are you doing out there?"  ;)

                    I think arguments about the past are for us - where we stand on history very much determines where we sit on current political issues.  Was the Civil War really about slavery or states' rights?  Tell me your position on that, and let's see where that leads you on issues today.  Was Iraq a just war, a terrible miscalculation, a calculated imperialist drive, or a clusterfuck of competing policies in a helmless administration?  Tell me your views on this recent history, and let's see where that leads your thinking on our role in the world today.  We are the sum of our experiences: that includes the past.

                •  As to nadirs and apexes (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Upie

                  It isn't simply the biased exclusion of either nadirs or apexes, it is also that what some call a nadir is to others an apex, and an apex may be a nadir. And some perspectives are left out altogether.

                  Things look very differently when one is one the bottom of society, looking up, rather than down. And people lacking that experience may not be able to put in the proper light and context.

                  As Zinn points out, most history books are written from the perspective of those in elite, privileged classes, while the perspectives of the poor and disenfranchised are often either neglected, or not entirely understood.

                  Zinn tries to correct that with the aforementioned work.

                  I learned immensely from it.

                  "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                  by ZhenRen on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 04:39:14 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  As a nonAmerican - this expression always grates (10+ / 0-)

    It's like a nationalist equivalent of white supremacy, as in " We are superior to everyone else"

    •  That's why I asked the question (5+ / 0-)

      'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

      by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 10:57:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  As an American, it grates on me as well. (10+ / 0-)

      To me it epitomizes the ugly American.  We're no better or worse than any other society on the face of the earth.  As humans, we can't be.

      A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.' Douglas Adams

      by dougymi on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 10:58:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Does that mean (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dougymi

        That you believe that no regional culture in the US is better or worse than any other regional culture in the US?  If there is a red state-blue state cultural divide, does that mean that one side of the divide is not better than the other?

        •  pretty much. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mimi

          No better or worse.  Wrong maybe, but no better or worse.  We're all human.  All of us are capable of being extremely good and horribly bad.  No one is intrinsically better than anyone else by virtue of where she or he lives.  

          A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.' Douglas Adams

          by dougymi on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 12:10:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  That is another piece that irritates many of us, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Upie, Old Lefty

        and a lot more of the rest of the world. True we had an exceptional start and did many good things with it. We also did it by conquering the Natives, taking their land and treating them with disrespect and faux compensation in lands, etc. to cover our inhumanity.

        Then we did the same shit world wide, often with utter and open contempt for the thousands of years of culture and history behind other countries. Iraq was the most egregious since the whole Ugly American concept was very well established in literature, sociology and international politics. W, Bremer and the Neocons went to unbelievable stupidity trying to prove the idea was right after all. Despite the enormity of the failure, they still didn't learn the lesson.

        They especially don't understand that the world has had enough and will be calling us on further actions, more regularly, and much louder. Using our military to intimidate other countries received a major blowback when the Iraq parliament refused to confirm the SOFA agreement. End of the Iraq occupation. For which many of us cheered :)

        "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

        by Ginny in CO on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:17:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Is this a serious diary, or not? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie, alain2112, Mambo, Chi

    you start this discussion with some really questionable statements. "wouldn't swap our healthcare, political or social systems for anything in the world." Wow. We have one of the worst healthcare systems in the developed world. Our political system is problematic, to say the least, with a huge influence being wielded by the wealthy. And, though we have made some progress, our social systems have been a struggle to provide equality for all our citizens, not just white male landowners.

    In fact, your statement indicates what I think is wrong about "American exceptionalism". It refuses to admit of egregious flaws,  no matter what the facts are. I won't even try to understand what you mean by writing "we started capitalism.

    So, I guess I can't take your diary seriously, because you load up the front end with illogical claims, then ask for an education from commenters. I'm not sure that that is the way to start a good discussion.

    •  I'm serious and thank you for your reply (5+ / 0-)

      I've started this diary with a real question I have. I'm not American, in fact I'm Dutch, so that's one reason not to swap healthcare. Second, my country made a lot of mistakes while making history. WE started Capitalism by giving out the first stocks, also used for trading slaves. This history gave us (a bit of) humility, although too late.

      So, thank you for your reply, because that 's what makes a discussion.

      'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

      by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:12:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You need to make your citizenship clear (6+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The grouch, Upie, mimi, walkshills, Bob Duck, Chi

        at the top of the Diary.

        I know about the Kingdom of Orange, even about William of Orange becoming King of England in the Glorious Revolution, and your Orange footballers (soccer players to ignorant Murkans; "the best team never to win the World Cup"). I know about the Eighty Years War between the Netherlands and Spain during which the Dutch proclaimed Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Trade. I know about the Orangemen of Northern Ireland, Protestants who are historically connected with William of Orange. I know about English Christian Separatists (aka Puritans) who tried the Netherlands, but couldn't stand religious freedom and went off to start the Massachusetts theocracy and lay the foundation for the myth of American Exceptionalism.

        However, you are talking to a history-challenged audience here that does not get your Orange reference and therefore has no idea where you are coming from.

        Now, here is your answer.

        The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

        John Kenneth Galbraith

        This begins in US history with the colonial Massachusetts theocracy. Its greatest manifestations during the 18th and 19th centuries were slavery (White supremacy) and Manifest Destiny (White supremacy). Today it is the NeoConservative Project for the New American Century. Its purpose is allegedly to spread freedom, human rights, and democracy across the globe at the point of a gun, but it is made up of people who have no idea what freedom, human rights, or democracy are, how they work, or what their purpose might be other than to increase their own wealth and power and to uphold White Supremacy. For example:

        Free and Fair Election
             One that our candidate stole fair and square.

        See also Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, for the exceptionalism of our Robber Baron class, also known as the Malefactors of Great Wealth (according to Teddy Roosevelt); the Economic Royalists (FDR); and the Masters of the Universe (themselves during the housing and Credit Default Swap bubble), and for the promises they make to angry White pseudo-Christian men to keep everybody else down.

        Everything for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.

        Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

        See also This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff for the roots of economic and financial exceptionalism, going back to before the Dutch tulip mania.

        Hey, Mitt! Thanks for ObamneyCare. http://www.healthcare.gov

        by Mokurai on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 12:19:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  A misunderstanding on my part. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Upie, mimi, walkshills, Chi

        It wasn't clear to me that in your intro that you were NOT speaking as an American, so I misinterpreted your words. So, if I may, then say. It is odd. The USA has some fine characteristics and some glaring flaws, but, as you have noticed, it seems required, particularly in the political realm, to completely deny the flaws. In fact, to acknowledge that unrest in the middle east is in some ways a reaction to our actions and policies over the last 75 years is deemed almost unpatriotic.

        In our history as a very young country, we have done exceptional things, from our actions in WW2, to the space program, to being, basically, a great power, and a place of opportunity. However, as the world changes, and as our system of bloated "defense" spending, gigantic energy consumption, and mistreatment of the poor adds up to make it harder to sustain, I think a defensiveness has taken hold.

        The refusal to learn from the successes of other countries, especially if they are "horrors" European social democracies, is a glaring flaw, but some of our leaders have realized that it's easier to scare people and have their vote from fear than it is to educate and lead them. So, I despair sometimes for my country.

        •  This is especially true, grouch. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Upie, Chi

          I'm getting the feeling that some of the key things holding back this nation are the ideological entrenchments that can't admit the truth in where we stand in the world and the powerful money holders that have damned up the liquidity and obstructed so much innovation.

          I agree about the defensiveness...indeed a serious guiltiness about the vile elements in our history (slavery (theft of labor, murder, kidnapping), Indigenous tribes (theft of resources, murder of people and culture), wars of expansion (Spanish American, Mexican, Iraqi), and the general aversion to democratizing Central and South America and Africa). And that's just the tip of the iceberg. An enormous amount of theft just within this country...was and still is...that goes on regularly.

          The truth is we are tortured by the truth.

          by walkshills on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 02:20:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, interesting that you're Dutch, since (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Upie

        the founding culture of New York is a major ingredient in the mix of whatever this "American Exceptionalism" might be.  While the Puritan colonies were growing in New England (for better and worse), and while the feudalist and slave-based plantation colonies were growing in the South, the Dutch added their hyper-commercialist perspective to the mix, along with America's most multi-cultural early settlement and earliest victories of tolerance and free expression.  You may have mucked up in Indonesia, but I'm glad to sit on a "stoop" in New York and contemplate our Netherlandish roots.

  •  American exceptionalism (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie, exterris, Old Lefty, Chi

    is made up christian BS.

    In the 19th C we called it manifest destiny.  But the christian has bought into their mythology times 10.  They think that gawd has mysteriously (the word applicable since there is no direct mythological biblical evidence) made this a 'christian' nation in order to conquer the world.  

    An aside, It's always interesting to me that christians are literalists unless and until a metaphor better defines their BS.  American exceptionalism explained as bible mythology is a case in point.

    The christian is responsible for the most recent chaos and hope that Romney wins so they can complete the destruction of the infidels and return to the desert.  They couldn't defeat them a millennia ago but now they have the Boykin's etc running the military and they're ready to sacrifice the young to achieve their  stupid fantasy.

    Other country's in the past have had similar BS controlling their destiny.  England in the 18th; Germany in the 20th and now the /christian/jewish cabal of the 21st.  I add the Jews because of Netanyahu's dislike of Obama's careful and measured resistance to his war drums.  The christian, like Norquist, see Romney as a useful idiot.  Romney would bow to every christian pressure just to make his cult more 'main stream'.

    •  Clarification, two different concepts (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Upie, walkshills, Chi
      Manifest Destiny
      n
      (Historical Terms) (esp in the 19th-century US) the belief that the US was a chosen land that had been allotted the entire North American continent by God
      American exceptionalism is an American theory that the United States occupies a special role among the nations of the world in terms of its national ethos, political and religious institutions, and its being built by immigrants. The roots of the position have been dated back to 1630 with John Winthrop's "City Upon a Hill"[1], although some scholars attribute it to a passage of Alexis de Tocqueville,[2] who argued that the United States held a special place among nations because it was the first working representative democracy.

      Belief in American exceptionalism is more characteristic of conservatives than liberals. Howard Zinn and Godfrey Hodgson[3] said that it is based on a myth, and that "there is a growing refusal to accept" the idea of exceptionalism both nationally and internationally.[4]Emphasis mine

      de Tocqueville's argument is the one I am most familiar with, it builds on Winthrop, and the rest of the definition is also important. We are almost all immigrants who came here and basically said "Tradition, Bah Humbug!"  It led to a lot of ingenuity and respect for creativity, especially when it helped productivity and made life easier. Capitalism more unencumbered than ever, for a short time.

      The two fundamentalist New England preachers who drastically influenced American Christianity, as Sharlett explains in The Family, eventually led to the founder of that group (c 1935), to expand manifest destiny to the rest of the world, combined with American exceptionalism, and the additional piece of getting sympathetic dictators in many governments. Which was what the US government had been doing since the take over of Hawaii and the Spanish American War, to expand our trade base and corporate prosperity.

      The Gospel according to America: A Meditation on a God-blessed, Christ-haunted Idea

      This book is not an easy read. David Dark is a really awesome Christian who can look at Christianity as an evolving concept. He writes at college level, at least. I finally got a clue about The Simpsons, and a lot more of Biblical concepts in other works from great books to the mundane. This book specifically addresses manifest destiny and American exceptionalism in the context of the Christian influence. I personally think he's really brilliant - which may partly be from how ignorant I was in this area. He is funny, writes well although quite complicated at times. An author who provided my UU brain a lot of insight into Christianity. He has two more out I hope to find time for, some year. (I have a bucket list just for books ;)

      "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

      by Ginny in CO on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 12:35:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Another set of dots. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Claudius Bombarnac, walkshills, Chi
        <Belief in American exceptionalism is more characteristic of conservatives than liberals. Howard Zinn and Godfrey Hodgson[3] said that it is based on a myth, and that "there is a growing refusal to accept" the idea of exceptionalism both nationally and internationally.
        That is the basis of the "Apology Tour" and the accusations that some people are not real Americans, because they don't LOVE America - for its perfection. Sorta goes against God saying not to worship anything else. Perfection really should only be used for God.

        People in other countries have a justified view of America as being greedy and unfair in dealing with the less developed countries of the world - to increase our wealth and power. See The Shock Doctrine and similar works. More of those counties are getting enough smart people in high levels of government to say NO, and deal with the consequences - fairly well.

        "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

        by Ginny in CO on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 12:54:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you ! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ginny in CO

          I'll explore your links. This gives me a different perspective as I'm just a continental guy with curiosity.

          'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

          by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:00:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It should create curiosity and as you can see, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Upie, walkshills

            even Americans get a little foggy on the history and evolution. The reality is exactly what you stated in the diary and has been pointed out by people from other countries as well as those of us who are not Real Americans.

            Even if you don't read the whole book, Dark starts out with a story in Ireland at a bar when he was fairly young. Trying to explain American exceptionalism and manifest destiny to an Irishman. He was quite a believer and stunned to find out the guy just wanted to know what life was like in the US. Then he started realizing it was BS.

            I think the more people around the world understand how we got into this perception, and where it took us, the better they will be able to help those of us who hate it to deflate the pride and become a much better world citizen. A country with 6% of the world's population should not have had the capacity we did to significantly influence other governments. Most of that was due to WWII, which too many used in implied "you owe us" messages. So much for our altruistic, humanitarian, Christian values.

            "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

            by Ginny in CO on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:41:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  'Foggy' History is Europe's a.k.a. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ginny in CO, walkshills

              and it didn't help us that much until you guys straightened it out. But even that was a culmination of happenings, and as Churchill said: 'The US will do the right thing, after they've tried everything else'. That's why we still keep on believing in American Exceptionalism.

              'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

              by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:51:40 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for distinguishing two different ideas. (0+ / 0-)

        Even if they sometimes have intersecting points (Manifest Destiny and American Exceptionalism).  

        I would disagree that, historically, American Exceptionalism has been more conservative than liberal.  I think it was a driving force behind the fundamentally liberal set of beliefs about basic human nature that drove our post-war policies to establish democratic governments in West Germany and Japan, to establish the United Nations and its Declaration of Human Rights.  I know people will point out that we were also "making the world safe for capitalism," but surely we can hold two ideas in our heads simultaneously.

  •  I'd date it to at least 1823, &the Monroe Doctrine (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie, Ginny in CO, Old Lefty, walkshills, Chi

    along with an unhealthy mix of:

    Fundamentalist christianity which sees the US as God's gift to the world;

    The secular jingoism born of our traditional isolation from and ignorance of the larger world;

    All of the above which have been carefully nurtured by politicians of all stripes for going-on two centuries.

  •  American exceptionalism is an idea grounded (6+ / 0-)

    in religious faith. America is seen as a promised land, a "new Jerusalem", a shining city on a hill. America is a land special to God and as such must be judged by different standards than other nations. So what is imperialism when committed by other nations is liberation when committed by us. This idea of exceptionalism goes back to the Jackson era and even earlier. Today many mistakenly believe the Founding Fathers believed in it but this is an argument I do not believe in.

    If you look at the prophetic language of the English Civil War you will see traces of it in the language of the roundheads and Oliver Cromwell. Remember also that while the Pilgrims sought religious freedom for themselves they did not extend it to others.

    When the President in 2009 said that all nations are exceptional in their own ways this was viewed as a denial of American exceptionalism. According to the right wing only one country is exceptional and that country is the US. And to recognize other countries contributions is to denigrate and "apologize" for America.

    Hope that helps.

    I in no way embrace any idea of exceptionalism for it leads to nationalism and war.

  •  To me... (8+ / 0-)

    the very idea that America and, by extension, Americans are "exceptional", meaning they are somehow better than everyone else on the planet, smacks of nationalism of the worst kind.  It's like a democratic version of "Deutchland uber alles".

    Terror has no religion.
    لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الل

    by downsouth on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:10:23 AM PDT

  •  for background (3+ / 0-)

    check out PNAC and the American Century
    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

  •  It's a racist piece of self-deception (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie, Old Lefty, Ginny in CO, walkshills

    it's a daddy problem in terms of a founding father problem.

    It's the only way to avoid admitting that your democratic experience is mostly failing.

    It's an excuse for being a predator and desire an imperial or colonial political role ... in your wet dreams.

    It's a cover-up to hide "feelings of inferiority" to whoever is not American.

    It's a tool to avoid self-reflection.

    It's a drug to deal with the addiction you have for claiming you are the freeest country in the world but never feel free in your private lives.

    Yes, and because of all of it, YOU ARE EXECPTIONAL.  

    Yes, I am in a very bad mood today. And of course I am anti-American, I know. Tomorrow is a NEW DAY. May be by then all the exeptionalism and my ranting about it will be gone.

    •  Well, wake up with happy thoughts, (0+ / 0-)

      'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

      by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:19:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  A convenient way to allay the psychological guilt (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mokurai, mimi, walkshills, Chi

      of having murdered millions of First Peoples to dominate the continent; God wanted us to do it.

      Yeeeechh!

      The US Army sent me to Italy for a couple years in the '70s where I witnessed several thousand GI's let their 'exceptionalism'  hang out. It was embarrassing and stupid. In essence I think it is a psychological compensation mechanism for a profound sense of insecurity and resulting self justifying xenophobia, part and parcel with the deep anti-intellectualism of a people not comfortable in their own skin and not capable of justifying their past in a rational, moral framework.

      A Fair for All and no fair to anybody
      Firesign Theater

      Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

      by Old Lefty on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:58:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  In Europe we've seen the icons (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Old Lefty

        of American Exceptionalism

        'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

        by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 12:18:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  what are you referring to? /nt (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Old Lefty
          •  To be honest, the good and the bad. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Old Lefty, walkshills, Chi

            The fact that I 'm able to write this diary is due to the fact that my parents were liberated by your people and they also invented the computer. That's exceptional, but we've also seen the greedy, 'non-socialist'-side, a feature ingrained in your history as OldLefty implies. Something that scares us.

            'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

            by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 12:52:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  no offense (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Upie, Old Lefty, Chi

              but there's living history right in Holland that can illuminate the roots of American exceptionalism.

              There are people alive today in Holland who can tell you all about why they were inherently suited to rule the Dutch East Indies and how they personally were involved.

              Success breeds pride and often the belief that that success is because of some type of inherent superiority. The US just hasn't (yet) had their normality rudely thrust into their face.

              Try to shout at the right buildings for a few months.

              by nickrud on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:10:02 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  In essence ... you said that very well /nt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Old Lefty
      •  Joseph Heller defined Catch-22 in WW II Italy (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Old Lefty, walkshills, Upie

        as having the right to do anything you can't prevent us from doing.

        How to get government to protect people from itself is the deepest political problem of all time. It comes down to protecting people from other people, and even from themselves. The Balance of Powers in the US Constitution helps a lot, although many other countries have their own techniques. However, it is not enough to have government managing itself. The people, in what we call civil society organizations, has to step up if we are to get anywhere.

        Hey, Mitt! Thanks for ObamneyCare. http://www.healthcare.gov

        by Mokurai on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 12:44:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The 'Catch-22' is what makes the world go round. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Old Lefty

          If it was all settled, clear and agreed, life would be a bore. If you would be 'Exceptional', there's little left to gain. Isn't it better to strive for something than lean back thinking you've got it all? Especially in these times?

          'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

          by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 05:54:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The actual Catch 22 (0+ / 0-)

            in Heller's novel is stated as

            If you think your'e going crazy then you're not because crazy people don't think they are crazy
            By that definition the Wingers ARE crazy, because they think that they are sane.

            Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

            by Old Lefty on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 09:37:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  It Was a Belief Easy to Promote Post WW2 When (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie, Mambo, walkshills, Chi

    our nation had suffered no war damage and we were helping feed and rebuild many of our former allies and even enemies. For a generation or two we had some of the most opportunity for the people of any developed nation, especially for many immigrants who could get in.

    Promoting the idea of exceptionalism also had domestic and international political value during the cold war which began at the end of the World War.

    The country has always had some great fortune: a huge bounty of natural resources for both agriculture and manufacturing, lots of land [which we kept stealing from its inhabitants], inland seas and large rivers easily knit very early into far reaching transportation highways, and distant and difficult for foreign empires to conquer in our earlier times.

    Since the late Cold War period though we've been steadily surpassed by more and more nations in more and more measures, and at the same time we've been slipping back compared to many of our own best-ever metrics.

    Today we have an exceptional military and intelligence system. As for everything else, we're more often than not out of contention for the lead.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:14:17 AM PDT

  •  I think (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie

    the notion originally had something to do with the unique circumstances we found ourselves in when the country was young.  Like, europe was already 'grown in' with well defined boundaries, lots of immediate neighbors, fully developed local resources, tons of history, etc.  We on the other hand were nothing more than this long smear of sparse population down the edge of a near vacant continent.  Must have seemed like limitless resources, with few neighbors, and we'd just declared that history-be-dammed we were going to become whatever the hell we wanted to become.  We were exceptional in that we coalesced (sp?) into nationhood under conditions that nobody else at the time enjoyed.

    Nowadays, I don't know.  I first started hearing the term 'american exceptionalism' again back in the late 80's or early 90's, but with a distinctly different emphasis.  It's like it has become some sort of codeword for saying we are God's chosen people.

    •  'God's chosen people' (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      walkshills

      is the creepy feeling I get, everytime I hear that 'American Exceptionalism'. Sure, when riding into the sunset, shouting out loud, discovering new grounds, you are exceptional. But that was then and this is now... and that Europe-history you refer to is the USA after a lot of years.

      'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

      by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:26:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  "near vacant continent" (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Upie, Mokurai, mimi, walkshills
      The belief that the native population was much larger in 1492 than it was a few decades later has helped spur much larger estimates of how many people were in America before Columbus. Henry Dobyns, an anthropologist, claimed in 1966 that there were between 10 and 12 million people north of Mexico in 1492, and between 90 and 112 million in all of the Americas. No subsequent scholar has made so high a claim, but most subsequent estimates have been much closer to Dobyn's than to Kroeber's. The geographer William M. Denevan, for example, argued in 1976 that the American population in 1492 was around 55 million and that the population north of Mexico was under 4 million. These are among the lowest of modern estimates, but still dramatically higher than the nineteenth-century numbers.
      Where Historians Disagree, we CAN agree I think that +-4 million people is something less than near vacancy, and in my view it is precisely a lack of acknowledgement of the true genocidal birth of our Nation that  spawns the need for 'exceptionalism'; we are better than those whose world we destroyed so it was OK.

      Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

      by Old Lefty on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 12:08:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  the perceptions of the time (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Old Lefty, Upie, walkshills

        roughly the decades from the 1790's to 1820's, when the concept of exceptionalism was formulated (as documented by  de Tocqueville is the frame of reference when talking about European views of the continent as 'empty'. If we go with your estimate of ~4 million Native Americans around then that's about 1 person per square mile. Great Britain at the time was around 80 per square mile. Relatively vacant, no?

        I'm not saying that the relative densities are any type of excuse but it does help explain the perceptions of the time.

        Try to shout at the right buildings for a few months.

        by nickrud on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 12:58:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Correct, but (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nickrud, Upie, walkshills

          population density across the entire continent today is very sparse in some places and dense in other, and it no doubt was in those day a well. That aside, the perspective of the +-4 million indigenous was no doubt quite different. My point is that we need, as a people, to remember what we have been taught to forget. That historical empty land perception was a cultural artifact. At the time most white Americans considered all non-Christian not-white beings to be, essentially, sub- or even non-human, and so from that perspective the continent was ENTIRELY empty, of white Christian people.
          This is not intended as a personal jab, but is simply an effort to, if you will, keep the books in order. ;-)

          Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

          by Old Lefty on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:17:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Great Country or Greatest Country? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie, Claudius Bombarnac, walkshills

    I found this very interesting list of our rankings compared to other countries (who also think that they are pretty great)....
    HERE

    It turns out we are number one in a lot of agricultural areas such as cheese, whey, corn oil production.  We're also number one in nuclear reactors, airports and roadways.  But we are sadly lacking in many many areas such as sex education, math education, economic equality, health care accessibility, etc. Enjoy reading this - it puts our exceptionalism in its proper perspective.

    Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. - Einstein

    by moose67 on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:24:51 AM PDT

  •  Not the neoconservative answer, but (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie, Mokurai, happymisanthropy

    Christopher Stevens is my example of American Exceptionalism. Here is a man who served in the Peace Core, severed in Israel, Damascus, Cairo and Riyadh. He was on the transitional  National Transitional Council in Libya. He knew where he was was dangerous, but he still advocated the American idea of liberty and justice for all.

    It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

    by se portland on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:30:37 AM PDT

  •  American Exceptionalism (5+ / 0-)

    means different things to different people.  By some meanings, I would have to say that yes, I am an "American Exceptionalist."  By others, definitely not.

    Madeleine Albright called the USA "the indispensable country" in world affairs.  This is meant in the best way: when events in the world are spinning out of control, ours is the only nation with both the weight and the inclination to force action.  Obama's famous (or infamous) "lead from behind" strategy in Libya is a good example, though she was speaking more in the Bosnian context. While the European NATO countries were capable of taking independent action as Qadaffi's massacring forces approached Benghazi, no action would have happened without America deciding to be a part.  For a horrific parallel outcome, see Rwanda.

    But to the meaning:  For some, it means a God-appointed nation of destiny in the world.  This is often short-handed by reference to Winthrop's famous 1630 sermon aboard the the Puritan ship Arabella, that the New England experiment will be "as a city on a hill" for mankind to look up to; but that woe will become us if we deal falsely with our promise (famously restated as vision of new conservatism by Ronald Reagan). From a less overtly religious tone, we can go back 10 years earlier to the Mayflower Compact, to the pledge among the settlers to work together for a common purpose.

    Another way of looking at the concept of American Exceptionalism is through our roots as the great, lasting political experiment of the The Enlightenment.  Founded on virtuous values, many Americans believe that our values are in fact universal: self-government, a government purposed with protecting Natural Rights, religious tolerance, free speech, due process, etc. - ideals we hope are evinced in our land, and that we generally believe are the birthright of all people.

    Still another lens through which to appreciate the idea is the sheer good fortune of our nation.  Founded by a kingdom that already believed in some inherent rights (unlike the absolute monarchies of Spain, France, or Portugal), spanning a vast landscape of limitless wealth, and protected by two oceans, we are uniquely capable of making our own way in the world.  Add to this a population from all corners of the world, and whether you believe in literal "exceptionalism" or not, we are most certainly different.

    The fact that any one of these points can be used to highlight our historical evils (we hardly had the "good fortune" to "discover" an empty land, and our "universal values" obviously did not pertain to slaves, to women - or, even, to this day, to gay Americans) not only highlights our hypocrisy but the beauty of being in a country where acts of evil or displays of oppression ARE hypocritical.  That's an exceptionally powerful concept.  If this concept does not make sense to you, let's compare two very different, absolute evils:  the Nazi holocaust and American slavery.  While very different, each is certainly evil incarnate; and yet, only slavery in the USA was hypocritical.  In this sense, American Exceptionalism is the opposite of denying our challenges and misdeeds; rather, it is what propels us to overthrow oppression in the very name of our country's best ideals.

    When Martin Luther King expressed his "Dream," he was standing in communication with the great figure of Lincoln seated behind him and referenced the high ideals of the Gettysburg Address, which itself referenced the high ideals of the nation's founding.  In America, those of us who fight for the continuing dream of social justice don't feel we're fighting against our country: we very, very strongly feel we are fighting FOR it, and use the language of our founding to make the point.

    Think of it this way: there's a "Hard" and a "Soft" vision of American Exceptionalism.  The "Hard" version gives us the right to act wherever and however we please in the rest of the world in defense of our self-interest - and its proponents may believe that this right devolves to us from God.  Obviously, it's a troubling view.

    The "Soft" version holds that our extraordinarily privileged station on the planet and our Constitution may well come with a sense of righteousness, but more importantly with a sense of responsibility in the world.  Our democracy, our wealth, and our might create a unique ability to act for the betterment of the world.  Again, the obvious violations of this idea from the Mexican War to Vietnam to Iraq to torture to segregation and so on and on are, well, obvious; but we can also create a list that includes the creation of most of the great movements for social justice in the past 150 years, the defeat of fascism, the creation of the United Nations, and lots more.

    Those of us - I do put myself in this camp - who do hold some "soft" idea of "American Exceptionalism" aren't deterred by our history, but spurred on by it, and believe that we must help our nation to be that unique force for a better world that we are capable of.

    Well - sorry for a loooong reply, and I have lots more to say on the subject... but I hope that helps provide at least this American's view.  It would be my hope that this election will, in part, be about reclaiming the best of the ideal of American Exceptionalism, and discrediting the sectarian, chauvinistic, and nasty version put forward by so many on the America's right wing.

    •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

      Your views are much closer to mine than the Diarist's (and most all of the respondents).  

      To the OP: If you believe the world needs United States leadership to solve the problems it is facing - you are an American Exceptionalist.   Count me in that group.  Unequivically.  

    •  Thank you very much (0+ / 0-)

      for your comment. It was a light on the American View and I appreciated it very much. I was hoping for a 'soft' argument, on a 'hard' background', and so I've learnt a lot.

      'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

      by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 12:01:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's self-righteousness (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie, se portland

    It's misplaced pride.  It's a lack of gratitude.  It's used to support a sense of superiority.  It is literally unholy.

    Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

    by yet another liberal on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:39:11 AM PDT

  •  Exceptionalism is code for "Christian nation" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie, mimi

    Just as "the shining city on a hill" is a biblical reference to Jerusalem, the city of God. The concept of exceptionalism harks back to the old testament covenant between God and the Jews as the chosen people of God, and therefore exceptional. Jesus created a "new covenant," which made all who accept Jesus as lord and savior as the chosen people who will be resurrected after death, when Jesus comes back to reign and rule for 1000 yrs. America was seen by the first European settlers seeking religious freedom as the place to build a Christian society that would be worthy to be led by Christian principles. Therefore, American was chosen by God. These people think that God has chosen America to be  exceptional.

    I don't accept this rationale. For me the USA is exceptional precisely because there's a separation of state and religion.

    the Republican brand is totally bankrupt.

    by vlyons on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:46:00 AM PDT

  •  To even question American exceptionalism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie

    is un-American.

    Only in America do you see the designator "un" applied to nationality. People in Canada would find it weird for someone to say an action, belief or attitude as being un-Canadian (except as a joke). I think it is because Americans identify themselves first and foremost as American citizens. The US is one of the most nationalistic countries in the world.

    •  That's because Canada is just a bunch of lines (0+ / 0-)

      drawn on a map around someplace north of the United States.  Of course nothing is un-canadian - nothing is canadian.  Nice people and all, don't get me wrong but they ain't americans (though some seem to like to think they are when its convenient).

      •  An you think you're exceptional ? (0+ / 0-)

        'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

        by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 12:07:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  You are wrong about things NOT being Canadian. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Upie, mimi

        Canadians take great pride in what they consider to be uniquely Canadian (such as universal healthcare, gay rights, government out of bedrooms). It's just that if one doesn't agree, they are not called un-Canadian for having a different viewpoint. I suppose that this greater tolerance of differing views can also be called a Canadian attribute.

        As far as Canada being a "bunch of lines drawn on a map" Canadians have a far, far greater knowledge of foreign countries (including the US) than Americans do.

        •  Well of course Canadians know more about (0+ / 0-)

          the US than Americans do.  You got that from the French, no?

          Seriously, I know this gets you worked up and that is not my intention (though it is fun to see an animated canuck! -)).  The american left is far different than the international left.  And we, like the american right have some major divides we are covering over because it is election time.  I think the term American Exceptionalism, vague as it is, is one of those things that can work its way right into some of those divides.  It will be interesting to see if and how they play out after the election.

          •  I'm Canajan, eh. I don't get worked up over (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Upie, mimi

            Merkins calling themselves the best people and country in the world. It's old hat for us. We've heard it all before. But we Canucks all know WE are better so we just smile and humour them.  ;)

            BTW, the American left has shifted so far right, center looks left. Obama has pushed the right into wacko-land.

            Unfortunately, there has been a shift towards the right also in Canada and Europe.

            •  Not to much of a shift though, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Claudius Bombarnac

              in the Netherlands the extremes just got their asses handed to them. The Middle-Left and Right have to work it out (as usual), so the consensual coalition will have to figure it out. But I know that a Canadian might understand what I'm talking about, it's rather far fetched for the others...

              'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

              by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:13:57 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Go watch Gladiator and then (0+ / 0-)

    try to imagine any other country - any other culture - making that film.  It is not about a perfect or an infallible country.  It is about the exceptional ideal and the exceptional individualism to obtain it.  

  •  America is exceptional, its people are ordinary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie

    The US is the only country in history to be founded upon an idea rather than ethnic geographical divisions. Central to this idea is that the little guy is worthy of a chance at life and a fair deal from the powers that be. While other countries now reflect similar ideals and goals, most of them come from the US constitution. Other than that, we the people are just a bunch of lucky yahoos.

    •  american people have been spoiled by (0+ / 0-)

      natural resources, fortuitous timing and a few (excuse me) exceptional leaders.  As a group, we are adolescent in our tendency to ignore many seemly important facts, act on impulse and intuition, and, often, against our interests.  At the same time the American people have been exceptionally generous with their fortune and their blood both abroad and at home.  We have lived with and thrived with diversity which most nations can't fathom -- and with which few have flourished.  

      Whether the american people are as exceptional as the nation has been -- that is a question that must be answered over and over again.  Until now, every time they have been tested the answer has been unequivically yes.  

      The past 30 years have been ugly, but I'm with Biden: don't bet against them.  And that goes for my blue state brothers as well.  

    •  Historically ignorant to the point of racism (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Upie, Claudius Bombarnac

      The Netherlands as an independent country was founded on the ideas of Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Trade in the process of freeing itself from the Spanish Inquisition and the Spanish Empire's economic delusions in the 16th century. The Pilgrims who founded the Massachusetts Bay colony had tried Freedom of Conscience in the Netherlands first starting in 1607, and rejected it vehemently.

      Athens was founded on an idea, expressed in its devotion to the wisdom of Athena. That is one of the main reasons why it became the first sort-of-representative democracy for rich White men. White as in non-Egyptian, non-Persian, generally non-barbarian. Where the word barbarian is a deliberately racist insult, meaning people who cannot actually speak, whose language is just bar-bar-bar.

      Most of modern civilization has to do with the continued working out of ideas from a handful of ancient civilizations of ideas, including Babylonia, Egypt, Athens, Israel, Rome, India, Persia, and China. I mean the full breadth of religious, moral, political, mathematical, scientific, and other ideas.

      Hey, Mitt! Thanks for ObamneyCare. http://www.healthcare.gov

      by Mokurai on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:20:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The United States (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Claudius Bombarnac, Upie

      was founded as a representative democracy which eliminated a majority of the population from having any voice in that democracy.

      By not allowing women, blacks, those who didn't own land, and indigenous peoples to vote (in other words, only wealthier white men could vote), only a minority had any recourse to the democratic process, which isn't all that democratic.

      We slaughtered the Indians, went to war against Mexico, enslaved Africans, had white indentured servants, fought numerous wars, all to advance our imperialism.

      We have an awful history.

      The claim to be exceptional embarrasses me. No wonder the world hates us.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:52:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Something we do not possess anymore (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Claudius Bombarnac, Upie, Catte Nappe

    This sounds like I hate America but I don't.
    During the cold war and after WWII...The American consumer bought American made.
    We had the best cars (we thought)
    The best schools
    The best military
    The best healthcare
    the finest doctors
    The land of opportunity
    The strongest unions
    Freedom of and from religion
    That is what we were told.  that is what we believed.  We were the Mighty US.  We respected privacy.  We had democracy like none other and then the propoganda fell apart and this goes directly to civil rights.  Minorities and women knew all things were not equal.  Vietnam happened.   There was civil unrest and the America that people still want to believe in was an exceptional idea except we no longer made anything, we lost a war and we did, doctors got in bed with insurance companies, Jimmy Hoffa was killed and the unions did not stand as strong, education went down the tubes, taxes went lower, Trickle down happened, and tv started breeding Jim and Tammy Bakers.  
    We lost our way, civil rights did not really happen ....it was law but many people did not accept it and the same thing for lifestyles such as Gay and Lesbian.   Women had too much power and Hillary was a threat in 93.
    Exceptional ism is nationalism on steroids based on propaganda.  

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:08:11 PM PDT

  •  Oh yeah... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie

    The American Indians are the most patriotic people in the world.  They do love the land but they never bought into we are better than others.  They tried to share and what happened?  They got put on a trail of tears because they knew the truth.
    American Exceptional ism exists with the Native american.  They have survived and still love the idea of a free nation under extraordinary circumstances.  The government is exceptional regarding breaking treaties.  

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:26:27 PM PDT

  •  It's the nationalistic arrogance spoken down to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Vetwife, Upie, Claudius Bombarnac

    militarily weaker nations that has characterized every once-powerful nation soon-to-be-brought-low, from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich.

    Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

    by ZedMont on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:26:50 PM PDT

  •  American exceptionalism (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie, Catte Nappe

    supposedly the term was invented by Stalin or one of his aides, as an explanation for why the Revolution was making so little progress here.

    Today, "American exceptionalism" is one of those great political phrases that has no meaning of its own, but into which the audience inserts their own interpretation.  

    Moderates hear it and think "Yay America!"

    Paleoconservatives hear it and think "America has the economic and military strength to ignore the rest of the world and do whatever we want."

    Neoconservatives hear it and think "America is so powerful that the rules can't be applied to us, we are the exception and we can do the very things we condemn others for doing."

    The ambiguity of the phrase is precisely what Republicans prefer using it to actually having an explicit foreign policy.

    I just genetically engineer them, I don't nominate them for President.

    by happymisanthropy on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:51:24 PM PDT

  •  Your TagLine says it all: (0+ / 0-)

    "I just genetically engineer them, I don't nominate them"

    'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

    by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:55:08 PM PDT

  •  It's very simple (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie

    American Exceptionalism is the doctrine that something that would be denounced, even cause for confrontation (up to and including war) should another nation do it, is perfectly A-OK and above and beyond any criticism when the US government and/or its affiliated interests do it.

    Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

    by ActivistGuy on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 02:22:28 PM PDT

  •  Ironic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie

    that those in our midst who are first to invoke American exceptionalism seem to be the least exceptional among us.

  •  It's listening to GOP lies without going bonkers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upie

    It's being hammered day after day after not with arguments one might disagree with, but with the highest level of bullshit making one wonders if he lives in a Third World Country.

    When a guy like Romney accuses Obama of having a habit of not telling the truth, it is so telling of his real self that it makes you not even believe him when he says he loves his kids.

    Exceptionalism? It's watching the gullible idiots supporting him, under the belief that he will get them $1/gal gas without hitting them on the back on the head.  

    I knew a guy who once prepared a personal budget for himself, and upon realizing that he would come up under EVERY month, he resolved the situation by...throwing the budget away! That's what Republicans leaders do! They magically invent a bogus narrative that is an insult to the intelligence...and people support it!

    •  Well, that's why there are magicians, (0+ / 0-)

      priests or other 'truth-sayers'. But why does the chant of 'USA, USA' ring so much bells. I mean, I'm a real Dutchman, orange and all (even occasionally flying high), but I know that if my Prime-Minister would come with 'Exceptionalism', it would be his political end, because we'll know it's crap.

      'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

      by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 03:32:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It would make me crazy, (0+ / 0-)

      Two parties only in endless campaigns starting again when the primaries close. All that in county, state and federal elections. No flexibility, only two parties (except the token few). Extremes, no way to express reality: the way in between, the compromise, talking with each other, it all seems locked out.

      'We're all flying backwards into the Future'

      by Upie on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 03:54:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's a big fat lie (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LakeSuperior

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 04:36:58 PM PDT

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