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.