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Imagine you're at a party with 190-some other people, and all sorts of conversations are taking place among a variety of free-flowing groups.  One of the conversations that periodically crops up on a regular basis among many different people is the fact that this one guy is really full of himself, and overestimates his importance.  The first time you hear it, it sounds pretty reasonable - the guy has plenty of friends, and is surrounded by women, but so are a number of others too.  But it keeps being said - over, and over, and over: "This guy's really not that important."  And you start to wonder why someone who is not that important is such a topic of discussion.  You start to wonder if maybe some of the people saying this are trying to convince themselves of it.  

So I'd like to make a devil's advocate challenge to people who insist on critiquing so-called "American Exceptionalism": Prove your point by no longer talking about this country.  Plenty of countries are full of themselves, and see themselves as having some unique place in humankind that entitles them to something more than others - but you're not talking about them, because you don't actually believe them.  This is not an attempt to justify or rationalize American Exceptionalism, just a challenge that people who see it as a real problem should take responsibility for their role in perpetuating it.

I have as much contempt for the ignorant perverts of Amurrcan psychopathic right-wing conservatism as anyone capable of rational thought, but I'm not such an ignoramus myself as to identify that degenerate form as being somehow definitive or even representative of this country.  Whenever I see "American Exceptionalism" mentioned, I get a distinct whiff of moral and intellectual laziness.  If you're not American, what the hell do you care what deluded ideas are prevalent in America?  Oh, that's right - because opinion in the United States has a disproportionate effect on the world.  One might even say an exceptional effect.  And if you are American...what the hell do you care what other, less worthy Americans think?  Does this country belong to you or doesn't it?  Do you belong to yourself, or are you just flotsam whining that the tide isn't carrying you to a more desirable destination?

Laugh at people who speak from ignorance about America's position relative to the world in various metrics - education, healthcare, crime, freedom, democracy, etc.  But if you really believed that changes the intrinsic value of this country, you wouldn't care what people think in the first place.  Let the fools believe what they believe, right?  But you do care, because you see potential being wasted.  Potential more than other countries.  Again, if you didn't believe that, you wouldn't bother.  You'd leave, as indeed some have.  But even among those who do leave, some just can't stop talking about the country they left to the people still living in it.  America is, at very least, an addiction, and it's one shared all over the world.  

German magazine Der Spiegel loves to talk about the United States, as does the British media, as do media organizations around the world, but the US media gives the rest of the world short shrift.  It's horrible - I love hearing about the rest of the world - but it says a lot about exactly who it is that's guilty of thinking we're exceptional.  When the rest of the world stops believing it - rather than just constantly, almost desperately asserting it - eventually we'll get the idea.  But while we remain a subject of intense scrutiny, don't expect US narcissism to fade.  Of course, maybe it's not that simple, and the rest of the world really can't stop talking about the United States way more than it talks about them in return because it really is that important.  In which case bitching about "exceptionalism" is just a sad defense mechanism.

As for those who think they're motivating progressive reform in the US by belittling its image of itself, does that ever work with the people in your real life?  Your kid's not rising to expectations in school, so you call him/her a loser and a moron?  Your spouse isn't pulling their weight in the relationship, so you say they're really not that important to you?  Is that the formula for success in family and community relationships?  The term "American Exceptionalism," while it describes a real cultural phenomenon, has become a cheap, weak-minded shorthand for armchair frustration at the lack of progress by other people in advancing this country's state of affairs.  Every bit of skepticism it pretends to represent should be reflected back at the speaker, and the question asked - why do you care?  Either you're right, in which case your topic is inexplicable, or you're wrong and it makes perfect sense to bitch about America all the time: Can't have both.  Faded powers are a topic of rare, indifferent laughter - not screeds and angry, belittling rhetoric.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We are exceptional in our own way. (7+ / 0-)

    Not in the same way as other countries might be, nor are they in ours.

    I see what you did there.

    by GoGoGoEverton on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 06:21:33 PM PST

  •  I think the difficulty here is that (8+ / 0-)

    You are conflating important and exceptional.  That is, the people who keep pushing the exceptional line are, for the most part, arguing that we are better, more moral and , perhaps, even graced by god.  Important is a different thing.  Many 'bad' countries are important, but not exceptional in the sense mentioned.

    If you really want to be the devil's advocate, perhaps you might argue that, in some ways, we really are exceptional...and to some small degree, I might even agree.

    "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

    by Empty Vessel on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 06:24:38 PM PST

    •  No country that aspires to be a world power can... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      ..ever credibly be the most moral nation.

      Yet, those who believe in American exceptionalism, as I do, do so because, at least in my case, they believe that the US is a far better global leader than any other nation could be.

      Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

      by PatriciaVa on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 07:56:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You make an important point. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PatriciaVa

        Human politics abhors a vacuum, and the fact is that in our absence it would basically be China.  There is judgment against reality, and judgment against abstract absolutes, and if we're going to do the latter we might as well be Amish.

        Pour yourself into the future.

        by Troubadour on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 08:15:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  What is this exceptionalism of which you speak? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, MRA NY, Chi, isabelle hayes

    Serious question, actually: How do you define it? Because I've always understood it to mean that America is either exceptionally pure in its dealings with the world, or exceptionally above international law. (Or both.) The fact that other countries talk about America a lot may only mean that America is exceptionally dominant on the world stage ... which is a claim that's pretty hard to argue against.

    Let us all have the strength to see the humanity in our enemies, and the courage to let them see the humanity in ourselves.

    by Nowhere Man on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 06:34:55 PM PST

    •  Good point. (3+ / 0-)

      My own definition is actually not that important.  I do consider America to have something unique to offer the world, but that's neither here nor there.  I don't believe it should have moral impunity.

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 07:03:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Nor do I. (0+ / 0-)

        But if most people understand "American exceptionalism" to mean that America deserves -- or demands -- a permanent get-out-of-jail-free card, that it's really no wonder that people talk about it so much, and your challenge becomes almost self-contradictory in nature.

        Let us all have the strength to see the humanity in our enemies, and the courage to let them see the humanity in ourselves.

        by Nowhere Man on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 07:13:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't see that being the case. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          isabelle hayes

          We must always challenge ourselves.  To challenge is to be challenged.  The right way to deal with the problematic version of American Exceptionalism is to demand that the US either live up to its rhetoric or deal with the drabness of its reality.  But at the same time, the people issuing the challenge have to recognize that they wouldn't be bothering if they didn't really believe it could live up to its rhetoric.  It has done so in the past, it can do so again.

          Pour yourself into the future.

          by Troubadour on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 07:24:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  But if "the people issuing the challenge" (0+ / 0-)

            are the people that you're suggesting should no longer be talking about this country, then, as I said, your challenge is at least somewhat self-contradictory. Why should they stop critiquing this country when, by your comment here, they have some reason to hope that their critiques might lead to a positive outcome?

            (And if these are not the same groups of people, then I'm just very confused about what or whom you're referring to. Which may well be my confusion, and not your own.)

            Let us all have the strength to see the humanity in our enemies, and the courage to let them see the humanity in ourselves.

            by Nowhere Man on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 07:31:31 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The fact that I believe America can live up (0+ / 0-)

              to its rhetoric is not really important.  I'm just one guy.  But what is the point of criticizing exceptionalism if you don't believe that?  If it's truly delusional, then reality will inexorably make a fool of those who believe in it without the obsessive attention of critics.  The only reason to attack it is if one thinks it could be lived up to, but then it's still irrational because it's not a reasonable way to motivate people.  Belittling people's self-image is not a reasonable way to make them excel.

              Pour yourself into the future.

              by Troubadour on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 07:39:03 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  It depends on what they're criticizing (0+ / 0-)

                when they criticize American exceptionalism.

                Go back to my first comment: When a citizen of France (just to pick one example) criticizes American exceptionalism, are they criticizing the  idea that American is nobler in purpose than other nations? Or are they criticizing the (alleged) fact that America is nobler than other nations? Or is it the idea that America is not subject to the law of nations, because America is an exceptional nation?

                I would venture a guess that when the criticism comes from outside of our borders, it's closest to that third kind of critique. And in that case, it's not really a question of getting America to live up to its ideals; it's more an issue of getting America to notice that it has ideals that it might want to try to live up to. In other words, from their perspective, "American exceptionalism" is the bull in a china shop -- or perhaps, it's the fool who brought the bull into the china shop. They critique it because they have no other hope of stopping it; they critique it because they see no other choice.

                (Perhaps it would bring some clarity to this conversation if you could point me to some of the critiques that you're referring to?)

                Let us all have the strength to see the humanity in our enemies, and the courage to let them see the humanity in ourselves.

                by Nowhere Man on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 07:54:46 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  The problem is...why do they care at all? (0+ / 0-)

                  The worst version of American exceptionalism certainly doesn't threaten France, Britain, or Germany.  In very real terms, the United States is a child of these countries and all their strengths and flaws.  And not one of them were morally coherent enough to politically resist the worst excesses of it: There were no trade sanctions during the Bush regime, no recall of ambassadors at the invasion of Iraq - just chiding in editorials and a refraining from active support.  I think it's reasonable to say that the United States is the world's first and only meta-country, embodying the flaws and strengths of all combined.  That makes it exceptional, though all the more important to confront and deal with its problems.

                  Pour yourself into the future.

                  by Troubadour on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 08:22:27 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  American Exceptionalism has changed its meaning... (6+ / 0-)

    ...over the years.

    Wikipedia is full of information.  

    It seems the first one to use the expression was  Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831. But now it has been highjacked by the right.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 06:39:28 PM PST

  •  It's Not a Social Conversation About Bragging or (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, luckydog, Nowhere Man, Chi

    reputation, it's a political issue where claims that we're exceptional are used to drive any number of bad policies. So in many cases they have to be rebutted.

    As far as I heard, not once during the 2 year ACA debate did its champion Mr. Obama state that the US does not have the #1 health care system in the world, something many if not most believed at the time. In fact we stood #37 according to the WHO, and there's a snarky youtube song about that, but the strongest thing the President would say about his issue was that we pay more but get "no better" results than others.

    Millions of people did and do still believe we are #1 in health care. Had the reality of our situation been known to a solid majority of Americans, we might have been able to pass stronger enough reform that could have pulled us part of the way up into the ranks of the civilized nations.

    All kinds of domestic and foreign policy are justified by exceptionality of the US which much of the time (other than for some military applications) doesn't exist.

    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 Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 06:52:35 PM PST

    •  Perhaps. That's a tactical judgment (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nowhere Man, PatriciaVa

      and I think both of us need to acknowledge that neither of us can make any plausible claim to be tactically superior to Barack Obama, considering his list of accomplishments vs. ours.

      The American exceptionalism that just automatically assumes the US is better at specific things than other countries is just plain stupidity, and I have no sympathy.  The other thing, which draws just as much enmity, is the belief that the US can accomplish whatever it sets its mind to - an idea that most countries abandoned a long time ago, if they ever believed it.  That I will never let go of.

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 07:14:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  But Exceptionalism is not President-Dependent (0+ / 0-)

        As bad as Arbusto was, I'd rather have had Bush as president than any other world leader during his tenure.

        Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

        by PatriciaVa on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 08:00:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  We're Exceptional At Some Things.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, Mathazar

    And not so exceptional at others.

    While there are idiots & fools that proceed from an "America Right or Wrong" is the greatest at everything by the grace of God mentality, my problem with some of the "American Exceptionalism" criticisms is that a lot of times it's thrown out as a deflection & moral relativism that views the United States as "just as bad" (or worse) than every other country, and so let's not discuss a problem in some other part of the world because talking about it proceeds from American Exceptionalism.

    Well, the truth is that the way our society functions is better than North Korea's on a lot of things, and saying so isn't fallacy or arrogance, but a demonstrable fact.

    That doesn't mean that we don't have our problems (significant ones), or made our share of mistakes (and we've made some big ones), but we do have reasons to be proud of the society that we as a people have built. The United States is a melting pot/salad bowl of many cultures that have come together. And while this has caused misunderstandings, prejudices, and resentments, it is also the source of our strength & appeal throughout the world.

  •  Here's an example of American exceptionalism: (0+ / 0-)

    In no other country did it take a bloody civil war to abolish slavery. Southern slaveholders and the non-slaveowning subaltern whites they manipulated were so passionately committed to preserving--and extending--slavery that they attacked their own federal government, launching a war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives. And many of their descendants STILL regret that their cause lost.

    •  Is it somehow heroic that most other countries (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rimjob, PatriciaVa

      avoided the issue altogether by remaining morally incoherent?  Is it despicable that we diverged into two stark camps and the right one was victorious?  Britain may have abolished slavery in its own ranks, but Lincoln had to threaten them with war to stop them from trading with the Confederate South.

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 07:19:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Give British abolitionists some credit: (5+ / 0-)

        after abolishing slavery within the British Empire, they pursued the abolition of the slave trade everywhere.

        Even Brazil, which continued to import slaves on a large scale and was economically more dependent on slavery than the US, gave up slavery without a squawk.

        "Is it despicable that we diverged into two stark camps and the right one was victorious?" I think phrasing it this way soft-pedals the real horror of what happened. Those southern politicians and plantation owners who betrayed their nation and started a civil war to perpetuate slavery were not involved in mere regrettable folly-- their project was deeply evil, even by the standards of their age.  

        •  Deep evil that we confronted and defeated. (0+ / 0-)

          While Britain still tried to trade with the South's ill-gotten gains.  Britain has never had to make such choices and sacrifices as Americans made, because the sick fucks responsible for the formation of the Confederacy had already left Britain and colonized the Southern US.  In other words, Europe simply exported its moral conundrums.  And when the continent was divided between two psychoses, Nazism and Communism, the solution didn't come from inside.

          Europe didn't become the "good guy" until the Iraq War, and even then they didn't do shit to stop it.  The most resistant governments were at most passively critical.  I say this as someone intensely versed in history, and aware of our technocratic failures: We are the most morally upstanding hegemony that has ever existed, and our critics lack the balls to hold us accountable for the horrors that are occasionally perpetrated in our name by Republican parasites.

          Pour yourself into the future.

          by Troubadour on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 08:29:20 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  America has historically failed to confront evil (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            LanceBoyle

            - especially if it was at great risk to itself. A cotton mill in Lancashire buying plantation cotton was not morally different from it's counterpart in New Hampshire. As for the "sick fucks" who left Britain - well they colonized ALL the American colonies as well as the West Indies. George Washington kept his slaves (at least the ones who had not run off to the British), and it was Thomas Jefferson who held Sally Hemings family hostage so she would return with him from revolutionary France.

            In 1841 the crew of the American ship Creole, en route to Louisiana with a cargo of slaves, was overpowered by an escaped group led by Madison Washington, and the ship was forced to sail to Nassau in the Bahamas. On their arrival the majority of slaves were set free immediately and 17 who were deemed to have been involved in the death of one of the Americans were detained while the authorities decided whether charges should be brought. In the end they decided these 17 were legitimately fighting for their freedom and they were also free to go.

            One intrepid congressman for Ohio took the opportunity to present a bill in Congress to declare that any slaves on Southern ships that left State waters were free of their bondage. His reward was to be censured by Congress and he resigned his seat. He was subsequently re-elected - but the sorry fact of the matter is that abolition was a vote-LOSING position in the North, never mind the South.

            While the Civil War was started by the South to preserve slavery, it was fought by the North to preserve the Union. Lincoln is on record declaring that if he could win the war without freeing a single slave he would do so. The Emancipation declaration was issued in a preliminary form in August 1862, with the final declaration being issue in January 1863. Why issue a preliminary version in 1862?

            The timing had everything to do with what was happening in London - the British government was mulling the recognition of the Confederacy. While I won't downplay the intent of British government to make mischief with a power rival - the fact is that in every civil war there is potentially a tipping point where foreign governments would recognize the de facto independence of the breakaway group - we see that dynamic in Syria right now.

            What Lincoln and his advisers realized was that British public opinion (at least the public that could vote) was strongly abolitionist, and the moment Lincoln made abolition a war aim, the government in London would have to back away from any incipient recognition - which is exactly what happened.

            However, the price paid in the US was deep discontent in the North, and when the draft was expanded after the emancipation declaration there were riots across Northern cities against local African American communities - protests against being drafted to fight to free slaves.

            The details of what I have laid out are easily researched, and some of them (like the draft riots) have appeared in recent cultural settings like Martin Scorcese's "The Gangs of New York" or the tv series "Copper". American history is rich and intriguing and there is much to be learned from it - but like most countries - its honestly not very flattering.

            One final point - regarding World War 2 - Britain declared war on Germany in 1939 - knowing full well that its continued existence was likely on the line. The British public knew they were fighting evil - the American public not so much. It would take a Japanese attack 2 years later, years during which Britain suffered the Blitz and a massive U-boat campaign, to finally get America involved. In fact, it was Hitler who declared war on America (in support of their Japanese ally!) and it is not certain that Roosevelt could have persuaded Congress to embark on the 2-front war without that help from Adolf.

    •  Abolish Slavery? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour, luckydog, MRA NY, Mathazar

      There are more slaves on this planet today than at any other point in human history. ("27 million people - more than double the total number believed to have been taken from Africa during the transatlantic slave trade").

      I do not use that word, "slavery" lightly.  It evokes obviously one of the most painful chapters in our nation’s history.  But around the world, there’s no denying the awful reality.  When a man, desperate for work, finds himself in a factory or on a fishing boat or in a field, working, toiling, for little or no pay, and beaten if he tries to escape -- that is slavery.  When a woman is locked in a sweatshop, or trapped in a home as a domestic servant, alone and abused and incapable of leaving -- that’s slavery.

      When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed -- that’s slavery.  When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family -- girls my daughters’ age -- runs away from home, or is lured by the false promises of a better life, and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists -- that’s slavery.  It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.

      Now, as a nation, we’ve long rejected such cruelty.  Just a few days ago, we marked the 150th anniversary of a document that I have hanging in the Oval Office -- the Emancipation Proclamation.  With the advance of Union forces, it brought a new day -- that "all persons held as slaves" would thenceforth be forever free.  We wrote that promise into our Constitution.  We spent decades struggling to make it real.  We joined with other nations, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so that "slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms."

      -President Obama, September 25th, 2012

      •  A good point, but (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Chi

        are there countries with stable governments today that are as dedicated to maintaining slavery as the Confederacy was?

        Let us all have the strength to see the humanity in our enemies, and the courage to let them see the humanity in ourselves.

        by Nowhere Man on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 07:59:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  33 Out Of 186 (0+ / 0-)

          From USA Today:

          Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton decried the enslavement of up to 27 million people around the world as her department released its annual report on human trafficking... More than half the victims are in India, China and Southeast Asia... Most are enslaved by private employers, but millions work the sex trade or are in state-imposed forced labor.

          By contrast, 42,000 victims were helped by their governments last year. Fewer than 8,000 prosecutions and fewer than 4,000 convictions resulted -- improvements from 2010, but a fraction of the overall problem.

          Of the 186 countries rated in the report, only 33 were meeting standards for combating slavery, while 17 were totally non-compliant. Among the worst offenders: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Syria.

          •  There is a huge difference (0+ / 0-)

            between being non-compliant in the fight against slavery, and being dedicated towards preserving slavery.

            There is also a huge difference between Syria and stability.

            Let us all have the strength to see the humanity in our enemies, and the courage to let them see the humanity in ourselves.

            by Nowhere Man on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 06:05:39 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  And there is a big difference (0+ / 0-)

              between failing to enforce laws against the practice of slavery and using nullification, secession, and ultimately armed revolt to openly defend and extend slavery as a system ordained by God and permitted by the Constitution.

  •  All I know is that in order to be 50+ and (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, MRA NY

    gainfully employed I have had to work overseas 11 of the past 12 years. I do agree that the US is exceptional, but not in the Reagan rhetoric way. It is exceptional for never having had a monarch, successfully overthrown a tyrant, fought a war to free 1/4 of its citizenry, constantly reinvents itself among other things.

    I miss it and am returning home for good this year.

    BTW if one wants arrogance to compare against US arrogance one only need to eavesdrop on a UK Tory meeting or speak with a group of Chinese expats. Don't get me started on German engineers in Malaysia either!

    If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobediance, 1849

    by shigeru on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 07:17:19 PM PST

    •  Our economy doesn't do well by experienced (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nowhere Man, MRA NY, PatriciaVa

      professionals, that much is obvious.   The biggest part is of course plain greed on the part of the oligarchs who rule our private sector, but the other part is just a cult of youth that devalues experience.  I'll be 30 in a few months and I already see it.

      But I also agree with your positive assessments.  We're a young country, and we still have a lot of the advantages of youth.  We haven't been crushed by a thousand years of politics and war, so naturally we make a lot of mistakes, but new mistakes are better than old ones.  And that fact makes me more angry at Republicans who refuse to acknowledge history.

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 07:35:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  America lost exceptional status (0+ / 0-)

    when Guantanamo was opened.
    Indefinite imprisonment without being charged and tried in a court of law is a crime against humanity.

    The so-called leader of the free world. Disgraceful.

    you don't believe in evolution, you understand it. you believe in the FSM.

    by Mathazar on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 11:28:07 PM PST

  •  As far as I'm concerned exceptionalism died (0+ / 0-)

    in the u.s. when the levees broke in Louisiana. The richest country in the world stands by and does essentially nothing as a major city drowns.

    "I smoke. If this bothers anyone, I suggest you look around at the world in which we live and shut your fuckin' mouth." --- Bill Hicks

    by voroki on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 05:06:26 AM PST

  •  Yeah, nice try! (0+ / 0-)

    Isn't this (i) a USA-based blog AND the country that literally invented the American Exceptionalism concept?

    So I'd like to make a devil's advocate challenge to people who insist on critiquing so-called "American Exceptionalism": Prove your point by no longer talking about this country.
    In any event, I do my part towards fulfilling your wish by damning Canada ever chance I get.  Sadly, however, I have yet to convince anyone (Celine Dion aside) that they're nearly as evil as we are . .. .

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