Skip to main content

Whenever Fourth of July rolls around, most Americans wrap themselves in the flag. It is a patriotic gesture that both natives, past immigrants and current immigrants make. While there are some, specifically those on the right and tea partiers that attempt to wrap themselves in the flag throughout the year, most use the Independence Day celebrations to do so. They do it to honor the country they call home. They do it to honor the country that is their livelihood.

This day, however, should be a time of reflection. What does it mean to be an American? Does American citizenship mean the same to everyone? Does everyone mean the same to America? Is America really exceptional?

Being American means one lives in the country with the most powerful military. It means living in the country that ultimately controls the world’s economy. With that power comes a responsibility that over the last few years were not used wisely. In fact, both the military and the financial sectors were instrumental in the unnecessary deaths of thousands and a near world economic collapse. Being an American means bearing the weight of these bad deeds whenever traveling abroad and professing the intrinsic love for this country.

Being an American citizen means different things to different people. For many nth-generation white Americans, it is a birthright even as they are blinded from the suffering of the natives whose land was taken, the blacks who were enslaved for profit, and the Chinese and indentured servants whose labor was exploited. For the American Natives, one can understand why many feel it is they that are the true Americans and stewards of these lands. For blacks, inasmuch as much of the economy was built on their free labor for centuries, they are made to feel as a notch less. And for most non-white or non-black Americans? They are still asked, “Where are you from?

Many buy into Alexis de Tocqueville’s notion of American Exceptionalism. For the masses in America and throughout the world, it just isn’t so. For what most Americans learn about America is a reality devoid of perspective. It does not matter what Americans say about America, it matters what others think of America based on America’s actions.

America was founded by immigrants who came to a foreign land and took it all forcefully. How then can America be exceptional when instead of atoning for said act it then tries to keep those attempting access to a better life out with politically driven angry mobs?

Being an American citizen is complicated. One is proud of what is attained under the red, white and blue. Americans have been to the moon. America has a presence throughout the oceans, continents, planets, inner and outer space. One is proud to be in a country capable of projecting ultimate power. Many Americans often feel a sense of superiority when traveling abroad.

Yet, it is a lacking of humility that may be what really haunts America. For America is not really one nation under God. America is all nations. It is that America comprises the best of all nations that make it great. It is that America still has a grassroots that continues to fight to not make America what it was or is, but what America is to be.

So, afterall, America cannot be considered exceptional now to many, not even with de Tocqueville’s shallow and antiquated definition of exceptionalism. That said, all Americans working together, that mosaic from around the world, just may make it so.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Most immigrants I know... (15+ / 0-)

    ...consider America to be exceptional.

    I'm one of them.

    Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a grammarian. So sue me.

    by Pi Li on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 03:08:58 PM PDT

  •  One of the group of people who founded (5+ / 0-)

    the United States are the Freemasons. Every Masonic Lodge in the United States has a picture of George Washington who was Grand Master of his State Lodge. The Enlightement informs Freemasonry and also informed many of the Founders who were not Masons, like Thomas Jefferson.

    Don't forget the Masons. I'm a fifth generation one myself.


    by commonmass on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 03:14:02 PM PDT

    •  the masonic pyramid on the dollar bill is also a (0+ / 0-)

      pretty good reminder :-)  (but sadly that seems to be something of a myth--the "Eye of Providence" unfinished-pyramid motif was adopted as a symbol for the new US govt about 14 years before it was adopted by the Masons; and among those who drove its adoption as a US symbol, only Franklin was actually a Mason.  We probably also don't want to conflate Enlightenment ideas too much with Freemasonry. Plato was bald; Plato was a Greek; therefore all Greeks are bald...

  •  Optimism in the face of a 'Patriotic' day... (3+ / 0-)

    I prefer realism, except so many times, people accuse realist of being pessimists, when they aren't.

    It is that America comprises the best of all nations that make it great.
    It really doesn't comprise the best of all nations…kind of delusional. If America did comprise the best of all, it would be the best of all. It is not.
    It is that America still has a grassroots that continues to fight to not make America what it was or is, but what America is to be.
    There are plenty fighting to make America what it was, or what they think it was. There are many trying o keep things the way they are instead of making progress. Even now, their nullifying and obstructing a lot, and successfully.
    So, afterall, America cannot be considered exceptional now to many...
    Because it is not 'exceptional'. To say that it is is hidebound arrogance.
    That said, all Americans working together, that mosaic from around the world, just may make it so.
    Then again, they may not. All Americans working together might make it so, but all Americans do not work together. Polarization continues to grow. No magic wish or hoping it will just change is going to make it so.

    -6.38, -6.21: Lamented and assured to the lights and towns below, Faster than the speed of sound, Faster than we thought we'd go, Beneath the sound of hope...

    by Vayle on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 03:14:14 PM PDT

  •  I like the eagle's codpiece. It's exceptional! nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, pinhighin2

    "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you succeed." - Nancy Pelosi, 6/30/07 // "Succeed?" At what?

    by nailbender on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 03:15:40 PM PDT

  •  ? (4+ / 0-)
    Whenever Fourth of July rolls around, most Americans wrap themselves in the flag. It is a patriotic gesture that both natives, past immigrants and current immigrants make.
    okayyy…. It's hard to imagine native Americans wrapping themselves in flags. Never say never, I guess.
    Being an American citizen is complicated.
    Apparently so.


    Overall, it was my understanding that front-page articles were copyedited before being published.

    Conscious evolution is a human right. Demand your rights, today!

    by Pluto on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 03:16:42 PM PDT

    •  Dad wore a flag theme baseball cap year round (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pluto, noladq, miguelon

      He was very liberal and it was intended as a great big Fuck You to the racist rightwing assholes he had to hang out with to pursue his hobbies (guns and model airplanes). He fought in WWII and resented the notion that liberals were somehow less American than conservatives, and that jingoistic nationalism is somehow equivalent to loving one's country. He never flew a flag though. Never.

      "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

      by quill on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 08:58:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It is odd to t&r a FP peice (4+ / 0-)

    ...but I did in this case.  I think this a set of questions we should ask more and ask more often.

    I think most people act out family of origin issues on their nationality.  Us included.  And that while nationalism is an obscenity and a folly, you should not be ashamed of where you're from or the things that make you who you are.

    I think being an American means I won the birthday lottery -- not as much as a Canadian or Western European, but far more so than folks who were born with nothing in places without our educational and material infrastructure.  I think it means recognizing that a lot of what we've got, we've got by genocide, slavery, and dividing the world into citizens and refugees, both on our own borders and the borders of other countries.  

    America stopped being "all countries" sometime after the last great wave of post WWII immigration, and more so when we started torturing people in the name of our nationalism.  But we do have the ideals and complexity of an immigrant nation, at our best.

    ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

    by jessical on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 03:21:13 PM PDT

    •  Ruined mosaics (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Anyone who has seen Greek or Roman mosaics in situ is struck by the composition but also by their ephemeral nature - one misplaced post-hole could have destroyed all or a part of an ancient work of art.

      The agent of destruction in America is the TeaParty/GOP which has decided that only a mono-chromatic white mosaic is permissible - no people of color, no foreigners, no women, no lesbians and gays, no Muslims, no atheists.

      You mentioned Canada but I would add Australia to the handful of countries that have consciously worked to build a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-color mosaic not always successfully (both countries have done a miserable job in dealing with aboriginal peoples).

      From its history, you would expect the U.S. to be a leader in this effort. Instead, an attitude has been encouraged that rejects anything that doesn't have an immediate positive benefit for the "typical" white American family - and the nation is the worse off for that.

  •  I think if America is 'exceptional' at all it's (0+ / 0-)

    that this country is unusually ideational: ie, it's NOT based on a single ethnic or historical-linguistic identity the way nearly all other historical great-powers have been; it's almost not a nation-state as that term is usually defined.  For the European colonizers, north America represented some set of Ideas: either the Idea of financial opportunity or (and/or) the Idea of some new place to set up their religious-political utopias.  And obviously the Idea of political and/or economic opportunity has continued to drive immigration ever since.  I can guarantee you that EVERY current and former world-power nation around the globe thinks of itself as 'exceptional', in some way---but usually the idea of "what does it mean to be.." French, or Spanish, or Egyptian, or Chinese, or Japanese, or Indian, is answered with reference to some fairly long, shared cultural history, with whatever attendant mythology and plus or minus a few foreign occupations, centuries of colonization, etc.  We have nothing like that.  The U.S. got incredibly fortunate in the intersection of geography, several centuries of European history (esp English, Spanish, French), and technological development (esp vis-à-vis Native Americans).   Otherwise god knows what the "United States of America" would look like, if anything at all.   In a way, being an American citizen means thou dost protest too much.  Which maybe this diary is saying?    

    •  Of course, every one of those other historical (0+ / 0-)

      powers was ALSO born, at some point, out of (typically) violent conquest and subjugation or extermination of prior inhabitants--but it seems to make a qualitative difference in current national-idea that this happened one or two or three millennia ago, rather than in recent recorded (and to some extent still lived) history.  I think the Anglo-Saxon British are still protesting too much, themselves, with their meager 1500 years of insecure ownership of that island...

  •  In terms of political stability (0+ / 0-)

    America qualifies as exceptional. Multi-national corporations need a home base to operate from -- a military super-power kind of home base. Without our exceptional publicly funded military, things become a lot more difficult for CEO's everywhere. Too bad for the rest of us that America's standard of living trends aren't looking all that rosy.

    •  Some American corporations ... (0+ / 0-)

      are re-organizing as foreign corporations and relocating their headquarters elsewhere to cheat, er, save on taxes. Perhaps we should withhold military support from those that do.

      Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters. -- President Grover Cleveland, 1888

      by edg on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 06:04:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think you fell into a semantic trap. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto, Zadatz, johnny wurster, hungeski

    It's frustrating when people, particularly on the left, take members of the far right at their word when they say that they're the real Americans or even the only real Americans.  Those planes on 9/11 that reached their target hit our most cosmopolitan city and the most diverse institution in the country.  

    America was founded by immigrants who came to a foreign land and took it all forcefully. How then can America be exceptional when instead of atoning for said act it then tries to keep those attempting access to a better life out with politically driven angry mobs?
    "America" did not confront those children with flags and anger, a mob in Murrieta, CA did.  America, through its government, tried to bring those children and their guardians to Murrieta so they could have more comfortable surroundings and possibly a degree of freedom.  The children who crossed Mexico to get here didn't associate the country with that mob -- if they did why would they have even made the trip?

    "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

    by Yamaneko2 on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 03:32:59 PM PDT

    •  Those children are fleeing for their lives. (6+ / 0-)

      The United Nations considers them political refugees, entitled to the Human Right of Asylum.

      They probably didn't have a boat handy to allow them to flee to a nation with a shred of decency left -- a nation that was a signatory to the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The awareness of asylum Rights came after many nations returned Jewish asylum-seekers to certain death.

      Ironically, this international law was written for the UN by Eleanor Roosevelt -- who is doubtless spinning in her grave over what America has become.

      Thankfully, the UN is looking to resettle these children in civilized nations that practice legal human decency.

      Conscious evolution is a human right. Demand your rights, today!

      by Pluto on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 03:47:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As for this: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Yet, it is a lacking of humility that may be what really haunts America.
    Probably, it's a lack of redress for American atrocities that "haunts" America.

    But redress will come -- one way of the other.

    Since 2000, when George the Lesser was appointed President -- until today -- the suicide death rate among white middle-aged American men has jumped a staggering 35 percent. At this rate, it will the leading cause of death among white men aged 35 to 55 over the next five years.

    The states with the most guns are leading the way on this stat. Which proves that these suicide deaths are both cosmic and deliberate.

    Just sayin'

    Big Data.

    Conscious evolution is a human right. Demand your rights, today!

    by Pluto on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 03:34:42 PM PDT

  •  there is no perfect nation (9+ / 0-)

    every nation has it's misdeeds, controversial choices etc etc.

    I'm happy to be a citizen of the United States warts and all. Yes it complicated but it's home. In that vein I celebrate the 4th and what this nation strives to.

    Der Weg ist das Ziel

    by duhban on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 03:35:00 PM PDT

    •  exactly (7+ / 0-)

      it is as if some folks feel to counter "American Exceptionalism" they must describe America as the worst of all things.

      We aren't the best at everything, nor are we the most righteous. In fact, we've done and continue to do plenty of bad things, heck, some things are downright inexcusable.

      Then again, we've done a lot of good too. We have a lot to be proud of, and we have a lot to fix. But to me what is "exceptional" about America is the fact that we are such a multicultural society that you see in very few other places to this degree.

      I think the ideals we strive towards are exceptional. Our failing to reach them can be maddening of course. But progress is never smooth.  I think we can be something great, and we are on the path there, what we see are last gasps in many ways of folks who want to protect their fiefdoms.

      Isn't that why we are all here at the end of the day? To work towards the promise that is America?

    •  Oh, a contrarian, eh? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      6ZONite, nerafinator

      I am proud of this country's founding ideals, even though, even in the founding, they were honored in the breach. I am proud of the way that we have, in long fits and short starts, stumbled our way into honoring more of those ideals as we've gone along.

      I realize that patriotism comes easier to me as a white male. But I hope my kind of patriotism, in its small way, mirrors MLK's: looking forward to the long arc of history bending toward justice, and willing to do my bit to bend the arc.

      And I'm appalled at the way - primarily because our military has become the world's first, second, and third line of defense for major international corporations, and our Congress has so often been co-opted to that ignoble, mercenary diminution of our ideals - that for the last forty years, the issue of gay rights aside, my country has acted as such a powerful force against its own ideals. That doesn't mean those ideals are any less powerful, much less dead. The work of seeing them honored continues to be laid on our shoulders - both as our proud heritage as Americans, and as our pained responsibility for the things that have been done in our name.

      The real USA Patriot Act was written in 1789. It's called the Bill of Rights.

      by nicteis on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 03:50:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  American Exceptionalism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's true that we are exceptional. And inclusive.
    When our fore-parents came here, they decided that anyone could be an american and free, except non-whites. Recently, they have begun to expand on that exceptional ism.  Now, if your a woman, GLTB, or a Democratic voter, you're not an american, either.
    That's inclusive. No one gets left out on the fun.

    Free Will is the only moral law.//If you have to explain snark, it's because it isn't working on one end or the other.

    by franklyn on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 03:50:04 PM PDT

  •  A little story (13+ / 0-)

    Recently, I went to a pharmacy that I have medications filled through.  The Pharmacist is a wonderful, kind, brilliant and caring Vietnamese (by origin) woman.  I tell you, she is just a fantastic person, along with the rest of her staff, a White woman and Hispanic man.  All, just really top-shelf people.  On this day, my dad happened to accompany me to the pharmacy.  Dad is a Vietnam veteran.  Served in Vietnam before people even knew what Vietnam was (he arrived October 1965-Danang).  Dad on this day wore a hat that he is proud of, a Vietnam Veteran hat.  While I introduced him to the pharmacist there was much cordial greeting and laughter.  After we left, my dad apologized to me because he was wearing the Vietnam Veteran hat.  He asked me to call and apologize to the pharmacist as he meant no ill will.  
    From this I have learned the following:  My dad does not wear the Vietnam veteran hat to be better than the Vietnamese, nor to spike the ball on them.  He wears the Vietnam Veteran hat because of his outrage at this country and all of their money driven b.s. wars.  He is the consummate American, yet he knows as a young man in college, with a family to support that America did not care for his needs, and shipped him off to fight a war that no one to this day can explain why.  He wears the Vietnam Veteran hat to tell the money hungry powers that be, F**k you.  He wears it to show that these same money hungry idiots never send their own children, and if they do, they somehow are miraculously officers.  Therefore, with all the wisdom that my dad has, all the love and hope, all the genuine Christ like attitudes that this man has, his perception of this racist money hungry country is one that is of an increased value to me.
    The second thing is the pharmacist.  when I called her to apologize for my dad; to let her know that he meant no animosity to her, she gave a reply for the ages.  She stated "I am an American!!!!!!!!"  Further she stated "She only believes in American exceptionalism and want to do the best for her country."  
    Well she went and got a degree in Pharmacy, owns her own business and in turn has employed a woman who because of skin color has all the assumed rights of White America, and a Hispanic man who has gone to school and only desires TO BE ABLE TO FEED, CLOTHE AND LOVE HIS FAMILY!!!!

    This is the problem with the racist tea party and many republicans.  These are people...they are wonderful, kind, caring people and if anyone has anything to say about the, they are just idiots and will not find their way into heaven.  This America is not just for the white race.  believe me there are some white people who want to make this the truly spectacular country that it should be...yea dad married a white woman and made this fantastic family (Sister's and myself!!!).

    •  It is upon the crux of this story (0+ / 0-)

      …that humans become truly beautiful.

      Such moments of truth happen among people all over the world.

      Thanks for sharing such a moving story.

      Conscious evolution is a human right. Demand your rights, today!

      by Pluto on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 04:00:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My Vietnam Veteran ballcap (5+ / 0-)

      has the "Made in Vietnam" prominently across the front edge of the bill.

      It's the reason I bought that one. The least I could do.

      We can't think our way into a better way of living. We have to live our way into a better way of thinking. Claude AnShin Thomas

      by DaNang65 on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 04:05:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Nice story (0+ / 0-)

      Did your dad explain those reasons as to why he wears that hat?
      They are fine reasons, indeed, but I ask because I know several Vietnam Veterans and they wear the hat or have Vietnam Veteran stickers on their vehicles out of pride for having served and some in the memories of buddies lost in that war and also so people never forget.
      Whenever I've spoken with a Vietnam Vet, they, as with your dad, felt the war wrong and they are - not angry but I can't think of the proper term, resentful maybe? - but I've never met a Vietnam Veteran that thought the war was justified.

      Your wonderful comment also reminds me of when I worked and there were quite a few Vietnam Veterans and there was at least one younger Vietnamese man whose family took refuge in this country after the war.
      Honestly, it's never occurred to me before that these Vietnam Veterans worked alongside and were friends with a man whose family fled Vietnam.
      One of the Vietnam Veterans walked with a slow and painful limp - he broke both legs when he was forced to jump from a helicopter and I cannot recall if he had been captured or escaped. Then again, he might not have told that part because he didn't like to talk too much about his experiences.
      It's a small world.

      I proudly vote for Democrats - It's the Supreme Court, Stupid!

      by arizonablue on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 04:21:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  beautiful story, your dad sounds awesome. And (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm not sure why we'd be spiking the ball on the Vietnamese anyway.  It's not just that they won that war--their GDP growth has been 2-4 times ours for a long time now.

      Our great-grandchildren, if they're lucky, will be back in Danang hoping to open up little shops there.  

  •  Die Arbeiter... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...haben kein Vaterland.

    The superfluous goods of the rich are necessary to the poor, and when you possess the superfluous you possess what is not yours." St. Augustine

    by Davis X Machina on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 03:52:58 PM PDT

  •  No one nation can lead the world. The best (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    people in ALL nations can get together and make the human race something we can all be proud of and make this planet a real paradise for all living things. We can only vaguely imagine what kind of world we could really create.

    "The soil under the grass is dreaming of a young forest, and under the pavement the soil is dreaming of grass."--Wendell Berry

    by Wildthumb on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 04:10:49 PM PDT

  •  My wish (0+ / 0-)

    I know that America is not rich enough to accept every person that wants to come here.  We don't have enough jobs to support that and we don't have the infrastructure to handle it.  We don't have the funding in our treasuries to handle the health care these people would need and we don't have the ability to get those without housing and food the needs they would have.  America has become a debtor nation and our survivability rests on our ability to pay our debt, specifically the interest on our debt.  If we continue to allow more and more people to become dependent on our government, we will eventually perish.  

    So, how do we handle the existing problem with immigrants that are not currently citizens?  Therein lies the true question.  Do we continue to allow a porous boarder?  Do we continue to provide for those that come here from other countries that are indigent and without means without requiring them to go through the legal immigration process?  How do we handle this in a way that gives our current illegal immigrants the opportunity to be citizens and how do we actually control our Southern boarder?  

    These questions need answering and they need to be dealt with in a bi-partisan way that is equitable and fair and humane yet protects the integrity of our country's immigration laws.

    It's a conundrum I have yet to see any legitimate answer to.

  •  ok, help me out? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    What is "inner space?"

  •  Thanks nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  Every summer, reaching a peak in late June, (0+ / 0-)

    the American people begin to feel dangerously attracted to the idea of being British.

    Fortunately, just in time, they manage to declare independence. Again.

    This is not a sig-line.

    by Joffan on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 06:27:30 PM PDT

  •  Well yeah, the current movie "Tammy" (0+ / 0-)

    amply exemplifies the idea given in the diary title.

  •  What's worse is .... (0+ / 0-)

    Being an American is not only complicated it is now often quite embarrassing.  And one could argue part of our problem is precisely because we feel we're just so darn special.  :)

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site