Tuesday, December 02, 2014

American Exceptionalism is a dangerous myth

For some reason, I’ve been dwelling recently on the idea of American Exceptionalism (AE) and how ridiculous and repugnant a concept it really is. At some point during one of Obama’s presidential campaigns, a questioner asked if he believed in American Exceptionalism and he said he did. I’m sure no presidential candidate would be foolish enough to criticize our status as a super duper world power, but I’m guessing that Obama the man is smart enough to understand how wrong it is.

AE is one of those things that a lot of Americans instinctively agree with, but that few have actually thought about. It’s like the words to the Pledge of Allegiance or the Star Spangled Banner, we hear them all the time, but not many people look at them closely.

Is America special? Are we inherently superior to other countries? Has God chosen us over other peoples of the world? It sounds crass and incredibly self-centered when stated this way, but that’s what AE is all about. If you accept AE, you accept the idea that we are better than the people of other countries. Let’s bring this down to a personal level. Do you think that any one individual is superior to another? How do we feel about people who think they are better than everyone else? We generally don’t like them.

And let’s not forget that countries with a serious superiority complex, like, oh, I don’t know, Nazi Germany, have not fared well historically.

As long as we believe in AE, it makes things like destroying an indigenous population, dropping bombs all over the Middle East or starting wars with countries that have not threatened us seem acceptable, even patriotic. If we do something in the name of America, it must be okay.

AE means never having to say you’re sorry.

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