Government & Law

US Exceptionalism? Yes, But For Good or Bad?

October 16, 2018

American Exceptionalism is defined by Wikipedia as:

American exceptionalism is an ideology holding the United States as unique among nations in positive or negative connotations, with respect to its ideas of democracy and personal freedom.  Though the concept has no formal definition, there are some themes common to various conceptions of the idea. One is the history of the United States is different from other nations.  In this view, American exceptionalism stems from the American Revolution, becoming what political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset called “the first new nation” and developing the American ideology of “Americanism”, based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, republicanism, democracy, and laissez-faire economics. This ideology itself is often referred to as “American exceptionalism.”  Another theme is the idea that the U.S. has a unique mission to transform the world. Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg address (1863), Americans have a duty to ensure “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Another theme is the sense the United States’ history and mission give it a superiority over other nations.

So consider what is happening in this nation today.  The political process seems to be in gridlock.  The Executive branch is becoming more authoritarian. Nationalism is on the rise.  Immigrants are being rejected.  The incidents of blatant racism are becoming more common place.  Religious beliefs are being used as an excuse to discriminate, e.g. LBGTQ.  Long standing agreements with our allies are being withdrawn, seemingly indiscriminately.  Social programs that support the less fortunate in our society are being reduced or cancelled.

So Yes, the US today is showing signs of exceptionalism.  But not in a way that we used to think about our nation.  Not based on “ liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, republicanism, democracy, and laissez-faire economics“.  Quite  to the contrary.  Our Exceptionalism of late is nothing to be proud of.  We are becoming Exceptional in a very negative way.

Photo by Jagz Mario

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