Sunday, January 29, 2012

Using American Exceptionalism as a Partisan Weapon

In reply to the Callista Gingrich video found at the following post: that blog: American Exceptionalism

(This reply is a revised and extended version of a comment originally posted at a blog that once was on January 23rd.)

Like too many Republicans, Mrs Newton #3 is trying to sell a meme about the left that is a lie. I agree with 99% of everything she says in the video. There is no "'great debate' about whether America is an exceptional nation, or just another country," except in a few folk's divisive, partisan, and seemingly fevered imaginations.

Whether one believes man was endowed with inalienable rights by a Christian God or by human nature, the end result--the form of government that makes America exceptional--is the same. It is our American ideals that make us unique in the world, and it is our desire and ability to sell our ideals to others--both immigrants who come here to seek a better life and become a part of this country, and to a lesser extent, those foreign nations who have incorporated some of our American ideals into their governments--that make we Americans unique.

Too often, however, there IS a certain degree of arrogance when talking about American exceptionalism. There are too many who believe that America was a nation chosen by God from among all (or most) others, and that we Americans are a chosen people above those of other nations. They are often nativists who don't want to share and expand American exceptionalism. Immigrants and other groups are demonized and deemed unworthy. "All men are created equal." Except Muslims (American or otherwise.) Except gay folks. Except liberals. That kind of American exceptionalism isn't worth the breath with which it's spoken...

I believe in American exceptionalism... But unlike too many on the right, I'm not particularly threatened if the citizens of some other country feel the same about their ideals and way of life (though I do think they're wrong.) I've no doubt that folks in Israel, England, Russia, and Egypt believe their country and way of life to be exceptional, that it in any way diminishes America or our exceptionalism because they do, or that there is any harm in recognizing that fact, either.

Ed Luce from the Financial Times.

Where's Ed? There he is.

U.S. Place in World Affairs

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. In the context of all the multilateral activity that's been going on this week--the G-20, here at NATO--and your evident enthusiasm for multilateral frameworks, to work through multilateral frameworks, could I ask you whether you subscribe, as many of your predecessors have, to the school of American exceptionalism that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world, or do you have a slightly different philosophy? And if so, would you be able to elaborate on it?

The President. I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I am enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don't think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.

And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality that, though imperfect, are exceptional.
Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise, and that includes us.

And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity, and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent depends on our ability to create partnerships, because we create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone.

-- Barack Obama: The President's News Conference in Strasbourg, April 4, 2009
Read more at the American Presidency Project:

And then there's this, FWIW: "Only one sitting president in the last 82 years has publicly uttered the magical phrase “American exceptionalism”--care to guess who it is?" - Obama Has Mentioned 'American Exceptionalism' More Than Bush - Robert Schlesinger (