Tuesday, September 27, 2011

American unexceptionalism

Andrew Sullivan on America:
I will never think of America the same way after the Bush-Cheney administration. They ripped the scales off my eyes; they proved that America isn't, in the end, different; that its core moral principles, such as the prohibition of torture, are nostrums to be tossed aside at the whim of a few very scared and incompetent men; that the rule of law ends when it comes to presidential power, when he can simply order dipshit lawyers to say black is white; when no regret is ever truly expressed about the tens of thousands of Iraqis who died under US occupation; when the architects of these strategic and moral disasters are given legal immunity and peddle books on talkshows defending and bragging of their own awful legacy.

Via Ricks.


  1. I've always hated - HATED - the idea of American exceptionalism. It's an idea that is both insulting and dangerous.

    It's insulting because it assumes some predefined destiny that completely glosses over the trials and accomplishments which brought us where we are today. America didn't grow here because of some special destiny - it grew here because of good men who were willing to push the norms, redefine what couldn't be done, and make things better. Writing that off to some generic "Of course we're awesome!" belittles the incredible accomplishments of everyone from the Founding Fathers to Dr. King.

    As for the danger... We've seen that, and it's what Sullivan lays out. When you assume we're exceptional just because we are, you forget all the things that made us exceptional in the first place, and you forget that maintaining that takes hard work, hard choices, and - yes - risk.

    But we forgot that, and we've become (to borrow the phrasing of PZ Meyers) a nation of bullies and cowards, claiming and leaning on the exceptionalism of men like Jefferson while we surrender everything they did to make us exceptional in the first place.

  2. Yes, those who yawp the loudest about "exceptionalism" seem to think it's inherited, not earned.

    The common misremembering of Winthrop's "city on a hill" remark is all too significant.