Whenever I hear Americans talk about how exceptional we are it makes me cringe. That’s not to say I don’t believe that we as a nation are incapable. We lead the pack at many things. For instance, we excel at war. We also are quite generous, especially to those we exploit, unless they happen to live among us. We’re nation builders, yet can’t seem to stop ours from crumbling. We endeavor to spread democracy yet keep making it harder to find it in our midst.
We promote free and fair elections in other nations, yet don’t have them at home. We talk about the importance of education yet continually provide less of it. We laud public servants yet demonize them. We grant corporations status as individual citizens, even though few citizens have their resources or ability to influence policy. I’m sure we could fill volumes with examples of how Americans are no better–and no worse than the rest of the blue planet’s residents.
There is nothing about America that makes it inherently exceptional, no divine edict that ensures its prominence or dominance and in my opinion, lending credence to such a concept is illogical, absurd and harmful. Imperial hubris by any class excludes, diminishes and demeans all humanity beyond the boundaries of that class. Such haughty logic is the first step toward rationalizing all manner of bad behavior.
The mere notion of ranking humanity is preposterous. We all bleed red, love, lust, hunger, thirst, seek validation, evacuate and procreate. Making other cultures out to be anything less than we are makes it easier for us to take advantage of them.
National elitism is a crock of shit. We are no better than the best and no worse than the worst among us. The same is true across the planet. The thing about exceptionalism that few of its adherents recognize is that when one is truly exceptional, he or she need not announce it to the rest of the world. Until we banish such foolish notions from our collective national consciousness, we’ll continue to fall well short of what many describe as the “American Dream”. The more exceptional we think we are, the less exceptional we will be. If we don’t wise up, we’ll wind up in some dark corner, licking our wounds as we self-soothe, repeating how truly super we are as the rest of the industrialized world spins above us.