AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM – MISUNDERSTOOD
The term “American Exceptionalism” has become a red flag to Americans of all parties to quickly declare that we aren’t any better than anyone else. I posit that this is a gut reaction that isn’t based on the true meaning of the term.
American Exceptionalism is not a personal description. Any rational American would quickly admit that a child born in a foreign nation has every bit as much intelligence and ability as a child born in the U.S. Their individual potential to cure cancer is as great as any child anywhere else in the world. In this respect Americans are no more exceptional than any other nationality. The problem is that this is not what the term references.
American Exceptionalism is, instead, a term meant to reflect the American system of government and economics. American Exceptionalism is the very reason that immigrants want to come to America. It is not that they gain some miraculous talent or intelligence by crossing our border. NO, it is because their God given talents find a fertile nation that allows individuals to seek and achieve their highest goals. Millions have been treated for AIDS throughout the world because the American system provides excess that can be shared. The U.N. receives the majority of its funding, wells are dug in desert regions, Charity is extended to nations with emergencies, etc. etc. All because a unique system of government and economic prosperity allow this.
When we try to equate “American Exceptionalism” to an individual attribute we have the tendency to want Americans to be “like” everyone else. The problem is that, while we are individually like everyone else, we belong to a system that allows us to excel. Refusing to accept the Exceptional nature of our system will result in us lowering our individual expectations and eventually reducing our system to the lowest common denominator.
Americans are exceptional as a whole. We belong to a system that allows us to excel and as a result be compassionate and charitable to others. We should all take pride in being Americans and instead of condemning our system for its excesses laud it for its ability to help both ourselves and others.
Ask any immigrant, from any nation, if they didn’t come to our shores for the freedoms and possibilities to achieve granted under our system. You will find some of the most dedicated and patriotic Americans among those immigrants because they understand what “American Exceptionalism” is even if they wouldn’t call it that.