Saturday, December 03, 2011

American Exceptionalism is something I think about from time to time. Belief in this principle, right or wrong, has gotten us into a bit of trouble.

Conservatives believe the United States is exceptional because its people are inherently good. And we are.

See, that's where it's dangerous. "We will be greeted as liberators." Thinking we are inherently good leads to arrogance like that which causes some major headaches.

I find it hard to say that we are inherently exceptional. Our ideals, though? Yeah I think those are pretty fucking exceptional. Equality. Justice. Freedom. Yes, we do fuck those up a lot, and I mean a lot, but the principles are good. This country was founded upon very exceptional ideas.

And granted, these ideals were laid forth by the Founding Fathers, a group of white, male, landholding slave owners who said "all men are created equal." The fact that they used the word "men" is of course a huge starting point for problems. Other hypocrisies such as having slaves (as many but not all did) really don't help. And of course I have issues with the word "created" just because that has dei-rific connotations. But just because the source is kind of full of shit doesn't mean the message is bad.

All people are equal. It's hard for a lot of people to swallow that one, because it means blacks are equal, homosexuals, you name it -- everyone is equal. Not because it's god given or any bullshit like that, it's just a good idea. And no, this is not to say we are socialist or communist, so quit fucking complicating things, will 'ya?

Equality, justice, freedom. These are inherently good principles. Period.

It is striking that the most avid proponents of an assertive unilateralism in which other countries are expected to trust us -- and our government -- simply because we are good are the same conservatives who so distrust government at home.

That is an extremely interesting point and I'll just let that one marinate.

Liberals see the United States as exceptional because of our principles of limited government, embedded in the Constitution.

Hmmmm, wait, what? Liberals and Democrats are all about big government, right? Lots of bureaucracy to help the people, right? Hell, that's what that whole last post was about.

The left believes in big government. Well maybe. It's kinda hard to really say what's "big" government and what's "limited goverment." Alright well maybe not totally difficult -- totalitarian societies, for example, that's some pretty fuckin' big government. But still, lefties are not for limited government, conservatives are, right?

Well, conservatives are always for less government. There's a definite semantic difference. It just sounds good, right? We need less government, yeah, awesome.

Sometimes less is more, though! Like if you're thinking about making a decision involving your uterus or marrying the person you love. Then we definitely do not need less government, we need to get the government all up in your shit. I guess because we and our government are inherently good? Man, this is all starting to sound like a load of horseshit, isn't it?

I guess I've gotten off track though from the thesis of the article, which is also interesting -- namely, that both sides of the aisle believe in American exceptionalism even if conservatives claim a monopoly on the idea. As I stated above, I believe in the idea too, to a degree. I don't think it makes us better than everyone else or gives us the right to do whatever the fuck we want, although it does make us better than a lot of others in some ways.

No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. -- Churchill

We didn't invent democracy and I'm not trying to pretend that we did. But we've given it a pretty good shot and, despite what some may say, despite our missteps, continue to do so. Oh and while I'm at it don't listen to anyone who starts talking of us becoming a police state. Some actions in the past and even present day (I'm referring of course to some of the reactions and overreactions to the Occupy movement) have not been pretty but anyone who says that makes us a police state has no idea what the fuck a real police state is like. Even if we fuck up, our darkest hours are better than some on their brightest days.

That being said, just because we've got awesome principles that we kinda practice, that doesn't mean we need to be total dicks about it, ya know?

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