American exceptionalism is well on its way to becoming a cautionary tale.
For many generational seasons cautionary tales have been embedded into our society as a way to pass down warnings to our children and grandchildren. More times than not, they are told in three parts.
First a boundary is established, often formed as advice from an older person to a younger person. Then in the second part, the boundary is violated and in the third comes the repercussions. No matter what the tale, there is always a lesson to be learned about consequences and actions; hence the quote from George Santayan, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
The term “American exceptionalism” was coined by Alex De Tocqueville in his writing “Democracy in America”. Tocqueville identified five values crucial to America’s success as a democratic republic: (1) liberty (2) egalitarianism, (3) individualism, (4) populism and (5) laissez-faire. Tocqueville discussed American exceptionalism in Democracy in America over 179 years ago and until most recent years he was correct. However, the America that had always held a remarkable commitment to liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, and laissez-faire values, seems to be doomed to become, yes, a cautionary tale.
Tocqueville gave us his three explanations for how American exceptionalism came to be. He explains that we came to occupy a vast, largely empty, and isolated continent; we benefited from a legal system that involves federalism and an independent judiciary; and we have embraced certain “habits of the heart” that were profoundly shaped by our religious tradition. Of these, Tocqueville rightly said that our customs were more important than our laws, and our laws more important than our geography. To me it is remarkable that even today in a nation of around 300 million people, we still share views once held by a few million crowded along the eastern seaboard that formed this nation.
The word “exceptionalism” in itself often raises the eyebrows of those that consider it an “arrogant” term. But, think about it. Don’t we use the word exceptional in our everyday language? I mean really, when someone asks for a referral to a business or a service provider and you know someone that goes above and beyond in the call of duty in their services rendered, don’t you often use the word, “exceptional”. When you read an article that hits the nail on the head, don’t you call it “an exceptional read”, and when you go to a restaurant that the food and the service are both top notch, don’t you render it “exceptional”, so what would be the reason that we, the land of the free and the home of the brave, cannot call ourselves “exceptional”?
The conclusion of the editors of Understanding America: The Anatomy of an Exceptional Nation is “America is indeed exceptional by any plausible definition of the term and actually has grown increasingly exceptional [over] time.”
There is a qualitatively difference in us from other countries. Some of these examples included;
American culture is different. Its patriotism, individualism, religiosity, and spirit of enterprise make it different. The United States, he said, “is more different from other democracies than they are from one another.”
American constitutionalism is unique with its emphasis on individual rights, decentralization, and suspicion of government authority.
Our uniquely competitive, flexible, and decentralized economy has produced a higher standard of living for a long time, even as it now generates greater inequality.
America has been diverse throughout its history.
America is or has been up until recently a country that other countries knew they could count on in a crisis. I’m not saying that this is always a good thing, but we have intervened and saved the liberty of other countries more than any other nation in the world.
Before we allow the party of Pink, i.e. Sheehan and Medina, to capitulate the degradation of America for its arrogance and imperialistic evils, let us take a step back in time. It was American “aggression” that helped end slavery, genocide, Fascism, Nazism and a few other unpleasant institutions and regimes. Should we apologize for that? Should we apologize for our sacrifices over two world wars and our Marshal Plan to rebuild Europe? If so “excuse us” for Europe’s confusion of arrogance with leadership. The evidence of American sacrifice literally litters the rest of the world.
There are 5,329 white crosses spread across a neatly-manicured grass lawn at the American Cemetery in Ardennes, Belgium. There are 4,410 white crosses at the American Cemetery at Brittany, France, not far from where our Commander in Chief apologized for our being arrogant, dismissive, and derisive. In Brookwood , England, a short drive from where Obama apologized to the G20, the American cemetery houses 468 american patriots who fought to keep Britain free during the Blitz. There are yet another 3,812 in Cambridge, England and still another 5,525 in the American cemetery at Epinal, France, yet it took a French president to say, “The men and women of my generation heard their parents talk about how in 1944, America returned to free Europe from the horrifying tyranny that threatened to enslave it.” Then there are 4,402 American soldiers buried outside Florence, Italy, 7,992 more in Belgium, 10,489 in Lorraine, France, 5,076 in Luxembourg, 14,246 in Meuse-Argonne, France, 8,301 in the Netherlands, 9,387 in Normandy, France, 7,861 in Sicily, and tens of thousands more across the very Europe our president is apologizing to. I’ve been in almost every U.S. state but have yet to see a cemetery full of patriots from other countries who gave their lives for America.
Kevin McCollough of Fox News writes, “Finally, there is America’s image in the world. In President Obama’s utopia he is fine with the idea of “American Exceptionalism” being challenged or even turned upside down. Yet in reality no country has suffered more loss of its own, for the welfare of others, in history.
To Obama, an America that stands tall in contrast to others seems arrogant. To our enemies, an America that seems ashamed of herself seems weak.”
Our population consists of people who have for centuries been trying to slaughter one another in their home countries. Thrown into the American mosaic are religions that have been in conflict for centuries such as Catholic and Protestant, and Christian and Muslim. The question is: Why is the United States an exception and will it remain so?
At the heart of the American idea is the deep distrust and suspicion the founders of our nation had for government, distrust and suspicion not shared as much by today’s Americans. Some of the founders’ distrust is seen in our Constitution’s language such as Congress shall not: abridge, infringe, deny, disparage, violate and deny. If the founders did not believe Congress would abuse our God-given rights, they would not have provided those protections. After all, one would not expect to find a Bill of Rights in Heaven; it would be an affront to God. Other founder distrust for government is found in the Constitution’s separation of powers, checks and balances and the several anti-majoritarian provisions such as the Electoral College and the requirement that three-quarters of state legislatures ratify changes in the Constitution.
The three branches of our federal government are no longer bound by the Constitution as the framers envisioned and what is worse is American ignorance and acceptance of such rogue behavior. Our federal government is no longer “exceptional”. Look at the current debate over government involvement in health, business bailouts and stimulus packages. The debate centers on questions as to whether or not such involvement is a good idea or a bad idea and whether one program is more costly than another. Those questions are entirely irrelevant to what should be debated, namely: Is such government involvement in our lives permissible under the U.S. Constitution?
That question is not part of the debate. The American people, along with our elected representatives, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, care less about what is and what is not permissible under our Constitution. They think Congress has the right to do anything upon which they can secure a majority vote, whether they have the constitutional or moral authority to do so or not. What Congress does have is the brute force to enforce compliance with their unconstitutional acts, case and point, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution grants Congress the power to tax and spend for the enumerated activities therein. Every American is duty bound to pay his share. Congress has neither constitution nor moral authority to take the earnings of one American for the benefit of another American. What do you think will happen to you if don’t comply, say with Congress’ demand that part of your earnings be taken to bail out a failing business? You’ll see the entire brute force that you want to see and if you resist too much. We are losing what’s made our country great. Instead of moving toward greater liberty, we’re moving toward greater government control of our lives.
Exceptional is a word that designates that there is something different about something or someone; something sets it or them aside, maybe because of a superior service or a product that they provide. Having just described in the previous paragraph the direction of our country, there seems to be nothing “exceptional” about our progression away from what at one time set us aside from other countries. In all actuality we are turning into another France, Venezuela, potentially even a N. Korea if the brakes are not applied soon.
Charles Krauthammer tells us that “There are things to be done. Resist retreat as a matter of strategy and principle. And provide the means to continue our dominant role in the world by keeping our economic house in order. And finally, we can follow the advice of Demosthenes when asked what was to be done about the decline of Athens. What was his reply? “I will give you, what I believe, is the fairest and truest answer. Don’t do what you are doing now.”
Until next time, stand proud, be passionate my fellow patriots and we will prevail.
BreeLee Johnston is the founder of United American Tea Party which is a Chapter of Just Patriots Inc in St. Johns County. She is a member of the National Leadership Council of Tea Party Patriots as well as the Florida Coordinator for ICaucus.org. She also works with the Paul Porter show daily on WFOY News Talk 1240 from 3-5 PM in addition to contributing a regular guest editorial to Historic City News.