I've come to the conclusion that anyone who denies America's exceptional place in the annals of world history is either:
- Shamefully ignorant.
- Pushing an agenda for their own purposes.
- A guilt-ridden, self-flagellating follower of fads who has been deceived by pseudo-historians into believing the United States is really, at best, no better than any other nation or, at worst, the root of all evil.
There have always been those who take exception to American exceptionalism. Europeans developed a cottage industry in travel writing about America, most of it — although not all, with Tocqueville the most important exception — scandalized by the riotous freedoms of these restless, stubborn, commerce-crazy, God-soaked barbarians. The America of these portraits was simultaneously primitive and decadent: “grotesque, obscene, monstrous, stultifying, stunted, leveling, deadening, deracinating, roofless, uncultured,” as James Ceaser summarizes the critique in Reconstructing America. Many of America’s European critics hoped that, over time, America would lose its distinctiveness. It would become just another developed Western country: more centralized, more elitist, more secular, less warlike, and less free. In short, a quieter, more civilized place.
The American Left has shared this maddened perplexity at its country’s character and this hope for its effacement. Marxists at home and abroad were always mystified by the failure of socialism in the U.S. They thought that, as the most advanced capitalist society, we would have had the most restive proletariat. Instead we have had a broad and largely satisfied middle class. Even our unions, in their early history, were anti-statist, their radicalism anarchistic rather than socialist. At the Progressive convention of 1912, Jane Addams saw “a worldwide movement toward juster social conditions” that “the United States, lagging behind other great nations, has been unaccountably slow to embody in political action.”
I'm with the restless and stubborn.
(While I would take issue with some of the points in this National Review piece, overall, the authors make some good points.)