05 December 2011

What's Exceptional About America?

*Update: Perhaps I should have been more direct. This post was, at least in part, a response to a post by blogger Michael Aubrecht in which he suggested that a belief in American Exceptionalism was "sin" and "blasphemy." Michael seems to now be classifying certain types of political thought as "sin" - something which he has often accused others of. Anyway, I could have made it clearer that I was responding to Micheal's post, but I really didn't think it was necessary. I could also have pointed out that Michael's post was constructed primarily of straw men and red herrings, but I think most informed readers would already have taken notice of that. The main comment which prompted my original post, struck me as false and totally misleading, and left me shaking my head in amazement was this one:

“Not a single time have we gotten a right from Congress or from the President. We get them from God.” (Glenn Beck) This is the exact kind of pseudo-religious-political conjecture that is dangerous as it gives a false sense of exclusive-endorsement from above.

No, that's not "pseudo-religious-political conjecture." It's precisely what the Founders believed. Yet Michael takes Glenn Beck's paraphrasing of "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" and attempts to turn it into something "dangerous." Michael's apparent memory lapse (or ignorance) of the phrase and its meaning exposes a serious lack of understanding of America's founding, as I've already noted. His follow up post is more or less a wordy distraction from this criticism. As far as any further response to some of Michael's comments about AE, I would encourage readers to simply peruse previous posts filed here under the label "American Exceptionalism" for my position and evidence of its legitimacy. I may, at some future point, post something more extensive on the concept of unalienable rights. Though it is indispensable in understanding American history, I assume most of my readers are already well-versed with the term's meaning and importance, as well as its relevance to American Exceptionalism. As I pointed out in the original comments - get that wrong, and you're pretty much guaranteed to be wrong on everything that follows in analyzing American history and developing a coherent perspective. That, at least, is quite clear.

Quite a lot, actually. But allow me to mention one specific thing. Princeton Professor Robert George gives us a brief overview in the short video clip below. One item which often gets overlooked in what makes America exceptional is how the Founders viewed rights, something George points out: specifically, that our rights come from God - not Kings nor governments nor Congress nor the President - none of which have the moral authority to grant rights; they can only acknowledge them. This is what the Declaration of Independence is referring to with these words:

that they [all men] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights

The term "unalienable" was a deliberate choice. It means that those rights are incapable of being surrendered or taken away - basic rights which the Founders believed [and correctly so] preexisted any government. Anyone who does not understand that most basic of our founding principles lacks a fundamental understanding of our Republic and American history. Lacking that most basic understanding will cause one to stumble at almost every step afterward in analyzing American history. This explains much of what you read and hear on leftist oriented blogs and in other media and books. They missed first base. Any government which grants rights, can also take them away. It is also important to remember, principles are eternal. And the same principles that worked at our founding will work now. Ignore the Progressive (and ignorant) garbage you're hearing and reading elsewhere.

13 comments:

Michael Aubrecht said...

Hi Richard,

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter who debates this topic...

I offer up this past blog for your memory: http://cwmemory.com/2010/09/29/a-slow-day-or-debating-american-exceptionalism/

American Exceptionalism is strictly an opinion of which we are all entitled to. You believe in it. Many of us don't.

Trying to defend either side is really a waste of our time. Wouldn't you agree?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"At the end of the day, it doesn't matter who debates this topic..."

So why do you waste your time blogging about it?

"I offer up this past blog for your memory . . ."

Wow, you've gone from being one of his fiercest critics to being one of his disciples. Nice 180.

"Many of us don't."

Most of us do.

"Trying to defend either side is really a waste of our time. Wouldn't you agree?"

No, I wouldn't. Defending principles and truth are never a waste of time - not in my universe anyway. If I believed that, I'd quit blogging.

Michael Aubrecht said...

Richard, I respectfully would like to know what you are basing your claim of "Most of us do." on?

That sounds like an assumption on your part, but I may be wrong if you are aware of some stats that support it.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Assumption? Hardly. Several things - one, general observation. Most Americans are proud of their country and believe it is exceptional, as do many abroad. It's one of the reasons we have to put up fences to keep folks out instead of putting up fences to keep folks in. I don't think most folks in fly-over country focus on our evils and sins, as do many "historians" and bloggers like yourself.

Moreover, survey after survey shows that a larger number of Americans consider themselves conservative rather than liberal. And AE is, generally speaking, embraced by conservatives and rejected by leftists like yourself. Yours is a minority view Michael. That's just a fact. The same has been shown to be true with the fundamental beliefs of the Tea Party. More Americans view those beliefs favorably than unfavorably. Again, your position is in the minority.

I've pointed this out numerous times.

Michael Aubrecht said...

Once again Richard (as with the previous post that I linked to) you provide no concrete facts to back your claims. You are supporting your opinion with other opinions.

Where are all these surveys?
Where are all these polls?
Where are all of these pro-AE - tea-party conservatives?

If you want to ignore supporting facts and simply talk about observations, I will tell that here in DC, in the Govt., in 'my world' these 'truths' (I mean beliefs) of yours are not the majority. MOST people around here are moderates that don't claim either extreme (right or left) like you do.

I'm still waiting on those stats.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"the previous post that I linked to"

Yes, authored by Mr. Levin - a self-proclaimed "enemy of American Exceptionalism" and "activist historian." You'll need to come up with a better authority than that Michael. Speaking of Kevin, its quite interesting that in your intellectual tug of war with him, he won, you lost. He converted you. Again, nice 180.

"Where are all of these pro-AE - tea-party conservatives?"

Everywhere Michael, everywhere. Just open your eyes.

"I will tell that here in DC, in the Govt., in 'my world' these 'truths' (I mean beliefs) of yours are not the majority."

Gee, what a surprise. I must assume that's why it functions so well. "Here in DC" is about as detached from the real world as one could possibly be.

But, you asked for surveys and polls, so here's one very recent one:

"Just under half, 49 percent, of Americans agree with the statement, "Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others," according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. Forty-six percent of Americans say they disagree with the statement."

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57327537-503544/americans-split-on-american-exceptionalism-poll-shows/

So, more Americans believe in AE than don't. (I assume 49 is greater than 46 - even in DC.) Of course, this is a PEW Research poll, so you'd have to handicap it in favor of the AE column. ;o)

Also from that poll:

"For instance, six in 10 Americans ages 50 or older say American culture is superior, while just 37 percent of Americans younger than 30 agree. Those who did not graduate from college are more likely than those who did graduate from college to call American culture superior by a difference of 9 percent."

Now, that paragraph deserves its own post, but for now . . . since youth and wisdom seldom sit on the same shoulders (Election 2008), we should defer to those over 50. Moreover, the college/non-college split is indicative of the leftist anti-AE being promoted in academia. Gee, proven right again. I'm on a roll.

I thought you said in your previous comment this topic wasn't worth debating?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

The crickets have finished their closing performance, the lights have all been turned off, silence reigns, and, once again, Michael's arguments are addressed and refuted.

Michael Aubrecht said...

Sarcasim does not become you my friend. It's still an opinion that can't be proven or concretely defended. Obviously my view of the world and yours are not the same. And that's OK.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael - the goal in using sarcasm is not to make me "becoming." It's simply a rhetorical device used in debate and discussion. It's often quite effective. You've also employed it before so, please, descend from the high horse.

Thomas said...

American Exceptionalism exists. Science, reason, logic, faith, and innovations are it's hallmarks. Tolerance of opposing views within and charity from the heart to those abroad are it's virtues. No other country has ever come close. Think about it and compare, that's all you have to do. Just name one other country that is MORE exceptional. You can't.
What rang true with Canadian journalist Gordon Sinclair in 1973 still rings true today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mwv-dndrMDE

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thomas - spot on. Thanks for the Youtube link. I'd heard that before. I think Paul Harvey used to play it as well. Remember that most of those either denying it or criticizing the concept have a political or some other agenda. Their perspective is not based on reality, but rather emotion and ideology.

Michael Aubrecht said...

"Their perspective is not based on reality, but rather emotion and ideology."

THAT may be the most hypocritical thing you've ever said Richard. You base your posts and opinions on your emotion and ideology (ie. conservatism and Christianity) all the time. You wax the poetic about America, tradition, and the Confederacy all the time.

I'm not necessarily saying that is wrong, but you can't deny that you practice the same thing - just from the 'Right's' point of view.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael - that's the rub. I'm honest about my perspective, though my perspective is not based on emotion - its based on observation and facts. Yes, there are opposing perspectives regarding historical analysis. I've posted on that recently:

http://oldvirginiablog.blogspot.com/2011/11/parallel-universes-of-historical.html

And:

http://oldvirginiablog.blogspot.com/search?q=Sides

You believe your "side" is right, I believe mine is right.