12 September 2013

Another Enemy Of American Exceptionalism

"It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation." ~ Russian President (and former head of the KGB), Vladimir Putin

Many in academia, as well as some on the fringe of libertarianism, have something in common with the former head of the KGB. Isn't that nice?


ropelight said...

I'm inclined to agree with Vladimir, it is dangerous to encourage individuals to see themselves as exceptional. The annals of history are full of pampered megalomaniacs so disordered as to condemn the lives of others to the caprice of their superiority psychosis. Putin may be one of them, Obama certainly is.

Yet, America is Exceptional. Our nation offers more freedom, more opportunity, more chance for ordinary individuals to achieve success if they're willing to work hard and obey the law than any other country ever has.

The important distinction here is that only an exceptional nation can provide equality for it's people. That's what makes America exceptional and we can't let ego driven petty potentates like the temporary occupant in the White House take it away from us.

Ralph Steel said...

I saw this headline and thought of you straight away.


Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hey Ralph - that is funny! I take it as a compliment! ;-)

M Aubrecht said...

I haven't been here since I quit blogging months ago but I knew that you would post on this topic. I for one cannot agree with Putin more and share his sentiments. Who ever thought that the Russians would be the voice of reason and diplomacy? We are a conceited country and continue to stick our nose in other people's business with the sole purpose of protecting our own self-interests. Nothing ever changes. Americans are the only ones who think Americans are exceptional and there is a very good reason for that.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Wonderfully put Rope. God knows we're in imperfect lot with an imperfect history - but comparatively, we are most assuredly exceptional in the annals of human history.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael - even though you're not allowed to comment here, I let this one through as an object lesson of a childlike understanding of American and human history.

Power hungry egomaniacs like so many in Washington do not represent AE. Your understanding is embarrassingly shallow.

E.J. D'Agrosa said...

Some of the comments have actually proven your point, Richard. It's sad that so many have no national pride anymore for their country. I often think that if this generation had to do what the Greatest Generation had to do; (endure a Great Depression and fight a world war) they would "wuss" out and run away. It's really a tragedy.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Precisely. It's jaw-dropping amazing to listen to people enjoy the liberties and opportunities of America while simultaneously expressing disdain. While I understand (and concur) with criticizing certain policies, our basis of governance, as founded, has no equal.

WESR said...


I would have thought a man as well studied and eloquent as you would not fall into the "America is Exceptional" Camp. You have written a great book on one of America's greatest men, R.E. Lee, a man who fought against the American exceptionalist camp of his day.

The fact is, no one is exceptional because they are American, as your post today points out about our public schools, many people are very unexceptional in our nation. People are only exceptional as individuals based on what is between their ears, not because they are American. And if our government is "so exceptional" then why has it created the largest leviathan state in the history of the world? Perhaps the Articles of the Confederation or the Confederate Constitution would have produced a much more restrained exceptional government system.

"American Exceptionalism" is an extension of Lincoln's "American System," and I thought you were smarter than to fall into this nationalist claptrap.


Will from Virginia

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hi Will - thanks for the comment. I believe part of the problem with this whole AE issue is how certain folks define the term. As Clyde Wilson has put it, "Nationalism is the love of a government, Patriotism is the love of a land and its people."

I would fall into the latter category, so I'm not a nationalist. I do not equate AE with "government", though I do equate it with our designed (originally) "system" of governance. That's an important distinction.

I'll post a more detailed response to address your points in a separate post some time over the weekend. Thanks again for the comment.

BTW, General Lee was an exceptional American from a very exceptional Commonwealth.

Robert Moore said...

There appears to be too many ways in which "American Exceptionalism" is defined. I guess some people pick and choose, according to their personal agenda.

Anyone who thinks in such absolute terms, that "American Exceptionalism" equates to being "conceited" is an idiot. Anyone who embraces Putin and his OpEd needs a reminder that the door is open... and not to let it hit them on the way out. I'm sure someone in Russia would enjoy some company.

Furthermore, anyone who thinks that "sticking our nose" into another country's business is a measure of "American Exceptionalism"... well, let's consider this rationally. Yes... some (emphasis necessary) have a rather brash mentality like that (especially those who haven't stuck their neck out in serving our country), but... let's keep in mind that a precedent has been set... and we've been doing it for a long time. In short, the old habit is hard to break.

The reality of it is, our priority should be to regroup and get our own house in order... again... and that's going to take a lot of work. Over-extending ourselves (and putting ourselves in a worse situation than that which we are in already... and, perhaps escalating matters on a grand scale) isn't a good idea.

I think it goes without saying, we also need to revisit "Foreign Affairs 101".

Consider this a "for what it's worth", and just my opinion, but...

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

You and I are on the same page Robert. I agree. I think its also important to remember that, after WWI and especially WWII, much of the world actually expected us and wanted us to be the world policeman - not that we weren't glad to do so and had our own motives.

But, yes, we have enough problems here to deal with. Washington's advice in his farewell address needs to be considered more carefully again.

We can't, nor should we, force other nations to adopt our values and system of government.