Taking exception to the concept of ‘American exceptionalism’

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News of Note: Taking exception to the concept of ‘American exceptionalism’

“It’s a curious thing how the notion of American exceptionalism has been twisted and turned into a bludgeon, not only to assert American superiority but also to employ as a test of allegiance.

The Republican presidential candidates have wielded the concept with great enthusiasm, both as a way to stress their patriotic fervor and cast doubt on President Barack Obama’s belief in the pre-eminence of — even love for — the country he leads….

His pride in America, Obama said, “does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we’re not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise, and that includes us.”…

Given the serious challenges the country faces, we could use a little less “we’re No. 1″ hubris and little more focus on great ideas — whichever country they come from — and working together…

It’s hardly time to accept the status quo when, for example, the U.S. ranks 50th globally in secondary-education enrollment rates and American 15-year-olds rank 31st in math performance (wedged between Luxembourg and Portugal) and 23rd in science (between Hungary and Czech Republic). China, Singapore and Finland sit at the top of these lists from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development….

Hewing closely to America’s greatness means rolling up our sleeves, getting down to work and fixing things, not blithely boasting about who is better and more patriotic than whom.”

What do we gain from considering ourselves greater than other nations? I have recently spoken about our anti-social behavior and our questionable “happiness” compared to the rest of the world. Wouldn’t some humility and self improvement serve us better than reckless self confidence? The trouble with exceptional (and nationalism for that matter) comes when it’s used to encourage blind agreement with the government (and often by extension, mass media). Do the “exceptional” humble themselves in front of their inferiors? Do the “exceptional” deserve privilege at the expense of others? I don’t see the strength in arrogance and pride, only the inevitable fall that comes to those who refuse to accept their faults.

Creative Commons Image by: freefotouk