American Exceptionalism

Whether or not the United States is unusual or extraordinary (in a positive way) in world history is a point of substantial disagreement.  Many religious conservatives, on one hand, accept this notion as a reflection of divine providence over the nation - and a sign of God's favor. Many secular conservative intellectuals also point to features of US governance and history as evidence that the US model of free market constitutional democracy combined with cultural pluralism is a superior model worth promoting globally.

Many progressives, both religious and secular, on the other hand, see the ideology of American Exceptionalism as an excuse for the United States to have run roughshod over Native Americans under the banner of “Manifest Destiny”, to violate international law in pursuit of “national interests” (understood here as the interests of the military-industrial complex), and to act as a bully in the world.  To these, an insistence on our inherent and unique goodness is why national self-criticism is so disturbing to some - and why Obama is attacked when he does this.  Some suggest that Obama and others have not gone far enough, and that we as a nation have yet to truly confront the full extent of our human rights violations, both here at home, and abroad.

QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:

-Do you believe America is a unique or exceptional county?  If so, how and why?  If not, how and why? 

-What, if any, are the ways you see America as special or unique or exceptional in comparison to other countries?

-If you believe America is exceptional or special, does that ever feel arrogant to think your country is so superior?  If not, why not?

Contributors: 

Michael Strong, Arthur M. Peña

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