If you don’t wear an American flag on your lapel, proclaim America the most exceptional nation in the history of the world, and say “thank your for your service” to every person you see in a uniform (“You’re welcome, but I’m in the Salvation Army”), then to many you aren’t a loyal American. I’m unclear how this squares with a self-proclaimed democracy in which (1) trust in our elected representatives barely breaks single digits, (2) fewer than half the people support the president, and (3) politicians of both parties are routinely indicted – e.g., New York’s Assembly Speaker (Democrat) and Senate Majority Leader (Republican). Maybe it’s just government we distrust. So let’s turn to the private sector, where banks commit crimes, get fined billions and no one in management gets fired; under-performing hedge fund managers average $465 million in yearly compensation; the Koch brothers recognize the reality of climate change but still fund its debunkers; the wealth gap has reached oligarchic proportions; and corporate lobbyists annually spend $2.6 billion writing laws and purchasing politicians. It’s disgraceful.
And yet, America was founded on a set of ideals, which, however short we fall, we continue to reaffirm:
- “We shall be as a city upon a hill” (1630).
- “We hold these truths to be self-evident” (1776).
- “[T]hat government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth” (1863).
- “I have a dream that is . . . deeply rooted in the American dream” (1963).
This seems an “American exceptionalism” worth holding on to and living up to.