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America the Exceptional

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During a recent visit to Berlin, I asked about the new Museum of German History. “Don’t bother,” my host advised. “We don’t have a good history.” After the Holocaust, two World Wars, and a Thirty Years War in the 1600s that killed a third of the population, who could disagree?

Other great powers suffered similar traumas: Russia and France with bloody revolutions and even bloodier aftermaths under Stalin and Napoleon, Britain with its Hundred Years War, War of the Roses and brutal Civil War.

Among major nations, the US alone compiled a distinctively “good history.” Despite the toll of our own Civil War, that struggle accomplished a great purpose – abolition of slavery – and the nation quickly emerged stronger than ever. In fact, America’s unprecedented, uninterrupted growth in power from colonial days till today offers the best proof of American exceptionalism.

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  1. Laurence Needleman  •  Sep 28, 2013 at 6:27 am

    Great response to “war is not the answer”. Sometimes it is the answer. The American Revolution and the Civil War are perfect examples. That is what has made America EXCEPTIONAL!

  2. Tim  •  Nov 2, 2013 at 5:14 am

    The most benign Super power ever. The only super power that will go to war after being attacked, rebuild it’s enemies country, hand it back to them better then what they had it and beg to become their Allie….And oh yes have a President come along and rewrite history while apologizing to the aggressor/world for it’s efforts to defeat as much terrane as possible… Thats pretty exceptional!

  3. T. Ruth  •  Nov 6, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    This sanitized version of American exceptionalism reflects the triumph of cheerleading over objective analysis. de Tocqueville defined it as self-reliance, local intiative, a tendency to resolve disputes in court, and a lack of interest in culture — derived from the Puritan idea of a city on a hill shining its light. Most Indian tribes weren’t sharing Turkey dinner with the new settlers from Europe; instead there were endless wars from the landing at Plymouth rock to Custer’s last stand. The French-Indian war was the 1760’s version of the Vietnam war in terms of divisiveness. The war of 1812 was an attempt by the US to grab British Canada, urged on by politicians like John Calhoun. Exceptionalism originally meant being an example for the rest of the world; it was replaced by “Manifest Destiny”, which was used to justify the “gunboat diplomacy” of the 19th century,the Hearst-inspired Spanish American war, and sending the marines to defend United Fruit co. in South America. When Lincoln took office he said he would not abolish slavery if that would keep the South in the Union; if the South became independent, it would cause what we now call a “national security” issue — European powers would try to again establish colonies in North America, which by the way includes Canada, a country which experienced far less bloodshed in becoming a unified nation than the US did. Somehow Canada, which like many countries started abolishing slavery BEFORE the U.S. did, is not a “major nation”?
    I’m actually ok with taking all that land from the Indians to create a coast-to-coast US of A & I even think grabbing Hawaii may have been necessary to create a “national security” outpost as a first line of defense. Just stop claiming it was somehow “Exceptional”!

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