There once was an idea, a vision that permeated the land and her inhabitants. This vision was such that the people thought themselves mighty, beautiful, righteous, moral, and strong. To viewers from outside this land however, those inhabitants didn’t look or act that way at all. The vision the inhabitants had of themselves was a glass menagerie of one way fun house mirrors. They were so good at criticizing others, they never bothered to criticize themselves. They believed the fun house mirrors’ reflections, instead of the view through the outside clear glass.
To truly know oneself, you must look from the outside in, as well as inside out. But those inhabitants of the land, those Americans, rarely, if ever, did that. They were too busy taking moral high grounds, that were, in reality, slippery slopes into debauchery.
Where did this vision of American exceptionalism come from? Where was its origins? Who built the glass menagerie of fun mirrors? The idea originated with a French author, Alexis de Tocqueville in his work, “Democracy in America”. This was pinned in either 1835 or 1840. To quote Tocqueville’s work, “The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one. Their strictly Puritanical origin, their exclusively commercial habits, even the country they inhabit, which seems to divert their minds from the pursuit of science, literature, and the arts, the proximity of Europe, which allows them to neglect these pursuits without relapsing into barbarism, a thousand special causes, of which I have only been able to point out the most important, have singularly concurred to fix the mind of the American upon purely practical objects. His passions, his wants, his education, and everything about him seem to unite in drawing the native of the United States earthward; his religion alone bids him turn, from time to time, a transient and distracted glance to heaven. Let us cease, then, to view all democratic nations under the example of the American people.” Then the idea became associated Manifest Destiny, a term used by Democrats in the 1840s to promote the acquisition of much of what is now the Western United States. This seems to be the crux of the matter. A vision the people had of themselves tied to a decree that was death to the indigenous people already living in the land. Luckily for Americans, not so lucky for the Natives, Manifest Destiny never became a “national priority”.
American exceptionalism was also tied to Christian religion and freedom of practice, as that was the reason pilgrims set flight from England. America was to serve as a beacon to the world. One such man that believed America was a “light” was none other than third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. In his departing of Presidential office address he said, “Trusted with the destinies of this solitary republic of the world, the only monument of human rights, and the sole depository of the sacred fire of freedom and self-government, from hence it is to be lighted up in other regions of the earth, if other regions of the earth shall ever become susceptible of its benign influence.” These sentiments sounds noble, righteous and beautiful; but nonetheless a dream.
America in her short life cycle has, like many countries, experienced great evils such as slavery; and great accomplishments such as equal voting rights. The peoples of America are not without their virtues. Americans are hard working and generous,true enough. They are generous with their money and children. So generous in fact, entities such as international corporations and banks, much like a cancer, spread a growth of consumption, greed, warmongering, and even death among them. This cancer then spread to those outside the glass menagerie and began consuming their children and generosity. This is where the dream ends.
Americans must wake from American Exceptionalism to Human Exceptionalism Are those men fighting terrorists for their homeland in Syria NOT exceptional? Are those Greek mothers working multiple jobs for little wage to feed their children NOT exceptional? Are those journalists in Bahrain that speak out against their regime and risk imprisonment NOT exceptional? Are those Palestinians that have endured murder, theft and white phosphorus attacks by Israel for nearly 70 years NOT exceptional? Are those activists that stood against the Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square NOT exceptional? Is that British soldier that comes home from war missing three limbs that rehabilitates to then be a motivational speaker NOT exceptional? The short answer is yes, yes they are ALL examples of Human Exceptionalism. Americans do not have a corner on the market of what it is to be exceptional.
Awake Americans from this dream of American exceptionalism as it has all the marks of nightmares called Übermensch.