By Marc Kelley
The story which follows, is that of the American Dream, and how using the belief in American Exceptionalism, not only led to the founding of our country, it has seen us through some very dark and desperate times. Believing in American Exceptionalism, does not, in and of itself, make anyone a racist, a xenophobe or an isolationist…It makes you a proud American, proud of our country, and proud of our abilities to rise to the occasion, repent for our shortcomings then, emerge as stronger and more united people.
The concept, or perhaps a better descriptor, the ideology of American Exceptionalism, has its foundation in the belief, The United States, was intentionally created to be fundamentally different, than any other nation on earth. The outgrowth of this ideology stems from the very reasons we fought the Revolutionary War. Freedom of speech, and religion, the ideals of liberty, and equality, individual responsibility, national sovereignty, representative democracy. and a free market economy. Historians, having long studied the birth of our nation argue, it is “our beliefs in liberty, equality, constitutionalism, and the well being of ordinary people, which give credence to the idea, Americans are special people, with a special destiny, to lead the world toward liberty and democracy.”
For decades, US leaders on both side of the political aisle, not only believed in American Exceptionalism, but championed the ideology. Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, Ronald Regan, George H.W Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush; all, not only embraced the concept of American Exceptionalism, but made it a part of their core belief system. Not until 2008, did the idea, American Exceptionalism is a myth, become commonly held by a sitting US President. Many historians point to the election of Barack Obama as the point in time when hating the US became mainstream thinking, choosing to focus on the pain of our past, rather than believing in the promise of our future.
Countless examples of American Exceptionalism can be found throughout history, if one will only look. In 1863, as the US Civil War raged on, President Abraham Lincoln, spoke passionately on the concept of American Exceptionalism, in his Gettysburg address. Lincoln’s historic words ring as true today as they did 157 years ago, when he said, Americans have a duty to ensure “government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” This concept holds firmly to the belief, it is America’s history itself, which gives us our advantage over other nations of the world.
As the liberal left attacks the ideology of American Exceptionalism, believing their enlightened insight represents a new progressive form of thought, the reality could not be further from the truth. The term American Exceptionalism, was in fact first used in 1929, by then Soviet Communist leader, Joseph Stalin. Unlike the American view, Stalins’, use of the term was derogatory, and intended to criticize what he called, the revisionist faction of the Democratic Socialists. Stalin viewed Marxists as nothing more than a power hungry mob, seeking to create an elite bureaucratic class, to rule over the common man. Illustrating just how different our two systems are, Stalin simply silenced these voices of dissent and expelled the agitators from the Communist Party.
Perhaps the best example of American Exceptionalism, can be found in what we have called, The Greatest Generation. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, young men and women descended on the recruiting offices of our military, not to protest America, but to sign-up and defend her. However, it was not only young people who felt the call to defend our country, all of society, regardless of political ideology, came together to support our troops, our flag, and our way of life. It has always been the American, “can do” spirit which has allowed our country to accomplish, seemingly unimaginable tasks when we needed the efforts of not just our military, but all of our people. It was American Exceptionalism, which led to the creation of what President Dwight Eisenhower called, the Military Industrial Complex; and, it would be American Exceptionalism which would defeat both, Nazi Germany and the Japanese Imperialists.
It should not be easily forgotten, who and what, lies behind the faceless corporations and companies of America. The industrial complex is powered by American workers, a responsive free market economy is driven by American consumers who believe in the concept, from those who much is given, much is expected in return. America is infused with the indomitable spirit of our people; and Americans have always responded to the words spoken by JFK, when he said, “ask not what your country can do for you- ask what you can do for your country.” Using the knowledge gained and the technology developed from our victory of Nazi Germany, America sent men to the moon and returned them safely back to earth, then shared what we learned with the world. Harnessing the ideals of American Exceptionalism, JFK implored our people to do this,”not because it is easy, but because it is hard… to accept the challenge, we intend to win.”
The 1960’s, brought with them some of Americas’ darkest days. Racial injustice, segregation, lynchings, violence, and all manner of hate filled speech. For far too long, the violence was commonplace, and as ugly then, as it is today. Yet here again, the concept of American Exceptionalism, would provide the impetus to make great changes to our social structure. Rejecting the separate but equal Jim Crow mentality, Dr. Martin Luther King, led our country through drastic change, righting many of the wrongs, which had come before. Not through violence, but using persistence, and the belief in the tenants of our Founding Fathers, Dr. King accomplished a great deal of social change, while at the same time, contributing to the concept of not tearing down the US; but rather, contributing to the building of a more perfect union.