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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-27-2007, 12:17 PM Thread Starter
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American Exceptionalism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_exceptionalism

Any thoughts?

I think this cuts to the core of the philosophical debates we have around here.

I remember when the USSR would compare their ideals with our reality and always come out ahead in the minds of American liberals.

Of course, when the American "ideal" was compared to the reality of life in the USSR, the opposite was true.

So. When you compare the reality of "us versus them", what is it? Is America a shining light of hope for humanity or the headlight of a speeding freight train bearing down on anything in its path?

Spare me the nuance lesson. What is your general thought? FTL...what is your general feeling?
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-27-2007, 12:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveN007
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_exceptionalism

Any thoughts?

I think this cuts to the core of the philosophical debates we have around here.

I remember when the USSR would compare their ideals with our reality and always come out ahead in the minds of American liberals.

Of course, when the American "ideal" was compared to the reality of life in the USSR, the opposite was true.

So. When you compare the reality of "us versus them", what is it? Is America a shining light of hope for humanity or the headlight of a speeding freight train bearing down on anything in its path?

Spare me the nuance lesson. What is your general thought? FTL...what is your general feeling?
Having been brought up in a liberal household, I find your description of the US vs. USSR comparison without any basis - I know of no liberal who believed the USSR was any more than a disfunctional denial of the facts of any situation, however, many of those liberals found plenty of room for criticism of the US, not the least of which was its preoccupation with confronting the Red Bear in any and all incarnations. The most significant liberal rejection of US policy in my early adulthood was the policies that got us into Vietnam and then mired there until more than 50,000 American lives and half a million American sodiers' body parts were sacrificed. And, there may have been some commies on the loose in the US who supported the distorted USSR views, but they weren't part of the group I identified as liberals then or now.

As for the concept of American exceptionalism, as I understand the connotation you use it in, it is dangerously close to Naziism. The Aryan Race was better in every way to all other human clans and races, if Germany did something it was righteous, justified and the result was always positive. Sounds alarmingly like the connotation you apply to the phrase "American exceptionalism."

I do believe there are many, many aspects of America that are exceptional. None of them, however, originate from the word "America" or because they were spawned within the boundaries of land that is now the United States of America territory. All of America's exceptionalism has come from the hard work of Americans inspired to be exceptional by the conditions that their ancestors created, again by hard and exceptional work, to foster American exceptionalism. Once you stop the individual exceptionalism directed toward advancing American exceptionalism, you fall into the realm of propaganda. An easy step and taken for convenience all too often now. Saying "American exceptionalism" is much easier than practicing it. From my perspective, when you deny America's errors and blather about American exceptionalism, you have already defaulted to the nothing exceptional about it path of propaganda, which is so common there is no special version called American propaganda-ism. It is the same as that good old Nazi propaganda-ism practiced by Hitler and his cronies. Jim
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-27-2007, 01:35 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimSmith
Having been brought up in a liberal household, I find your description of the US vs. USSR comparison without any basis - I know of no liberal who believed the USSR was any more than a disfunctional denial of the facts of any situation, however, many of those liberals found plenty of room for criticism of the US, not the least of which was its preoccupation with confronting the Red Bear in any and all incarnations. The most significant liberal rejection of US policy in my early adulthood was the policies that got us into Vietnam and then mired there until more than 50,000 American lives and half a million American sodiers' body parts were sacrificed. And, there may have been some commies on the loose in the US who supported the distorted USSR views, but they weren't part of the group I identified as liberals then or now.

As for the concept of American exceptionalism, as I understand the connotation you use it in, it is dangerously close to Naziism. The Aryan Race was better in every way to all other human clans and races, if Germany did something it was righteous, justified and the result was always positive. Sounds alarmingly like the connotation you apply to the phrase "American exceptionalism."

I do believe there are many, many aspects of America that are exceptional. None of them, however, originate from the word "America" or because they were spawned within the boundaries of land that is now the United States of America territory. All of America's exceptionalism has come from the hard work of Americans inspired to be exceptional by the conditions that their ancestors created, again by hard and exceptional work, to foster American exceptionalism. Once you stop the individual exceptionalism directed toward advancing American exceptionalism, you fall into the realm of propaganda. An easy step and taken for convenience all too often now. Saying "American exceptionalism" is much easier than practicing it. From my perspective, when you deny America's errors and blather about American exceptionalism, you have already defaulted to the nothing exceptional about it path of propaganda, which is so common there is no special version called American propaganda-ism. It is the same as that good old Nazi propaganda-ism practiced by Hitler and his cronies. Jim
The history of this country includes all sorts of black marks.

I still believe, however, that on balance we are a force for good in this world and that is a direct result of the framework created and nurtured by the founders of this country.

Being "American" has nothing to do with race, in my opinion. My family became Americans in the 1950's. My parents were the first to speak unaccented English.

As far as propoganda is concerned, I am one small voice in the face of a storm of your side of the argument here and in the popular culture and media.

I believe that most human beings would choose our way of life over that of Iran if given the opportunity.

I am not for imposing that way of life on anyone. Not even Canada. LOL.

So I guess I am a pretty sorry excuse for a Nazi.
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-27-2007, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by DaveN007
The history of this country includes all sorts of black marks.

I still believe, however, that on balance we are a force for good in this world and that is a direct result of the framework created and nurtured by the founders of this country.

Being "American" has nothing to do with race, in my opinion. My family became Americans in the 1950's. My parents were the first to speak unaccented English.

As far as propoganda is concerned, I am one small voice in the face of a storm of your side of the argument here and in the popular culture and media.

I believe that most human beings would choose our way of life over that of Iran if given the opportunity.

I am not for imposing that way of life on anyone. Not even Canada. LOL.

So I guess I am a pretty sorry excuse for a Nazi.
No, your acceptance of propaganda as truth, and your tacit approval of wars of aggression make you the perfect nazi.

OBK #35

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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-27-2007, 02:19 PM Thread Starter
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No, your acceptance of propaganda as truth, and your tacit approval of wars of aggression make you the perfect nazi.
...said the guy with the bumper sticker.

LOL.
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-27-2007, 02:41 PM
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Our democracy may be a terrible form of government, but it's the best form of government the world has ever known. It's been mimicked all over the world since it's unveiling - the highest form of flattery.

However, it's the simplicity of our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence that make America great. We are all, ultimately, free of limits on our individual aspirations. There is no station in our society to which any man may aspire and achieve. We've thousands upon thousands of such stories in our short history. Mere paupers and peasants have become wealthier than the richest kings in a single generation. We're free to pursue whatever our heart desires, and this freedom has led not only to material wealth, but wealth in every facet of our society - knowledge, the arts, science, research. Our freedoms allow us to pursue deeper and deeper understandings of everything going on around us. The whole world has benefitted immeasurably from the byproducts of our freedom.


I've said before that free societies are the only societies capable of incubating hope. America has done more of that than any other nation, ever.

While I don't agree that this entitles us to do as we wish free of consequence or persecution, I do think it counts for something. Specifically, countries who have learned all of their lessons about human dignity, capitalism, federalism, etc. from the USA over the past 200+ years can kindly STFU when it comes to admonishing us for what they perceive to be dissatisfactory performance or behavior. When it comes to our 'reputation' in and among the international community, well, I don't give a rats ass. We should steadfastly oppose action or abstinence based on how the international community will view it. This is driving out of the rear view mirror - which is to say, careless, reckless, and dangerous.

I'll agree that the price we should be willing to pay for freedom from international pestering is that we're the first to challenge and reprimand ourselves when we fall down, and we're consistently strict in doing so. There's something to be said for leading by example, and I'd be lying if I said this isn't a very important tenet of mine which I feel we've done poorly as a nation over the past 15 or so years.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-27-2007, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by QBNCGAR
Our democracy may be a terrible form of government, but it's the best form of government the world has ever known. It's been mimicked all over the world since it's unveiling - the highest form of flattery.

However, it's the simplicity of our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence that make America great. We are all, ultimately, free of limits on our individual aspirations. There is no station in our society to which any man may aspire and achieve. We've thousands upon thousands of such stories in our short history. Mere paupers and peasants have become wealthier than the richest kings in a single generation. We're free to pursue whatever our heart desires, and this freedom has led not only to material wealth, but wealth in every facet of our society - knowledge, the arts, science, research. Our freedoms allow us to pursue deeper and deeper understandings of everything going on around us. The whole world has benefitted immeasurably from the byproducts of our freedom.


I've said before that free societies are the only societies capable of incubating hope. America has done more of that than any other nation, ever.

While I don't agree that this entitles us to do as we wish free of consequence or persecution, I do think it counts for something. Specifically, countries who have learned all of their lessons about human dignity, capitalism, federalism, etc. from the USA over the past 200+ years can kindly STFU when it comes to admonishing us for what they perceive to be dissatisfactory performance or behavior. When it comes to our 'reputation' in and among the international community, well, I don't give a rats ass. We should steadfastly oppose action or abstinence based on how the international community will view it. This is driving out of the rear view mirror - which is to say, careless, reckless, and dangerous.

I'll agree that the price we should be willing to pay for freedom from international pestering is that we're the first to challenge and reprimand ourselves when we fall down, and we're consistently strict in doing so. There's something to be said for leading by example, and I'd be lying if I said this isn't a very important tenet of mine which I feel we've done poorly as a nation over the past 15 or so years.
I agree with most of what you say. I think the part expressed in this sentence "Specifically, countries who have learned all of their lessons about human dignity, capitalism, federalism, etc. from the USA over the past 200+ years can kindly STFU when it comes to admonishing us for what they perceive to be dissatisfactory performance or behavior." is a little off base though. First, seeing our behavior through the eyes of others is not something to be disregarded out of hand, and, your underlying principle is one that would, in our way of life, be considered to be a violation of anti-trust concepts. Just because we were "first" to implement these concepts does not mean we will always be best at living up to them. In many instances, our freedoms give the student the freedom to surpass the teacher. And so it should be perceived when we are criticized by our students of freedom and liberty and democracy.

I also agree with the basic tenet of making decisions that support the American strategy, and if that pisses others off, well, if it is a key to implementing our strategy, tough luck to the ones who are unhappy. But I think our strategy needs to consider the effects our actions may have on others we would like to count on support from or at least no direct or indirect interference from as we carry out our strategy. It is just plain tolerance of low expectations that allow us to conclude diplomacy is too difficult for Americans to master and low expectations are not a founding principle of our nation. Jim
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-27-2007, 06:22 PM
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Sieg fucking heil, Dave.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address
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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-27-2007, 06:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveN007
The history of this country includes all sorts of black marks.
And recognizing them as black marks was the critical element needed to correct them, and our record of taking action on our own towards correcting our black marks is truly unique in the world.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveN007
I still believe, however, that on balance we are a force for good in this world and that is a direct result of the framework created and nurtured by the founders of this country.
I agree. However, what we have done cannot be used to buy some slack to emulate Nazis for a decade or so. We can only be judged as a member of the global community based on what we are doing now. We used to have a large "reservoir" of international good will, however, whether you like to hear it or not, when the Germans and French told us the case we made to invade Iraq in March of 2003 was not convincing and called for us to let the UN inspectors do their job, we pulled the plug on that reservoir and drained the majority of that good will away. Hardly a bargain as things turned out. They were right and we were wrong. Now neither country holds our word in very high regard, and has been forced to learn to rely on their own sources and judgement on international affairs. The point is our stature is based on what we are doing today, not what we have done for hundreds of years now. Nice to replay old memories, but like recalling physical prowess of your days in highschool when you are in your 60's, it is relatively useless.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveN007
Being "American" has nothing to do with race, in my opinion. My family became Americans in the 1950's. My parents were the first to speak unaccented English.
Again, I agree and note we have something in common concerning the number of accent free English speaking generations.

The German "Aryan" race concept was about as meaningless as American exceptionalism, as you have identified it when defending the "Blame America First" slogan. Hitler had not a single physical characteristic of Aryans. Yet, he directed that the concept of German superiority be presented and sold to the German people without any discussion of what would actually make them superior other than being German. He reinforced this by picking some fights with unprepared and clearly weaker and unthreatening opponents, who were set up and slaughtered, which was presented as evidence of German superiority.

Your American exceptionalism, meaning the way you have presented it in other threads, smacks of the same logic. It is exceptional merely because it is American. I can't subscribe to that concept.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveN007
As far as propoganda is concerned, I am one small voice in the face of a storm of your side of the argument here and in the popular culture and media.
Yes, but when your argument is based on reruns of Hitler's propaganda machine's inventions and refinements, instead of an honest assessment of facts, it loses value and slips into that porcelain bowl where human waste products are flushed away.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveN007
I believe that most human beings would choose our way of life over that of Iran if given the opportunity.
It is a nice, comforting belief. I would like to share it, but don't know how to make an experiment to test your belief. Besides, what if we ran an experiment, allowed everyone to experience our way of life, and we were wrong - how do you undo something like that? it is a little like sending unsterile spacecraft to Mars.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveN007
I am not for imposing that way of life on anyone. Not even Canada. LOL.

So I guess I am a pretty sorry excuse for a Nazi.
You may or may not be a sorry excuse for a Nazi - many Germans in the Nazi era were not Nazis but did nothing to stop the Nazification when it was feasible to stop it in time. I can tell you from personal experience, that is not something those Germans find, or since most have passed away by now, found, easy to live with for the next half century. Jim
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-27-2007, 06:49 PM
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I too grew up in the heart of the Cold War, in a liberal area of the country and nowhere did we ever hear of the "ideals of the USSR" being considered superior, EVER. It might come as a surprise to you but there are very few liberals that support any kind of socialism as a form of government. I doubt you can name three outside the American Socialist Party.

The idea that America is better than the rest of the developed world is grasping at Patriotic straws. There are times in history that any given country is better positioned than others for one reason or another. We had a VERY good run from 1942-1988. Technology and Foreign Policy were all playing in our favor, inventions were coming fast and often. Of course we were helped by the fact that Europe was wallowing in Labor disputes and a decline in their Manufacturing economy which generated political unrest.

But after 1988, any advantage that we may have had begun to equalize as China and Japan continued their economic growth and Europe regained its balance in both the economic and political realm.

In the past eight years, we have demonstrated absolutely NO exceptionalism on any front. In fact, any that we may have had has been pretty much erased in the eyes of the world.

It really is arrogant for a country to even begin to think of itself as exceptional among the developed countries. To try and do so within the confines of a Global Economy and Global reach tied by instant media is a ludicrous assumption from the get go.

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