By Joe Conason

Defining American Exceptionalism On July 4, 2012

July 4, 2012 12:39 am Category: Memo Pad, Politics, Uncategorized 28 Comments A+ / A-
Defining American Exceptionalism On July 4, 2012

The Fourth of July is the birthday of American exceptionalism – originally, the idea cherished by the nation’s Revolutionary founders that the practice of liberty, equality, and democracy in these United States would kindle hope in a world downtrodden by every form of despotism, hierarchy, and oppression.

Independence Day marked the determination of a new and diverse people to throw off the old yoke of hereditary rule, with all its attendant traditions of social and economic stratification. The founders believed that America would inspire other nations as an ally and friend, rather than dominate them by force of arms or money. They did not regard their weak new republic as intrinsically superior or chosen to rule the world by God – but argued instead that the ideals of popular sovereignty and constitutional freedom represented the natural rights and the future of humanity everywhere.

So July 4 is a holiday whose meaning still resonates, despite centuries of contradictory history and circumstance. And it ought to be a day for remembering, as I’ve long argued, that liberalism is as patriotic as apple pie.

But it is also worth noting that the form of American exceptionalism most loudly promoted today is encrusted with unwholesome propaganda. As articulated by the great thinkers of the Republican right, from George W. Bush to Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, it is transformed into an aggressive nationalism, a disdain for world opinion, and an ostentatious piety that would have repelled the intellectual leaders of the founding generation.

Republican braying about American exceptionalism sounds especially fraudulent in a season when their party is preparing to nominate an unabashed plutocrat for the presidency.  By corrupting the US political system with dark money and corporate personhood, their Supreme Court justices, their Congressional leaders, and now their presidential candidate would impose an aristocracy of wealth just as corrupt and unaccountable as any that existed in old Europe.

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Defining American Exceptionalism On July 4, 2012 Reviewed by on . The Fourth of July is the birthday of American exceptionalism – originally, the idea cherished by the nation’s Revolutionary founders that the practice of liber The Fourth of July is the birthday of American exceptionalism – originally, the idea cherished by the nation’s Revolutionary founders that the practice of liber Rating:

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Comments

  • ChristoD

    Well written and absolutely dead on. To think that we are in an alleged ‘dead heat’ for President is mind boggling and a negative testimonial to what true freedom, the ability to lie over and over and over again until it is accepted as truth, has evolved to. Make no mistake, the leaders on the right are in a war to the finish and are prepared to bet the future of this country even if it means bringing us to our knees.

  • dtgraham

    I know what Joe is saying here. I hesitated to post any of this, as I’m not American and perhaps I shouldn’t be saying anything, but I’ll choose my words carefully. We just had our constitutional national holiday in Canada on July 1st and it’s always an interesting juxtaposition to see the difference in patriotic expression south of the border 3 days later. To me, American liberals and Democrats seem more like Canadians in their July 4th patriotism. Proudly patriotic to be sure, but it seems a little bit more reserved and restrained—–a more genteele patriotism if you will.

    With Republicans, it’s more of a chest beating orgy. There’s an aggressive, in-your-face, jingoism there and sort of a dark Deutschland uber alles thing that’s hard to describe. You just feel it. Well, while there are differences, I don’t want to get too carried away either.

    That all being said———–Happy fourth of July America! You couldn’t ask for better neighbours.

    • perplejado

      Thank you for your comment. It is right to the point. I’ve traveled to many countries in my life and I’ve found people who love their countries everywhere we travel, but rarely do I see the ostentious display of patriotism that you so aptly describe. As Samuel Johnson said: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” On this day I think we need more introspection and reverence for the ideals espoused by this great nation.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marlene-Ross/610918425 Marlene Ross

        I agree. As an American, I feel my patriotism through certain humility and graditude, feeling blessed to have been born and lraised under a flag of freedom. I only wish it possible for all of our citizens to come together for the common good. “Checks and Balances” are a good method for Congress to oversee and guide itself; obstructionism as we’ve witnessed and suffered under more recently, I believe, is due to no more than an ideology fueled through greed. We must get back to a place for accepting that ‘we the people’ are interconnected through a mutual universiality; as such, we must look out for one another.

    • stsintl

      Thanks for your unbiased comment as our neighbor. As we witness the economic chaos in Europe and US, we must admire and congratulate the Canadians for their Democracy and Capitalism, which is firmly footed on “Social Responsibility”. Only if our political system and the Supreme Court would look up north and learn from their neighbor.

      • dtgraham

        We’re a long way from perfect stsintl. We have our problems too. Everybody does. Thanks for the kind words though. Like I said, nice to have you guys for neighbours.

  • labrown69

    Yankee Doodle can go f**k himself and so can Uncle Sam. Amerika is in the throws of a good old fashioned fascist revival. The Republican Party is a death panel and the Democrats are not that much better although marginally. This country can not coast on their laurels from WW2 forever and if it was not for the California weather I would already be gone.

  • Morteza Abkenari

    Do not llow this nation be yoked by corporate and mafia monies / interest
    let the the government of people – by the people – for the peopple be revived
    stop whole sale of ideal of this nation which has been a becon of hope for distance lands

    please

    Morteza Abkeanri

  • studio123

    Thanks for your comments dtgraham, but your absolutly wrong about liberals, in most cases they are as patriotic as it gets. I have friends ranging from “far left to far right” and they all are little different. It seems to me that a lot of “right wing” conservatives like to shout and paint “liberals” in that way for their own agenda. And, yes more center and left side of center probably are more reserve in being outspoken about all political issues, thats one reason “political polls” seem to miss being so acturate sometimes… Have a great and happy 4th and God Bless America…

  • midway54

    We have been in a protofascist plutocracy for some time now. It includes modern robber barons living a Gilded Age II lifestyle, while millions struggle under financial and familial distress arising from the Wall Street orgy and from the success of the plutocrats and their lapdogs in undermining if not destroying the labor unions. This is the American Way as the plutocrats define it: We don’t need no stinkin’ socialistic safety nets or other big government programs designed to benefit those average citizens who are in need through no fault of their own. Then there are, incredibly enough, the dupes nodding their heads in agreement with the rightwing scoundrels who bray about the need to get government out of our lives so that all citizens can fend for themselves even under tragic circumstances and rely on charities (overwhelmed and inadequate) to meet those needs.

  • riobob111

    sure can agree with dtgraham, Democratic Americans are patriots while Republicans are greedy and want the power but do nothing for the country but ruin it.

  • ForestGrays

    These words echo our greatest pride about what we have always believed this great Nation stands for, and our very deep concerns for the state of the American political divide. And thank you, our Canadian neighbor, for your observations – they are welcome

  • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

    First Of All My I Say Happy 4th Of July To All !! I Love This Country And Never Had Any Desire To Live No Where Else In This World!! I Come From Three Race Of People< African, England, And The Great Sioux Nation!! My Ideal America Is Where All Of Our People Work Together To Make Our Country Great The Way It's Been Just Selling This Image To The World But As We Know This Is Not True!!b We Need To Stop Hating And Judging People Cause Of The Color And Life Choices!! Only If It Apply To Pedophiles And Others Who Choose To Do Wrong By Forcing They Wishes On Others!! We Need To Do Do The Right Thing And If It Means Giving A Helping Hand To Others That For Some Reason Are In Trouble In Life , I'm Not Talking About People Who Want To Freeload Their Ass Thru Life I Mean The One Who Want To Better Themselves And Need Our Help In Doing So I Have Worked For Over 45 Years Now And There Were Times I Was Without Work And Needed Some Help ( Mind You Just For A A Few Months To Up My Skills On Go Back Into The Work Force!!! Mind You I Vote Towards The Democrats Due To The Fact They Have Shown That They Care About All The American People Not Just A Few Each Person In Office May Have Their Own Agenda But When You Show Me You Care For All And Take A Stand On It You Will Always Have My Vote!!! And My Support!! All This Trouble Times Our American People Are Having We Should Always Have Each Others Back Happy 4th Of July!! No There No Proper Grammar And The Sentence Are Not Correct But My Statement Are Not Posted To A Grade It's Posted Too Tell How I Fell!! Love You All Happy 4th Of July And Let;'s Do The Right Thing!!

    • metrognome3830

      Well said, Fern.

  • karinursula

    I’m afraid should Romney be elected that we are going to be a truly divided country. I’m born and raised in Germany, have lived here for 40 years and I’m an citizen. Never ever in all these years have I seen this pain. Sometimes when I read comments it feels like that Americans are pitted against Americans. Yes I voted for the President and I will do so again. He does not have all the answers but I do know, if congress would not fight him every step of the way, we would be better of today. Not perfect but better.

  • ASHam1

    In general this was a good speech, which made some strong points, that frankly I didn’t think Obama had it in him. He has for the most of his presidency tryed to go too far to the right to appease the Republicans, without any good results. At the same time there are very strong contradictions or exceptionalisms in what he said. We are not a country of equality as claimed and never have been. It’s a great goal to strive for, but we are not there yet and it might be an impossible goal to achieve. Also he claims that we reject the class structure, prerogatives of the royalists and those claiming rights by birth. In many cases he is right, but there are some glaring contradictions none the less. For example, the world banking empire is composed of non elected banking families, who have seized and manipulated our banking system, own the FED and are bringing this great country and most others to their knees. While we think the Dems are all the good guys, there are plenty of examples, where they are defending this same banking empire, by attacking countries that try to break their shackles. I don’t see Obama doing anything about this, nor the Republicans. I also agree with dtgraham about the extreme so called patriotism, which supports the many misinformations and wars that drain our country. It hurts to watch this race to the bottom and the constant erosion of our basic human rights. Neither party is doing anything substantial to stop this. No one listenes to the good points the other side has, and yes both have good and bad ideas. This extreme partisanship only brings out the worst in them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

    GOD Bless America Cause It Needs All The Blessing It Can Get When America Have People In It That Don’t Give A Damn About The America Country Nor It’s People More Money And How Much They Can Hoard Is Number One On Their List!!!! OBAMA /BIDEN 2012!!!

    • 13observer

      Fern, your God said; don’t envy others. Make your own wealth, don’t burden others with your selfish desires!

      • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

        Go Screw Your Self And Get Your Lips Off The Koch Brothers Asses!! I Work And I Got A Good Job And Money In The Bank Along With Good Investments!! So Go Peddle Your Bullshit On Some One Else!!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

        You Are One Stupid Ass Thug You Can’t Bully Me You Low Life Asshole Go Fuck Yourself!!

      • rustacus21

        Selfish… Burdens… Desires… God… I truly believe U have no idea what has happened to YOUR nation, not to mention what U’r talking about, w/all due respect!!! This is NOT about wealth. Unable to apprehend that, U continue to confuse Democracy w/capitalism, which shows how utterly befuddled & discombobulated (mentally) conservatives are, in their confusion over how to perceive the utter devastation intentionally brought on this nation between 2001-2009 – for the sake of selfish desires for money, in the name of God no less, which has resulted – unquestionably – in the MASSIVE BURDEN on the 99% of the nations population – INCLUDING YOU – by the 1%ers. U aren’t them! U never will B!!! So why are U defending they who despise U?! There’s no such thing as envying monsters…

  • stsintl

    As we celebrate the US Independence Day, let’s remind the Republican Party leaders of the following quotes, which have been thrown out of their core principles.

    Thomas Jefferson:
    “The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.” [Here "people" does not include corporations & Super PACs as interpreted by the five members of the Supreme Court]

    “Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.” [This implies total transparency of political campaign funds]

    “The government is the strongest of which every man [person] feels a part.” [Here again man/person doesn't include Super PACs]

    Benjamin Franklin:
    “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security, will deserve neither and loose both.” [Should apply to Patriots' Act and profiling of Muslims]

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
    “The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism ownership of government by an individual, by a group or any controlling private power.” – [Remind the five Neocon Judges of the Supreme Court of this]
    Abraham Lincoln:
    “Government of the People, By the People, and For the People” [Here people doesn't mean Neo-capitalists and/or just Taxpayers]
    Mohammed Safiuddin:
    “Without Social Responsibility, Democracy turns in to Dictatorship and Capitalism turns into a network of Crime Syndicates”

  • montanabill

    What a corruption. On this day, using this pulpit to denigrate other Americans because they differ with Mr. Conason’s notion of what American exceptionalism is, as the British might politely put it, bad form. Save your hate speech for another day, Mr. Conason. Or better yet, put it away entirely. It serves no one.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4JK5UTBYBW34I6QZZXYEBMSTT4 TEN-OF-WANDS

    Thank you, Joe. Someday, I will have the civility to say what you said without the rash militancy that has characterized my entire life. Today is not that day, but it is an open path to that day.

  • onedonewong

    Hmm the guy was never qualified for any office higher than dog catcher he had Zero experience an education based on quotas not merit. Our founders would be aghast that some one with his credentials would ever be elected let alone with $$ from the Saudis and China. No Barak is the worst case possible for American exceptionalism based on his record deficit of $10 T, fewer americans working than at any time during W’s second term and the laughing stock of the world bowing to the lies of Mexico and the Saudi King and apologizing to the packi’s

  • 13observer

    Sounds like “class envy” to me. I am not wealthy but I’ll be damned if I’ll stand by and watch Obama give away the farm. Of course the people that want the freebees are supporting him, a free lunch is what they have always been looking for! I get a kick out of an article I read that stated; why are we rewarding corporations that send our JOBS overseas? I would ask a similar question to the Obama administration; why are we rewarding illegal aliens that come to the U.S. to exploit our serious unemployment problem and take jobs that Americans would do if they paid decent wages and didn’t require the worker to be subsidized by the U.S. government like the illegals are. The big draw for illegals to the U.S. is taxpayer funded WEFARE.

  • 13observer

    Oh my goodness Fern, it appears I’ve struck a cord! I am simply embarrased for you and your willingness to allow the desires ofthe 99% to dictate your political persuasion. Which part of the so-called 99% do you belong? I am certainly not in the 1% however, I am UNION and I believe that is how to get a decent wage. If the rest of the 99% want to “dream” that the left will legislate them a contract with decent wages…good luck with that! If they don’t want to fight (unionize), then they will get what they didn’t fight for…nothing… so…dream on!

  • rustacus21

    What may help is another reading of the Declaration of Independence & the Constitution in FULL!!! After a few readings, I guarantee the 2001-2009 administration will prove itself to be an utter & absolute abomination. But YES, God Bless a nation where we can do something about it…

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