• Sona Chaturvedi

American Exceptionalism is a Lie

Graphic Credit: The Gender Factor.

We like to think we are extraordinary, given our contributions to the world. 

We have advanced science, helped our allies win World War I and World War II, and pushed space exploration, among countless examples. Frequently, when the world has needed us, we delivered. Today, however, after a decade of ruinous wars, and faced with deteriorating economic, social and racial inequities, the United States is anything but exceptional. We no longer have an aspirational middle class. We are divided as a country, by design, on wedge issues that keep us fighting each other. Our inability to deal with a global pandemic, and our isolationist Russian puppet of a president, has rendered us useless. Back in the 1980s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, we looked like a country that had solved all its problems. We were the envy of the world. But our blindness to our failures and our history has bred a complacent nationalism and a disastrous foreign policy that has isolated and alienated us from the global community, says Godfrey Hodgson, author of the Myth of American Exceptionalism. The American belief in exceptionalism is not even exceptional. Quite the contrary. Throughout history, many countries and people have believed they were above the rest. The ancient Greeks believed it and called everyone else “barbarian.” So did the Romans, the British, the Soviets and Eastern cultures. They all believed in their own exceptionalism. Those cultures are studied as relics of once powerful nations. Rome, Greece, Great Britain and Russia still exist, but gone are the days where the sun never sets on the British Empire. Most Western cultures have adopted a true social democracy in order to survive that incorporates a mix of socialism and capitalism. There are countless comparisons being made today, and rightly so, with the decline of the Roman Empire and a belief among scholars that we are heading down the same path. Our leadership is so divided that we can no longer amend our Constitution to keep up with modern times. There are no useful discussions about term limits or court imbalances. Because of our deep division, neither side of government trusts the other to come together and move the country forward.

The recently departed Ruth Bader Ginsburg asserted she, herself, would not use the U.S. Constitution as a guide today, as it has not kept up with society's changes. California Rep. Adam Schiff asks who can we trust to amend the Constitution? How can we be exceptional when we can’t come together on the basic issues of advancement? Other countries look at us with pity, while some that harbor resentment feel karmic retribution has come to America. Most, however, just want us to come back to the way we used to be and succeed. How can we become the America we once were? How can we be exceptional again?  Humility is a start. We must recognize we aren’t that uncommon. We must stop believing the lies being fed to us. And we must elect leaders, real leaders, that can work together. Of all people, Vladimir Putin warned us a long time ago, after the collapse of the USSR: “It is very dangerous to foster the idea of exceptionalism among Americans. It is perilous for politicians and society to fail to notice the moment in which the gap between ideology and reality becomes an abyss. In our case, such failure led to the collapse of the USSR.” He understood us better than we do, which is how he manipulated us, played us like a fiddle and convinced us to elect his puppet. If we don’t change immediately and completely repudiate the GOP, we too will become a relic and a fallen superpower. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can change this. We can reverse this course. Eradicate the party that no longer governs. They are useless relics. Let’s move forward with parties that want a future. They don’t have to want the same thing; they can argue about how we actually can become exceptional. If not, we fail. We become a memory. We need this drastic adjustment, beginning with a Biden/Harris win, and then we can build from there.

The world used to copy us. If we don’t change now, only our memories will be worth copying.