Alleged American “Exceptionalism”

    A common term used these days among Neocons and their successors, the Neolibs, is “American Exceptionalism.” This is a tricky and misleading buzzword, so it pays to break it down and clearly understand its implications.

    On the surface, “American Exceptionalism” seems like an innocent, patriotic, wholesome idea. After all, isn’t America “exceptional?”

    Isn’t our economy “exceptional?” (Well, it used to be. Give the Federal Reserve a few more years to muck things up, and we’ll be relegated to Third World status.)

    Isn’t our history “exceptional?” Well, if you believe everything Miss Pringle taught you in Eighth Grade American History, you might believe that America has always been good, just, and moral. You might believe that, for example, Lincoln was a heroic crusader against slavery (actually, he was a conniving politician and a vile racist). You might not even know about Sherman’s campaigns of extermination against Native Americans. You might not even know about the racist internment of Japanese Americans in World War II. And so on.

    The darker side of this anti-concept of “American Exceptionalism” is the notion that you should make an “exception” for America when it does things it condemns other nations for. In other words, “American Exceptionalism” is a cover word for the grossest hypocrisy.

    Thus, if you believe in making an “exception” for America, because we’re “good” and the other guys are “bad,” then torture is a hideous, ghastly crime when the “other guys” do it, but is a sensible, practical–and yes, even moral–thing when we, the “good guys” do it.

    If you believe in “American Exceptionalism,” you can condemn Arabs and Muslims because “they fly airplanes into buildings,” and we, the “good guys,” don’t. This is true; we are much more civilized about our means of mass murder. We prefer flying airplanes OVER buildings, and dropping bombs ON them, rather than flying our planes INTO them.

    If you believe in “American Exceptionalism,” you can state, without even a blink, that our nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were completely justified, even though Japan was ready to surrender. We did it; therefore it is right. But if anyone else uses nukes, it’s a crime against humanity.

    If you believe in “American Exceptionalism,” you can, without a hint of contradiction in your brain, condemn Iran for its non-existent nuclear weapons program, even while the “good guys” in Washington hold some four thousand active nukes. (The closely-related “Israeli Exceptionalism” also applies here, as their “good guys” government holds close to a hundred nukes, yet claims the world is threatened by Iran’s “program” which is non-existent and therefore has produced not a single weapon.)

    Ayn Rand, decades ago, coined the term “anti-concept” to mean a notion that is semi-plausible on the surface, but masks an underlying and unidentified agenda. An “Anti-Concept” is designed, not to clarify your thinking, but to muddy it. “American Exceptionalism” is a particularly gross example of an “anti-concept.”

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