The Times We Live In
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American exceptionalism

NOTE: This post was changed for some unknown reason by WordPress after it was posted. In its original form, it was a much more serious post, but much of that language was lost. I’ve tried to make sense of what they left, but have had to make it much more trivial and apologize for the loss of the original post.

The term “American exceptionalism” has been bandied about by politicians, pundits, historians, and others with increasing frequency. Attempting to catch up on the latest atrocities against democracy and the rule of law, I’ve been thinking a great deal recently about the term: how it was used throughout history and how it has become weaponized in our divided political culture.

The phrase may have originated in the 1830s with the first great observer of American life, the French political scientist and historian Alexis de Tocqueville, but the meaning has changed over time.

We clearly are not exceptional. It doesn’t take too much to see that. Try looking at, for instance:

America as “the best” in everything we do is a naïve belief that is easy to debunk. But the concept of American exceptionalism that does require serious consideration is constructed on the idea that we created something new in 1776 out of whole cloth; a “new history” if you will. And moral superiority is a key part of the argument that this new nation, with its unique commitment to freedom and democracy, is exceptional.

Any serious reading of history will tell us that this simply isn’t true. We need to understand our history if we are to begin to help America live up to its exceptional ideals.

More to come…


* Not to mention the good systems in the U.K., Italy, and so many other countries.

**I guess this does prove that we are exceptional in some things.

Image: Uncle Sam at the Takoma Park July 4th parade

This entry was posted in: The Times We Live In


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.

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