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Is America Exceptional?

We’re the shining city on the hill and the last best hope of Earth. Or are we?

 

Is America responsible for leading the Earth’s way to worldwide liberty and democracy? Or are we following a path of decline already well-traveled by nations older and wiser than we?

How you answer those questions probably says a lot about your political beliefs.

Alexis de Tocqueville first called America “exceptional” in its pursuit of commercialism and practical matters versus “science, literature, and the arts” in 1831’s Democracy in America. Jay Lovestone, the Communist leader from the late 1920s, noted America’s resistance to Communist revolution because of our strong capitalist mindset and natural resources, which Joseph Stalin refuted as “the heresy of American exceptionalism” ̶ ironically, the first time the phrase was used.

Although the idea that America is unique among nations in its global responsibilities has been embraced by both sides of the aisle, President Barack Obama observed that while Americans believe they are exceptional, so did other once-dominant nations such as Britain and Greece; thus, the delicate unwinding of a nation’s hubris begun by its leader.

He isn’t totally wrong: America has a history of expansionism and hypocrisy to contend with, and it isn’t pretty. In the Philppines at the turn of the century, in World War II, in Vietnam, in Nicaragua, in Iraq and Afghanistan, American forces have killed civilians, sometimes accidentally, sometimes not. And we are neither better nor the more popular for it.

Once upon a time on the campaign trail, President Obama promised that hostility against America would ease on his first day in office. He set out on a worldwide near-apology tour where he promised enraptured crowds that, if elected, his administration would treat the world with more respect ̶provided they respected us in return.

Yet just this past week the world watched as a strong wave of anti-American sentiment spread quickly across the Middle East as well as Australia, Africa and Europe, resulting in the death of our Libyan ambassador and staff. Rumors persist that the Libyan government warned the administration about the attack in advance, although U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice stated that the protests resulted from an Internet video that disparaged the Islamic prophet Mohammed, apparently made by an American.

Unfortunately, it seems that our policy of appeasement has resulted in little more than violence and threats. It’s also resulted in visible frustration on the part of our closest Middle Eastern ally and friend in democracy, Israel. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested a meeting with Obama to discuss the worsening situation in Iran, which apparently is attempting to enrich uranium, a key ingredient in nuclear weaponry.

Obama denied the request. Who is on the calendar instead? None other than Muslim Brotherhood leader and newly-elected Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi, who supports amending Egypt’s Constitution so it more closely resembles the Koran and Sharia law.

Of course, Obama has plenty of time to make an appearance on David Letterman and attend a reelection fundraiser hosted by Jay-Z and Beyonce.

A point of fact: the Anti-Defamation League identifies the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, as do many political observers. The Council on Foreign Relations referred to the Brotherhood as a stepping stone to membership in militant terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Hamas, and many dangerous terrorists are former Brotherhood members.

Although the U.S. State Department won’t classify the organization as a terrorist group, Obama won’t confirm that Egypt is a current U.S. ally, calling their relationship a “work in progress,” despite a decades-old treaty stating otherwise. And while it appears Morsi was elected fairly, foreign relations watchers can only purse their collective lips at what the Arab Spring will mean for Israel, and America.

Former Egyptian President (dictator) Hosni Mubarak at least stuck to the terms of the old peace treaty and kept a distance -- albeit a cold one -- from Israel. With the new leadership in place, and a potential alliance between the Brotherhood and Iran forming, one can only wonder how long that delicate peace will last.

Will our imperfect exceptionalism keep us shining on the hill? 

Concerned Parent September 19, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Let's put it this way, if America was like this 50 years, my parents would have never came to this country. They'd be just as happy where they were...In war-torn Europe.
Jeff September 19, 2012 at 11:00 PM
I love it Ed! So true I'm sure for many people. We are Greece in 20 years. This country is so pitifully filled with ignorance and naïveté. How anyone with their head above the sand could in good faith, especially if they will be leaving this life with descendants, can think any of the present policies aren't going to result in disaster and turmoil. Lisa, thanks for a rare piece of journalistic truth and reality. With what you just wrote you'll likely get the title of "right-winger" but not to worry this "right-winger" has your back along with millions more of us who can't stand to see what this country is becoming!
MAC September 20, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Yes, Lisa, but Obama has nearly destroyed that "Exceptionalism." He promised to "Transform America" and has failed at most every promise but that one, sadly. If given another term, he will so greatly diminish our nation into "decline" that we will not recognize our formerly great Nation!! I plead with Patch readers to read your excellent information here about the threats of Obama's friends, such as Muslim Brotherhood leader and newly-elected Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi. It is simply appalling that Obama favors him and his own "Celebrity in Chief" appearances over attending PDBs (only having attended 43 % of them), meeting with our only middle eastern ally, Israel's Netanyahu, and our national security!!! Anyone who has been deceived about Obama and wants the Truth, and to know "why is President Obama hell-bent on seeing America fail?" could start by watching the movie "2016: Obama’s America" http://www.2016themovie.com/theaters/ Don't delay, though. It was playing at about 20 CT theaters, but maybe not much longer, as it started about a month ago.
Lisa Bigelow September 22, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Thanks for reading and commenting! Lisa B.

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