What made America an exceptional nation? The answer is misted in mythology. So let us look through rose tinted glasses and see if we can grasp the reality.
Fundamentally we weren’t some petrified European nation ruled by a tyranny of birth and money, subject to the superstitions of state religion; where people’s actions were controlled by the king, their thoughts by the church.
Our founding documents were clear on our new social order. Monarchy, Aristocracy and Plutocracy were left behind. America was to be a fluid society where every man was entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Men of pluck and enterprise were free to be President or rich. (Down the road minorities and women were allowed the same dreams)
Our founding generation was freed from the oppression of orthodoxy. Men could worship the God of their choice or none at all; they walled off theocracy. Government was of the people, by the people and for the people; no God nor King need apply.
Immigration was the engine that drove the economy. Tides of eager, industrious, over-achievers poured into the country; settling into a wintry plain and giving rise to a summer flowering of a new transcontinental nation with amber waves of grain, above the fruited plain, from sea to shining sea.
These family farmers fed the newly industrialized nation which hammered steel into infrastructure and a military; that radiated up and out, to bring a beacon of hope to a world decimated by the world wars of the 20th century.
The vast middle class was raised from the scrubby urban tenements to the expanding suburbs by well paying jobs, in large part created by union representation. Families could send their children to college and buy the technological marvels that America invented and mass-produced.
America’s rise to mercantile and scientific excellence was facilitated by smart investment by government in rail, roads, space and a university system that brought the best and brightest minds from all over the world, while nurturing our homegrown talent.
So what remains of American Exceptionalism? Thanks to those who would be our leaders, not much.
This nation, founded free from religious imperatives, is under assault from the primitive superstition of organized fundamentalism; assaulted, hypocritically, not to promote God’s beneficence, but rather to advance the dictates of Mammon.
Immigration is demonized as the scourge of our economic vitality.
Good jobs are subsumed to the greed of the new plutocracy. Our economy was once liberal capitalism, a tide that raised all boats, today it is a traditional plutocracy accessorized by empty populist sentiments.
The Constitution was written to limit Government and the 2nd Amendment ensured that men could defend themselves against tyranny and criminals, but now the Government demands we surrender freedoms so that we can defeat the boogie man.
Our Universities are still the best in the world, but increasingly unavailable to the poor. Lack of education insures that opportunity is increasingly forbidden to the underclass, which is becoming a larger and more permanent feature of American society.
Our founders and many Presidents and politicians were steeped in the world, but now a sizable portion of our political class is proud of their global ignorance; with presidents who boast of their bad grades in college and politicians who don’t know what they read or think that the Revolutionary War started in New Hampshire.
Our Founding Fathers were steeped in Science from the practical – Franklin, Washington, to the theoretical – Jefferson. But now we reject science in favor of ancient superstitions.
Intellectuality be damned, our leaders will make decisions based on what we see in other leader’s souls; decisions that are based on the world as we want it to be, not the world as it is.
Is American exceptionalism recoverable? I think so. But it is going to take a transformative President with a Tea Party-like movement that is committed to returning America to a secular, educated meritocracy, exactly as the founding Fathers envisioned.