Is the U.S. truly an exceptional nation?
American exceptionalism was tied to the idea of “manifest destiny,” a term used by Jacksonian Democrats in the 1840s to promote the acquisition of much of the western United States, the Oregon Territory, the Texas Annexation, the Mexican Cessions of California, New Mexico and adjacent areas.
From the 1840s to the late 19th Century, the McGuffey Readers sold 120 million copies, which were studied by most American students. Strabes 2009 argues the readers “hailed American exceptionalism, manifest destiny, as God’s country to bring liberty and democracy to the world.”
I wonder today, if members of the Islam religion, first in world membership, differ? Could they be thinking that our invasion of Iraq, and other areas, with troops in many eastern locations, collateral damage of drone killings, that with our self-righteous claim of “providing democracy and liberty” may actually be a cover for spreading Christianity, the second highest church membership in the world? In that case, they wouldn’t see us as exceptional but rather as a missionizing effort.
If I were to pick an exceptional U.S. state, it would be Vermont. Vermont was the first state to join the 13 colonies. Its constitution was the first to ban slavery. It was the first state in the nation to establish the right of free education for all — public education. What have they done lately? They were the first state to adopt single-payer health care, a lower cost health insurance for all citizens.
President Obama has one started for our entire nation, which the Republicans are doing their best to kill. And with the World Health Organization classification of medical results, single-payer nations rank higher in almost all categories of medical results as rated by the World Health Organization.
How about today’s title for the United States as an exceptional country? All the great nations that were once thought of as “king of the hill” with top military capability and world influence have had to give up that position. They outspent themselves and finally had to cut back. Fareed Zakaria of CNN, who refers to our period as “Past-American World” in his book by that name says, “It is not about the decline of America, but rather the rise of everyone else.”
In my judgment, we could truly be an exceptional nation if we reduced poverty and stopped the continuing spread of wealth between the haves and have-nots in our nation, which claims to be moral and exceptional. We continue to spend vast sums on our military when we are, by far, the most militarized nation in the world. Actually we exceed a number of other highly militarized nations combined.
Two practices, so patently unfair, should be corrected if we wish to justify exceptional status.
In a Sept. 12 Duluth News Tribune article entitled “Rich pocket the biggest income share since ’28,” this disparity has been growing for the last 30 years.
If we were exceptional would we leave a greater and greater number living in poverty and a number able to purchase any of their dream’s yearning?
I get criticized for my liberal view, even been called a socialist. I wish we were truly exceptional. That would require the most wealthy individuals and organizations to accept raising taxes to a fair share and help bring the very bottom people to a living wage and all low-income people a tidbit of our large wealth. Too many with extremely high income use a portion of their money to rig the tax code to lower their taxes. If that weren’t being selfish enough, many have wealth hidden in overseas tax havens where other world nations who help them hide it.
I will not feel ashamed to call our country exceptional when the exorbitantly high incomes are shared, to at least some extent, in a country that claims high moral and religious values.
Bernie Hughes, Ed.D, is a retired educator who resides in Superior. He can be reached at bernie3024@