American exceptionalism was born in the rebellious refusal to submit to tyrants
Comments | Print friendly | Subscribe | Email Us
The question of “American Exceptionalism” has surfaced increasingly since Obama was chosen to preside over the American people. From the time of our founding as an independent republic through at least the Reagan administration, we have recognized that there was something different about Americans and the nation they built. But, since the current administration took power – and I use the term “took” purposefully – that status has come increasingly to be doubted.
Unfortunately, that doubt is well-placed.
The foundation for America grew as a separate and distinct accumulation of humans gathered in the English colonies of North America. While their home-staying relatives and neighbors felt comfortable with being told how to live, there was this sprinkling in their midst of folks who just could not stand to be told what to do.
Some hated the king, or just their local lord. Some had been scarred by “Star Chamber” courts – or were scared they would be. Many could not respect the religion of the state, and insisted on worshipping God in a different way. Some were frustrated by the economic chains that had been laid upon them from birth.
While many complained about these burdens, the small part of the population who could not tolerate them, and who had sufficient initiative and risk tolerance, chose to pack up and leave. And they went to America.
Upon reaching the new, wild land, they confronted the necessity to rely on themselves. Those who could not, or would not, died or returned to the Old World. They did not get subsidized handouts.
There was an inherent difference in this population that made them distinct from their former countrymen. Like hair color, or susceptibility to asthma, behavior is partly an inherited trait. I believe this intolerance of authority was in the DNA of those who actually stood up, left their homes, braved the treacherous Atlantic and settled their wild new world. They were different in this way from their old neighbors.
And, in America, the migration process concentrated this trait in a population that was truly on its own, where the particular intolerance and initiative characteristics, concentrated as they now were, created a culture that was – exceptional.
Many have argued over recent decades that all men wish to be free.
I dispute that.
I believe that all men wish to have a certain degree of power to choose their own way in life; but that many – those who did, or would have chosen, to remain in the old world prefer that their lives be guided by a superior power – a king, a dictator, or a parliament. Their freedom is something they want granted or tolerated by that power, not something that they – and their irritating neighbors – have inherently and absolutely. They want a setting where they know the rules, and obey them, and expect their neighbors to do the same.
By contrast, the intolerance to submission that characterized the new Americans forced them to accept that things would have a certain degree of chaos, but would allow them to pursue their own ideas and values with little restraint. And so would their new neighbors, even though those neighbors might make irritating choices. Social pressure, not the decrees of their government masters, would be the means of subduing deviant behaviors that were annoying.
And, with the chaotic self-directing of millions of these new Americans, the New World changed, and dragged the Old World along. The new way was just better, and no one could argue in favor of the old ways when they were compared.
But the foundation that fed the changes remained exclusive to the new Americans, because the obstinate refusal to bow down to authority remained in their DNA. The residents whose forebears had remained in the old world did not have that particular trait, and their adoption of the American model of behavior simply does not have that element. They choose to adopt the American methods – capitalism, freedom of speech, etc – but to have them allocated by a central control authority – government. It is just not the same.
But, over the very recent decades, the composition of the American population has changed. Those who are immigrating do not have that intolerance of submission. They want the riches created in the American form of Liberty, but want the controls on their irritating neighbors, and subsidizing of their own failures, that remains in the old countries from which they come.
Worse, the education and acculturation process that kept Americans aware of their special character has been subverted by a generation of exceptionalism-denying “educators.” The pervasiveness of this mis-education process cannot be accidental.
The process and principles that created the American exceptionalism are being diluted. Only a population that is so indoctrinated that no group is really exceptional could choose an obviously unqualified, anti-values candidate like Obama as their president.
To that degree, Putin in his recent condemnation of America’s old claim to exceptionalism, is correct. His characterization is valid, if the people of America are truly accepting the dictatorial choices and decrees of the Obama administration.
American exceptionalism was born in the rebellious refusal to submit to tyrants.
Only a popular rebellion against the encroaching tyranny that is apparent today will signal that we have kept our exceptionalism alive.