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As we celebrate the exceptionalism of America, let us also take some time of introspection into who we are now. Have we given up our exceptionalism? Will we will remain the nation founded with God as the source of all rights and blessings?


Col. Bill Connor image

By —— Bio and Archives July 4, 2016

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For past decade, much debate has transpired over the term “American Exceptionalism.” Two months after assuming office (and while overseas speaking to allies), Barack Obama said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”

In April 2015, Donald Trump was asked to define American Exceptionalism and replied, “I don’t like the term, I’ll be honest with you.”

Though believed to have been coined by Alexis de Tocqueville – the Frenchman who wrote in the 1830s of America’s rise to power – the term has remained a constant throughout our history, and we must ask ourselves whether-or-not America truly was-and-is objectively “exceptional” among nations?

“America is a Godfearing country with all that implies,” said British historian Paul Johnson. “America is the only major (first world) country in the world in which a majority of citizens still voluntarily take part in an active religious life. That is the primary source of American exceptionalism.”

Johnson added, “America is and always has been a religious country. It was founded primarily for religious reasons. Religious belief and conflict was absolutely dominant until the end of the seventeenth century, and even after this point, the Great Awakenings were determining factors in what happened in America. The first Great Awakening, in the second quarter of the eighteenth century, was the spiritual and emotional engine of the American Revolution that brought the United States into being.”

In fairness to both Pres. Obama and Trump, their responses about “American Exceptionalism” appeared in the context of economics. Trump, for example, went on to explain that nations like Germany were “eating our lunch” economically and therefore we should not use a term claiming we are “better than” other nations. However, as de Tocqueville stated, “There is no country in the world in which the Christian religion retains greater influence over the souls of men than in America.”

What de Tocqueville further wrote of American greatness is the key to our exceptionalism: On my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things.”

America grew quickly, and around the time of its centennial was noted as having the world’s largest gross domestic product (GDP). After World War II, America became one of the two largest military powers, and by the end of the Cold War, she was the sole military superpower. However, judging American Exceptionalism solely in terms of economics or even military power is often misplaced. In recent years, America has lost a great deal of the manufacturing base and faces economic rivals throughout the world. Military power has risen and fallen with the major wars. It would be wrong to brag of exceptionalism in those terms.

What has made America exceptional was articulated at our inception, in the Declaration of Independence. In the preamble of the Declaration, we the people of the United States told the world our rights come directly to from our Creator. Not power through monarchs, or delegated from government, but directly from God to individuals. Further, that we “the people” invest government with certain limited powers to protect God given rights. This philosophical understanding kept government limited and the people free to flourish. That resulting freedom has brought the economic power, but the source has been what Johnson spoke about: being a “Godfearing nation.”

As America celebrates 240 years, we must ask ourselves, are we still exceptional?

Though de Tocqueville praised the United States as being “great” because it was “good” (Christian), he also presented us with a warning almost 200 years ago: Cease to be good, and we will cease to be exceptional. As we celebrate the exceptionalism of America, let us also take some time of introspection into who we are now. Have we given up our exceptionalism? Will we will remain the nation founded with God as the source of all rights and blessings? In the meantime, Happy Independence Day and let’s all pray God continue to bless America as we appeal to Him for mercy and grace as a nation.

Col. Bill Connor -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Bill Connor,  received his Bachelor’s of Arts from The Citadel in 1990. After serving over ten years as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army he received his Juris Doctorate from University of South Carolina in 2005.

He is currently an attorney with Hamilton and Associates in Columbia, South Carolina.

In May 2008, he returned from a yearlong combat deployment in Southern Afghanistan. During that time, he served as Joint Operations Officer for the Southern Region of Afghanistan developing and implementing the US advisory effort for Afghan National Security Forces. This effort occurred during the 2007 Taliban spring/summer offensive.

Due to success in that position, he was promoted to take command of the US advisory effort in the volatile province of Helmand. Shortly after arrival in Helmand, he was promoted in rank from Major to Lt. Colonel. In addition to command of US advisory teams, he was the senior American working with the United Kingdom senior staff. Upon return from Afghanistan, he published the book “Articles from War,”a memoir of his experiences and thoughts in Afghanistan.