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American Exceptionalism


Another reason to have faith in America’s young people:

Just 32% of Millennials believe the U.S. is the greatest country in the world. That number progressively increases among the Gen X (48%), Boomer (50%) and Silent generations (64%). Millennials were also the most likely generation to say America is not the greatest country in the world (11%).

Millennials also are less likely than their elders to express patriotism. A majority of Millennials (70%) agreed with the statement “I am very patriotic.” But even larger percentages of Gen Xers (86%), Boomers (91%) and Silents (90%) said the same. This generational gap is consistent and has been identified in surveys dating back to 2003.

Putin’s all-time classic trolling of the United States in his Times op-ed did at least have the true statement that American exceptionalism is ridiculous.

You know what is exceptional about the United States?

Our belief in American exceptionalism.

And that’s about it.

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  • joe from Lowell

    There’s nothing exceptional in a belief in exceptionalism.

    Japan? China? Rome? England? Russia?

    • I’m willing to say there is nothing exceptional about the United States at all. I do think you can make an argument that nowhere has more emotional investment in itself being exceptional than the United States (at least today, if not historically). But certainly I’m willing to accept your point.

      • Ben

        France. No, seriously.

        • carolannie1949

          Yes, France. Lived there, lived that.

          • GoDeep


        • Anna in PDX

          Seriously that is the first thing I thought after reading this short post, “Clearly Erik has never been to France.”

          • DrDick

            I agree with the assessment of France, but would argue that it is much more widespread.

            • Anna in PDX

              Oh sure it is! J Otto can probably tell about how various African countries see themselves relationally, and I can tell all the stories you want about the various Arab countries and their national stereotypes, but really France is like a caricature of all this.

              • expatchad

                So, you’re saying that France is exceptional at something?

      • Ben

        That is to say France sees itself as at least as exceptional as the US if not more, even though it hasn’t really sniffed great power status since the 1960s at the latest.

      • I think there are a lot of ways the US is “exceptional,” in that we’re an exception. We’re an exception in that we’ve had a constitutional republic for longer than any other country.

        We are–in the way Lipset used it–exceptional in that we were a country that industrialized relatively early but never had a labor party and never developed a full fledged welfare state. We’re exceptional in that we became the most powerful economic, political and military power of the 20th century. We’re exceptional that we’re a continental power that’s never been invaded or occupied. We’re not unique in being a country whose population is almost entirely from immigration from another continent and didn’t have a centuries-long history of aristocratic rule–Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile all fit that description–but with the partial exception of Australia, we’re the only one that’s been particularly aggressive on a global scale. We’re also the only one where slavery was a big part of our development.

        I don’t have any problem with the idea of “American exceptionalism.” I think it’s true as used in several different ways and contexts. I also don’t think it’s ridiculous to use American Exceptionalism in terms of our ideals, the role of ideals in the creation and growth of the nation and as influencing our nature and our sense of place in the world. My main issue with it is that people invoke it as a truism about us being inherently more virtuous and great than any other country, and in any other way. That’s stupid. It’s even worse when it’s invoked as a defense for anything that our leaders of the moment may want to justify to themselves, the American public and the rest of the world.

        American exceptionalism is a thing, but it’s most a netural, descriptive thing. It’s not an excuse or justification for being an asshole nation-state.

        • Ben

          We’re not unique in being a country whose population is almost entirely from immigration from another continent and didn’t have a centuries-long history of aristocratic rule–Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile all fit that description–but with the partial exception of Australia, we’re the only one that’s been particularly aggressive on a global scale. We’re also the only one where slavery was a big part of our development.

          With the exception so far of being aggressive on a global scale, Brazil would like a word with you. Big, continental power made up of immigrants with slavery and racial issues as a huge part of its history.

          • A much larger percentage of Brazil’s population is partly or entirely indigenous. That’s not the case in Argentina or Chile.

            • Ben

              WIki says that less than 1 percent of Brazil’s population is Amerindian.

              • joe from Lowell

                He’s referring to this:

                Most of the population descends from early European settlers—chiefly Portuguese, including Portuguese New Christians, descendants of Jews forced to convert to Christianity;[19] African (Yoruba, Ewe, Akan, Bantu, and others), and assimilated indigenous peoples (mostly Tupi and Guarani, but also of many other ethnic groups). Interracial mixing have been common and well accepted ever since the first Portuguese settlers arrived.

                This is distinctly not true of American demographics.

              • But a much higher percentage have amerindian ancestors, in particular those whose lineage goes back to the colonial era.

                However, I looked it up and Argentines and Chileans also have fairly high amounts of Amerindian heritage, more than I thought.

                • LeeEsq

                  I thought Argentina was one of the whitest places in the Americas and most of them are Italian in origin.

                • I did too (although not just Italian; Argentina is fairly diverse, with lots of Germans, Croats, Irish, Jews and other European ethnicities, and people from a lot of other parts of the world as well).

                  Maybe the wiki entry I read was bad, I dunno.

                • LeeEsq

                  Its possible that a lot of Argentinas have Native American ancestors but that it doesn’t show up much in terms of physical appearance because its that far back in the past. From the pictures I’ve see and Argentians I’ve met in real life, its a very white place.

                • Strong Thermos

                  Uruguay also gives Argentina a run for its money in terms of South American whiteness.

        • Ben

          And Brazil even has its own exceptional myth about racism, too, so there’s even that.

        • Chad

          Brilliant comment, Dana.

        • SIS

          “we’re the only one that’s been particularly aggressive on a global scale.”

          And that is the nub of Putin’s argument right there. Other countries believe they are special – they don’t bother to actively proselytize themselves onto the world stage. That is the problem other people see with American Exceptional ism as opposed to that found in other countries.

          That active proselytizing is what makes American hypocrisy sting harder, when we fail to actually live up to the values we claim make us special. We really are the loud Preacher condemning others for not being faithful while carrying on that obvious affair on the side.

          • GoDeep

            Really? No, really? Putin has perhaps forgotten Stalin…

            • joe from Lowell

              Seriously, the guy who worked for the Marxist-Lenninists’ covert operations agency is put off by proselytizing?

              • SIS

                Yeah, cause the kind of people who work for spy agencies are such true believers….please.

                • joe from Lowell

                  Oh, well, as long as he wasn’t a true believer, then working for the security apparatus of the most aggressive ideological proselytizing power in world history totally gets him off the hook from a hypocrisy charge.

                • firefall


                  most aggressive ideological proselytizing power in world history

                  For godssake dont go round saying that or the Brits will want another crack at the title

              • SIS

                Oh, well, as long as he wasn’t a true believer, then working for the security apparatus of the most aggressive ideological proselytizing power in world history totally gets him off the hook from a hypocrisy charge.

                If a country happened to be between Berlin and Moscow then the Soviets made you a puppet state, but outside of that, they were not nearly as activist in overthrowing regimes as the US or the West. The number of governments in the Third World, which accounts for most of humanity, removed by coups or force by the US or its allies during the Cold War certainly outnumbers the number of governments removed in coups or by intervention by the Soviets or their allies, and that remains true even if you leave out the US’s ‘backyard’ of Latin America, which is where I grew up, so you get a very different feel for America’s place in the world than a native.

                Your claim of the Soviet Union as the “most aggressive ideological proselytizing power” is hyperbole. And those who actually wanted to spread global revolution tended to end up in Gulags or worse. The Soviets were generally far more pragmatic than the US.

                • GoDeep

                  Didn’t Moscow court Ho Chi Minh & Fidel Castro? Are you forgetting for how many DECADES it was the official policy of the USSR to export the Communist Revolution??? Their sphere of influence in Eurasia was certainly as broad as ours in the Americas.

                  They certainly are no better than us.

                • Hogan

                  Your claim of the Soviet Union as the “most aggressive ideological proselytizing power” is hyperbole.

                  Not really. It’s just that what they were proselytizing always happened to line up with the immediate needs of Soviet foreigh policy, even though it was cast in terms of ideology. The fact that Stalin didn’t want a Communist revolution in Germany or China doesn’t mean he wasn’t using Communist parties outside the USSR (see the Third International) to push a line. The US didn’t get into that game until after WWII.

            • SIS

              Sorry, but how did Stalin proselytize? Last time I checked he got rid of the Left Opposition, the whole World Revolution crowd, first.

              Also, Russia gave up Leninist-Marxism and it is back to its Pre-Communism tendencies – which means if you are in their sphere of influence, they will meddle, but they certainly don’t preach ‘Russian values’ to anyone outside. They are fine with other countries being liberal or autocratic or whatever, as long as you don’t mess with their interests and buy their stuff.

              • GoDeep

                Correct. As long as you but their arms they can give a rip abt what you do with them.

                Whereas BO has told the Egyptians to stop harassing the Muslim Brotherhood (against our own interests), Putin is perfectly fine w/ Assad massacring the opposition.

          • DrDick

            That really does not distinguish us from France or Britain prior to WWII, or from many other world powers at various points.

        • Lurker

          We’re exceptional that we’re a continental power that’s never been invaded or occupied.

          Not really. The US has never been a continental power in the normal sense of the world. Throughout the 19th century, the US was expanding rapidly towards west, but militarily, that expansion was essentially expansion to a power vacuum. The Native Americans and Mexicans could not really put up a real opposition, and the American military was laughably weak compared to any European power.

          The US only started thinking about great power politics in the 1890’s, and since then, the US military has been all about power projection to various shores. The US is a clear-cut example of a maritime power.

        • Joey Maloney

          We’re an exception in that we’ve had a constitutional republic for longer than any other country.

          Iceland, 930-1262.

        • FMguru

          Yeah, I had always heard that American Exceptionalism was a term taken from Marxist analysis of history, trying to explain why social development in the US didn’t track along with the other European states (no revolutions of 1830 or 1848, no serious efforts at socialism, weak trade unions, no real “left”, etc.). Answers I’ve seen include the federal/constitutional structure, the presence of a frontier, and the way that racial divisions are exploited to override class soldiarity.

          The fact that the goombah right has adopted the term to mean “America, fuck yeah!” is one of those great ironies, like that George Will column where “Born in the USA” becomes Springsteen’s celebration of Reaganism.

          • Mike G

            Americans aren’t the only ones to take this approach — Australians can be pretty obnoxious about their national pride at the same time they like to trash Americans for their excessive patriotism.

            The social critic Donald Horne proclaimed Australia ‘The Lucky Country’. His original meaning was that Australia had some lucky factors in its history, geography and economic situation and should be humble and cautious against this luck running out. Inevitably this phrase was run through the jingoism filter to where now The Lucky Country is taken to mean little more than, “We’re so awesome.”

          • Ben

            What’s depressing is to see people on the left accept the redefinition because American Exceptionalism as originally defied is a very useful analytical tool.

            What the tea agrees and whatnot mean by American Exceptionalism is more properly good old fashioned jingoism.

        • Witt

          +1 many times to this.

      • joe from Lowell

        “At least today” is a rather significant qualification.

        I didn’t even bring up Axis-era Italy or Germany.

      • Chad

        Erik: Don’t different nations’ narratives of “Exceptionalism” just express themselves in different ways? Using different terms/motifs/etc.? Unfortunately, the only nation (other than the United States) with which I’m intimately familiar is Germany, and its “Exceptionalism” narrative was pretty soundly put to bed after the horrors of World War II. But other than Germany? Britain seems like it would have some type of Exceptionalism narrative (built around the monarchy, stoicism/the Blitz, a history of “ordered liberty,” and its unwritten constitution), as would Russia (built around the iconic virtuous peasant and the nation’s abundant wilderness).

        • Ben

          Britain used to but post-Suez it’s been put to bed for the most part.

          • Hogan

            Except in the imagination of Ian Fleming.

      • John F

        I’m willing to say there is nothing exceptional about the United States at all.

        Now you’re just trolling, this statement may be even more absurd than the stuff the flag wavers spew

      • I think we are a great country in many ways, despite all the evil we do through our foreign policy. Things like the First Amendment truly do make us exceptional.

        The problem is that at some point “exceptionalism” became a synonym for “exempt from all the rules”. And I totally understand how people from other countries are sick of hearing about how exceptional America is.

        • expatchad

          So…we’re speaking with a French accent?

    • Mike Schilling

      Exactly. If there’s a country that doesn’t think it and its citizens are exceptional, well, that really would be exceptional.

      • DocAmazing

        Antigua might take exception.

      • GoDeep

        I personally question the patriotism of anyone who doesn’t think their country is the best, most exceptional on earth.

        I believe we should celebrate all cultures/countries & if you’re from Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Estonia, Zimbabwe or any other country I hope you think your country is the greatest fucking country on earth, put on the planet by God Almighty to show the rest of us what a great country is like!

        I love nothing more than to hear ppl from foreign countries tell me what’s exceptional abt their homeland. I respect them all the more for it. It doesn’t mean any of us are perfect but people everywhere have a culture/history they can be proud of & I want ppl everywhere to celebrate their culture. Hell, I don’t even believe in dual citizenship.

        • Strong Thermos

          Take it easy, Senator McCarthy.

          I jest, but I thought we were better than that (as compared to conservatives). I personally find patriotism dangerous and overrated.

          • GoDeep

            LOL. It can be. There are lots of ppl who wrap themselves in the flag to justify the worst behavior.

            But for me its abt taking joy in whatever country you’re from & celebrating the best of its history, culture, and traditions. France is never so exciting as on Bastille Day. I happened to be in Prague the day Ghana upset heavily favored Czech Republic in the World Cup back in ’06. I loved the spontaneous parade that erupted in the city square as all these Ghanaians (and other Africans) swept into the street and began waving their flags.

            Patriotism, properly proclaimed, is a celebration of camaraderie & not a statement of superiority.

            • Ghanaians do love their flag. It is everywhere here, much more so than the US flag is displayed in the states.

              • GoDeep

                Yeah, JOP, I was wondering where all these flags suddenly popped up from. These weren’t small handheld flags either, these were flag pole size. One moment I was in Prague & the next I was in Accra!

                • I doubt Prague could get the necessary traffic to look like Accra. ;-)

      • Plenty of nations have a large amount of citizens that know they want to be elsewhere.

    • Lurker

      I concur. Any great power has a national narrative that usually places its national culture as the apex of human development. That is what being great power and aiming at world domination is about.

      On the other hand, being a Finn, I’m raised in a different nationalist tradition. Our nationalism, as developed by Johan Vilhelm Snellman in 1840’s is based on a modification of Hegelian thought. Hegel considered the Prussia of his day to be the spearhead of humankind. Snellman, being from a small country, developed a historical philosophy where every nation has the duty to bring its own national essence into the development of humankind, according to the process of historical dialectics. This, then, gives even the small nations the justification for their existence.

      Thus, I’ve been raised to think that Finland is the best country in the world for us Finns, because it is our home and the place where we can develop ourselves as we see fit. On the other hand, this idea entails that the same applies to any other country and nation.

      Yet, I’m quite sure that if we had any possibility of aiming at world-domination, we would become exceptional, too.

      • joe from Lowell

        That is what being great power and aiming at world domination is about.

        I’m not sure this gets at it. Japan was quite wrapped up in itself throughout its closed period, when it had no interest in expansion at all. American isolationists have always pushed a vision of exceptionalism as their core argument.

      • John F

        Thus, I’ve been raised to think that Finland is the best country in the world for us Finns, because it is our home and the place where we can develop ourselves as we see fit. On the other hand, this idea entails that the same applies to any other country and nation.

        That seems like a very healthy wordview

        • Manta

          Wouldn’t you call this same attitude “nativism” in US context?

        • Lurker

          Yep. Until you start thinking about immigrants. If you are taking the idea seriously, it involves also that any emigrants are leaving the place which is naturally the best for them. We have a tradition that at best, considers emigrants as unhappy, misfortuned people, and at worst, morally deviant. One of our most popular patriotic songs ends with: “We must create the land anew, only the knaves flee overseas.”

          Unfortunately, this also carries the idea that any immigrant is also similarly faulty, which sows seeds for xenophobia.

        • LeeEsq

          It didn’t work out so well for the Jews and Roma in various European countries.

        • joe from Lowell

          That seems like a very healthy wordview

          I think it seems creepy – the concept that a country is “for” people of one ethnic or national group, and not another. “No no, the best country for you is somewhere else. This country is for us.”

          • LeeEsq

            For the most part, this. Jews and Roma experienced a lot of persecution because they were always viewed as alien by the surrounding populance for the most part. The same goes for lots of other minority groups.

      • Hogan

        Snellman sounds a lot like Mazzini, who argued that every nation had a unique contribution to make and required independent statehood in order to make it.

        He did quite sensibly make an exception for the Irish.

    • rickhavoc

  • TribalistMeathead

    Christ on a sidecar, if millennials lead to the day where politicians don’t have to wrap themselves in the flag just to get elected, I’ll throw them all the zombie 5Ks they want.

    • Bartleby

      How are millennials going to scrap the Republican primaries? Also, it’d be fine with me if the so-called Silent Generation actually stayed silent, rather than going to town halls to ask angry, racist, homophobic questions based on false premises.

      • Joshua

        And also to demand that everyone else sacrifice to get the federal balance sheets to their liking (‘turn Medicare into vouchers… for everyone under 55!’)

      • Mike G

        Silent generations (64%)

        My parents are Silents and social progressives, so not all of that generation are racist jerks screaming about death panels. Just most of them.

        That generation grew up in the 50s, when the US actually did have an exceptional standard of living for the average person compared to other nations. The trouble is most of them would rather chop their arm off than support today the factors that brought this about — unions, high tax rates on the rich, cold war spending, and an informal social contract on corporations to spread around their prosperity.

  • I kind of hate how these categories–all but “baby boomer” a product of marketing–have been locked in and people think there are sharply delineated lines dividing arbitrarily defined age cohorts and attributing to them common traits and outlooks. Is someone born in 1964–per the Census Bureau the last year of the Baby Boom–really that much different from someone born in 1965, and are they more like someone born in 1946 than in 1965? What about someone born in 1945? They’re “silent” but someone born a few months later is a boomer?

    People place too much meaning in these categories.

    • Mike Schilling

      Exactly what I’d expect a millenial to say.

      You’re right, of course. What you’d like to see is a graph plotting percentage against age, so you can observe the downward trend sans stupid categories.

      • I’ll take that as a compliment on my youthfulness (not that I’m immature for my actual age).

        And yes, the trends per age are often fascinating. They’re almost perfect slopes on things like same sex marriage.

      • Anna in PDX

        Ha ha, you so funny. I personally as a Gen X’er always felt that my generation had a huge amount of really negative stereotypes associated with it and that I have never seen an upside from being a part of it.

        • I think we should embrace our slacker essence. ;-)

    • DocAmazing

      Do these categories at least roughly correspond to age quintiles or something? They seem pretty random.

    • Chad

      Dana: Beinart talked about this issue yesterday in his widely circulated Daily Beast piece. (Not so much the issue of “slippage” around arbitrary generational boundaries, but what a “generation” really means for political purposes.) I think he may have a point that Millenials (however one defines them, and I consider myself one even though I’m nearly 35 years old) are very different, in terms of political/social/economic outlooks and behavior, then the generations that preceded them.

      • Mike G

        I think the internet has a lot to do with it. Communication across national boundaries is vastly cheaper and easier than when I was growing up. Earlier US generations lived in a relatively blinkered world which, unless they were intellectually adventuroius, mostly consisted of parochial TV networks and newspapers whose news was overwhelmingly US-centric and other countries were considered amusing, strange little peripheral places.

    • Dude w/o Qualities

      Is someone born in 1964–per the Census Bureau the last year of the Baby Boom–really that much different from someone born in 1965 …?

      Yes, because 49-year-olds are old, and I, born in 1965, am not.

      • I was born in 1964 and I’m 48! [Nimoy voice]The unsolved mystery of aging.[/Nimoy]

        • Hodor

          Sorry, I’m with the Dude w/o Qualities (also born in ’65). My own personal criterion for who qualifies as a Boomer is a cultural one: whether or not you remember the assassination of JFK. If you weren’t born yet or you were an infant then you aren’t really culturally a Baby Boomer.

          • Barry Freed

            Oops, that was me.

            • Lee Rudolph

              I dunno. On the “I can’t even remember my name” scale, you’re doing a pretty good impression of the Most Grating Generation.

          • joe from Lowell

            whether or not you remember the assassination of JFK.

            And if you don’t remember a year of elementary school in which a teacher didn’t get weepy while describing that day, you are a Gen Xer. At least in Massachusetts.

            • Anna in PDX

              I often wonder if millenials feel this way about 9/11.

            • Mike G

              The GenXer equivalent is the Berlin Wall coming down. This year’s college freshmen weren’t even born then.

              • marijane

                Also the Challenger disaster.

          • James E. Powell

            I split the Baby Boomers into two cohorts. 1946 to 1964 is way too large a span to be one “generation” in the US.

            I split the Baby Boomers along the line of “were the males in your birth year ever eligible for the draft?” That puts the line at 1954.

            I’m in the latter half and only know about the first half because I had older brothers and an older sister. My oldest brother was drafted and my sister came home from a college campus closed due to riots. So I had some second-hand experience of what we call The 60s.

            But my generation is less Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Woodstock and more Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Bowie. Less Viet Nam, Civil Rights, riots and more gas shortages, unemployment/recession, right wing revanche.

            • Strong Thermos

              As a Millenial, let me suggest two possible splits. There are those of us who vividly remember what life was like before the World Wide Web exploded and before smartphones were ubiquitous-I think that makes us distinctly separate from younger millennials.

              Also, 9/11 and the Bush Administration cast a dark cloud over my late adolescence and early adulthood. I feel like people who came of age in the Clinton years, not too much older than me, have a completely different outlook because of that. Comparatively my younger sister (by 8.5 years) remembers Bush, but her truly formative years began under Obama. I think having the majority of your most plastic years under Bush II really did something to you (and everyone else, but I mean the really essential to political identification years).

          • I agree. I was commenting on 1964/1965 versus 48/49.

            Also, I dislike both the Boomers and the Xers. Can I be a Civil War-era slacker?

            • Barry Freed

              I dunno, do you have the facial hair for it? OTOH you might be mistaken for a Williamsburg hipster.

              • I had a goatee once*. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a picture of some general with a goatee.


                • Mike Schilling

                  Watch out for Mickey Kaus.

    • Fosco

      There was an interesting article from Peter Beinart yesterday about Millenials, and part of it addressed this. He described political generations, rather than age-based ones, defined by economic and other events during formative years.

      • JoyfulA

        It was interesting and a potentially fruitful theory, as opposed to anything else I’ve ever read by Peter Beinart.

    • Karate Bearfighter

      Is someone born in 1964–per the Census Bureau the last year of the Baby Boom–really that much different from someone born in 1965, and are they more like someone born in 1946 than in 1965?

      Just going to leave this here ….

    • Anna in PDX

      Maybe the marketers didn’t invent the “baby boomer” term but they sure have targeted that group as a market… I agree with you that all that generational bilge really makes me tired and is not the type of generalization that leads to anything particularly meaningful.

    • ChrisTS

      I agree. I was born in 1951. How the heck can I be in the same ‘generation’ as someone born in 1964?

      • I feel so unwanted.

      • Also, joking aside, you were born the year my father was drafted. So you’re much more my generation than his.

        • And here’s my pop culture knowledge biting me on the ass: my father is almost exactly Don Draper’s age, you’re a couple of years older than Sally Draper, and I’m a year younger than Gene Draper.

          • I’ve thought about the Drapers the same way. And I’m also the same age as Gene Draper.

            • Some of the decor from 1960 looked vaguely familiar. As the show has moved forward into my lifetime, I keep seeing bits of furniture that we had, or neighbors had. It’s mildly creepy.

              • It’s been fascinating for me to watch it for several reasons. First, how different my class background is from the Draper kids. Same age, but completely different worlds. In that regard, I relate much more to the world of Peggy’s family.

                Then there’s the time forward and backward from that moment. Today it’s so foreign for young people to think of someone they know as having grown up in the US and not having had indoor plumbing, or electricity, like they suggest was the case with Don. But that wasn’t odd at all when we were young. I mean, hell, when I was 6 or 7 we went to Canada to the farm where my grandfather grew up. His brother had stayed and farmed, and in the early 70’s they didn’t have indoor plumbing and had just gotten electricity.

                Finally, it’s also striking to me watching it with my wife, who’s in her late 30’s and, though she grew up in the US from 3 years old on, is the child of South Asian immigrants. So much of the cultural and societal stuff that I instantly recognize and understand is not as easily accessible to her.

                • Very similar for me. I grew up in Queens, in a neighborhood much like Peggy’s Brooklyn roots. And my wife moved from Russia as an adult in 1992, so this is all very foreign to her.

  • And the countdown begins – Which wingnut will be the first to look at these stats and declare people under the age of 50 (? aside from my parent’s generation I get my generations mixed up) shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

    • pete

      Never trust anyone over 30. I used to think that, in the 1960s. I am 64 and I still basically do, but what would I know?

      • ruviana

        We still need you…

      • expatchad

        I’m 70, and trust no-one UNder thirty!

  • Scott P.

    And our barbeque.

    • That is a strong argument in favor of American exceptionalism.

      • BigHank53

        Barbacoa, appropriated from the Taino, would like a word.

        Ah, who am I kidding? We stole everything else from the aboriginals, too.

  • “Yosemite?”
    • sharculese

      There is definitely some shame associated with being the country responsible for The Newsroom.

  • msj

    There are lots of kinds of American Exceptionalism. It can be the idea that America should crusade around the world or it can isolationist. Among others. It is a term that needs definition before you can argue about it.

    • Exactly.

    • Edmund

      It is a term that needs definition before you can argue about it.

      It’s a lot more convenient for Erik is the term is undefined so it can be twisted and stretched to fit his needs.

      Think racism, the poor, capitalism, etc.

      • Cody

        Well first you have to construct a sentence I can understand.

        Then we can move onto defining the specific context of each word!

        Erik is the term is undefined

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          to be fair to the guy, he must have mistyped “is” for “if”

          it makes sense as a sentence that way, just not as an actual expression of thought on his part

      • sharculese

        It’s not that those terms are hard to define it’s that you’re not smart enough to understand the definitions.

    • sharculese

      There is only one good kind of American exceptionalism (yes, I know Kate Beaton is of Canadian persuasion):


      • expatchad

        As a Canadian, I can tell you from bitter experience that we are unable to persuade most anyone :(

  • rea

    The problem isn’t American exceptionalism–it’s American entitlement. We aren’t entitled to run the world. But, this coutnry has a core ideology of freedom and justice which, when we live up to it, is a tremendously good thing.

  • MacK

    I think the problem with American exceptionalism (or anyone elses) is when it turns into a belief rather than an aspiration.

  • CaptBackslap

    On the other hand, I just saw a poll where only 22% of people want to raise the debt ceiling (and 44% are opposed), so we can rest assured that humanity as a whole is still unfathomably stupid.

    • MPAVictoria

      Sigh.. In the words of Mr. Peirce

      “Here is your democracy America. Cherish it.”

    • JKTHs

      Well if we don’t raise the debt ceiling then there’s no more debt. Right???

      • ruviana

        “What do you mean I’m broke? I still have checks!”

    • “Don’t raise the debt, just get rid of all that waste and we’ll be fine.”

    • Anna in PDX

      Also, the media is unforgiveably idiotic at covering this issue and often wilfully misrepresents it. Cf. De Long’s interminable series about bad economic reporting. I don’t think this is just the public being stupid.

      • CaptBackslap

        The obsession with “balance” in the media doesn’t help. And I’m sure there are some people who know roughly what default would mean, but either (a) want Cocktail Hour to happen really soon (and it will if the government defaults), or (b) think it will somehow be worth it if the Kenyan Usurper gets the blame.

        But I’d still say the chief culprits are widespread innumeracy (including in the media) and the idiotic notion that government finance can or should work like household finance.

  • Jeffrey Beaumont

    Come on, we are pretty exceptional with our ability and willingness to blow shit up, no?

    • joe from Lowell

      Not really. There have been superpowers (countries with roughly the same ability to blow up shit, or stab it, or burn it down) before.

      Every country that has been remotely similarly-situation to the United States has been at least as willing. Ever read about the Golden Horde, or Assyria? Yow!

    • agorabum

      Even in the last 100 years, we don’t have anything on the Germans. I mean, WWI and 2?
      And yeah, the US got involved with those and was pretty good with the blowing up by the end, but it just can’t compare with what the Germans did to Russia (plus the whole willingness to start shit)

  • RobNYNY1957

    We are also exceptional to the extent that we can’t have good, comprehensible health care. I saw absolutely no evidence that anyone anywhere asked the questions What sort of health care system does Country X have? How much does it cost? How effective is it? Not about Switzerland, Holland, or even Israel. Our only option was pretty munch the one hatched by the Heritage Institute 20 years ago.

    • Mike G

      This is one of the worst effects of national egotism, the parochial arrogance that we’re so special and unique that we can’t compare ourselves against other countries, admit it if what they are doing is better and adopt ideas from outside, because we’re such special snowflakes that no international comparison could ever be valid.
      It’s like the Japanese banning European-made skis on the protectionist excuse that Japanese snow was so different that only Japanese skis could handle it.

      • Anna in PDX

        This is particularly true of health care, true. Another issue where it would be great if we looked at international examples would be the justice / prison system.

  • agorabum

    I see four exceptions (some of which won’t stand the test of time, but are still exceptions today):
    1. Nukes: we made ’em first, and most exceptionally, are the only ones to have used them in anger (twice)
    2. Man on the moon. And on NASA, spaceship outside of our solar system. Even if someone does it again, firsties.
    3. Civil War to end slavery (regardless of how it started, that’s how it ended – and although other people did end slavery through legal acts, the incredibly bloody war we fought to end it seems unusual / exceptional)
    4. Victorious rebel army leader declines hereditary rule as king and steps down as ruler to help establish constitutional democracy (i.e. Washington). Compare to Latin America…

    So America is exceptional – although so are a lot of other countries, in their own way.

    • e.a.foster

      I would add to this list, the Marshall Plan after WW II.

  • wengler

    Obviously our schools are doing a poor job of beating this into the head of the kids these days.

    Break some more teachers’ unions and we can defeat that heresy called ‘critical thinking’ for good.

  • One of the Blue

    Well one way we’re exceptional is we are the only country in the world where a large part of the mineral estate is privately owned.

    • Ben

      Yeah, and it sucks.mI wish FDR would have corrected this as part of the New Deal. I am not a state socialist by any means but if one sector of the economy should be socilized it should be the mining and petroleum industries. Both due to their massive importance in terms of national security and their impact on the environment.

  • e.a.foster

    President Obama saying the U.S.A. is exceptional, is a good thing. It displays patriotism. Yes, the U.S.A. is an exceptional country and there are a list of exceptional things it has accomplished.

    Then there are those things which also make the U.S.A. “exceptional”
    -the highest incarceration rate in the world
    -lack of adequate health care for all citizens amongst the G8 countries
    -execution rate both guilty and innocent.
    -widing of the income “balance”
    -its complicated tax system which does not favour the working/middle class but rather the 1%ers
    -the amount of money spent on private military contractors
    -the lack of money spent on providing children adequate health care, food security, housing, education.
    -gun ownership, except for Switzerland who has more.
    -killing of children by guns in a country not actually “at war”.

    There is much to be admired in the U.S.A. but lets not get carried away to suggest it is close to perfect.

    Putin may have the right to comment under free speech, but he ought to give that a try in Russian. Putin is not exceptional. He operates like a thug and a bigot.

    • Hogan

      We rock the hardest and we suck the hardest.

      • “I didn’t think it was possible but [we] both blow and suck.”

  • Tristan

    Anecdote that this jogged for me: I once saw a guy online, a marine who was like a hatefully unfair stereotype of marines come to life, in a discussion about Northern Ireland and the IRA and so forth, express his utter bafflement at the motives of Irish terrorism thus: “America’s an idea, Ireland’s just a place”.

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  • Theron

    Gen X type here – I reject the premise, so I guess that makes me a no.

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