Ancient ideals expressed in the 21st century
February 16, 2017
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The term American exceptionalism is one that has recently been brought to my attention, due to the inauguration of our 45th president and an AP Lang discussion over the topic. By definition, American exceptionalism is understood to mean the “special character of the United States as a uniquely free nation based on democratic ideals and personal liberty.” In shorter terms, it is the ideology that America is superior to the rest of the world due to our unwavering faith in freedom and democracy.
While I will admit that, yes, our country was established in a way that is extremely unique to its time, I fail to see what makes us so exceptional. Maybe I’m biased, due to my lack of nationalism and tendency to be apathetic towards “American” ideals and values, but unless our government makes some serious changes, I will never hold my head high when addressing the United States.
Our institutionalized racism, general injustice that permeates the justice system, and forgiving attitudes when it comes to any wrong a white male has committed do not make me want to proudly display the American flag wherever I go. This country is incredibly unique in the sense that we have such a diversity of cultures and ethnicities, and I think we should be proud of that, instead of preaching freedom and then restricting it for so many people. Our nation is seen as a land of opportunity, and people flock here to pursue the American dream because the opportunities this country provides would be nonexistent in their home countries.
I mean, having this ideology that puts America in higher standards than the rest of the world isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m sure the people of every country have values and beliefs that lead them to believe their culture is the best that ever was. But the thing about American exceptionalism is that no other country expresses this ideology quite the way we do, and it’s a little dangerous if you’re not a rich, white male.
From the foundation of this country, to the quest for westward expansion, all the way into the 21st century, Americans have gotten it into their heads that the “American” way of life is somehow a better way of life than any other. Our leaders and their followers have decimated communities of people- entire populations- for decades, because we felt entitled to the land that other people inhabited. All because their skin was a darker shade than ours, and we didn’t understand their way of life.
In this decade, American exceptionalism is not handled quite the same way, but the foundation and history of this country was built off of this ideal. Once you recognize it, it’s impossible to ignore. Even Donald Trump used a bit of this widespread patriotism to fuel his campaign and get elected, so it will be interesting to see where American exceptionalism gets us this year.