Have you heard the term “American exceptionalism”? What do you think of it?
The Washington Post article, American exceptionalism: an old idea and a new political battle by Karen Tumulty raises the question, is America still the greatest country in the world? I grew up hearing that and I still believe it to be true. Do you? Does believing that it is make me a living stereotype of that ugly American? As a critical thinker, must I give up that belief since I know the world is far larger and its exceptionalism is not confined to U.S. borders?
I posed the question on Facebook’s Critical Thinking in the Real World page and was most pleased by the critical thinking put into the responses. Equally impressive was the range of responses. From “America is a beacon!” to “American exceptionalism is arrogant, naive, foolish and most of all dangerous. I certainly recognize our role as leaders in the world. I don’t think that means we always do a good job or are always right.” Many responded with an understanding that both perspectives are valid. There was that happy medium that I was looking for.
Arrogance can be a bad thing. Patriotism is often considered a good thing. Americentrism is a term referring to the ethnocentric and xenophobic practice of viewing the world from an explicitly American perspective. Any extreme doesn’t really reflect critical thinking.
It’s not wrong to be proud of our nation’s past accomplishments. We must continue to raise the bar, however. For America to remain exceptional, each American must take part in making it so. That requires both a commitment to work hard to achieve personally and to give back to others in this nation and in the world at large.