We are the Exception

WeThePeopleThumbby Deana Chadwell
[T]his last month Vladimir Putin wrote in the New York Times an op-ed that, in part, chastised America for her insistence that she is exceptional. Well, Vlad, America is absolutely unique, whether you, or Obama, think so or not. This country is the first country on the face of the earth to have formed a government with the express purpose of limiting its power. This is the first country – the only country besides Israel — to have taken the Bible and divine purpose into account in the formation process. Actually, the very fact that this government was carefully crafted, through much research and discussion, is unique. Most governments just evolve; ours was created and it was created to just barely exist. That has produced the most astounding country this world has ever known.

It is true that for the last 100 years America has been slipping, slowly sliding off her pedestal. We have, on occasion, caught ourselves and pulled back: Calvin Coolidge yanked us out of the progressive Woodrow Wilson debacle; World War II dragged us out of the Great Depression and the heavy governmental weight FDR left hanging over us; Ronald Reagan pulled us back from the cliff edge where Carter left us hanging; but the total drift over the last century has been back down to the earthly norm of tyranny, heavy taxes, and loss of hope. Barack Obama has almost succeeded in robbing the United States of America of its exceptionalism. He has sent us staggering leftward into the kind of poverty and despair that is common in the rest of the world. If we have to tolerate this kind of leadership much longer, Putin will be right; we won’t be any different.

OK, okay, but isn’t it arrogant to think that we’re special? Aren’t we just like everyone else? No. We’re not. In the first place, arrogance is the bane of all human existence, American or otherwise. Secondly, if America really is amazing, it’s just the truth (Arrogance is thinking one is better than what one really is.) If the world really has never seen the like (and it hasn’t), then we have the right to hold our heads high and say so.

What’s so special about us? Easy to answer, but you have to know some history, some theology, some current cultural information.

America started for all the right reasons. For over 400 years people have been coming to this continent for hope – financial, political, spiritual. They came here to make more of their lives than mere survival. They came here for adventure, for opportunity, for possibility, for integrity.[pullquote]It takes more than desperation and desire to leave behind all that is home and come to a new continent, a new culture, a new paradigm. It takes courage, a sense of adventure, an imaginative mind, a trusting faith, and monstrous determination. Not all people possess those attributes.[/pullquote]

Human beings have been moving about since Noah and his family left the Ark, but the American migration – which continues to this day, has been unique. Most massive movement in the past has been away from some place that was no longer hospitable – a kind of refugee motivation, an aimless, desperate wandering. Today Syrians, Christian Syrians especially, are pouring out of their country by the millions. They have no where to go, but they must leave or die.

It is true that people who came to America left behind something objectionable, but they chose this place specifically, not accidentally, and they did so because the very idea of America is benign, welcoming, full of promise. Yes, yes, I hear you. We have sometimes not lived up to that ideal, but we are the only nation to ever set benevolence as a national goal.

Not only are our founding ideas,* our invitation to the oppressed of the world, absolutely unique, but so are the people who have accepted that invitation.

It takes more than desperation and desire to leave behind all that is home and come to a new continent, a new culture, a new paradigm. It takes courage, a sense of adventure, an imaginative mind, a trusting faith, and monstrous determination. Not all people possess those attributes. Even though Americans are made up of an amazing tangle of cultures and backgrounds, we all have these traits in common, or at least our ancestors did.  My tiny great grandmother came here pre-Ellis Island all by herself. She was 17 years old. She would never see her family again. She would spend the rest of her life on a farm in Nebraska and never again walk the streets of Copenhagen. But when the young man she had been “walking out” with, the young man who had gone off to America two years earlier wrote and asked her to come join him, she did. She was independent, feisty, and strong-willed. She was much like all other immigrants.

For 400 years all races and backgrounds have been coming here, marrying, and producing yet another generation of tough, risk-loving, inventive, brave people. Put us all together in one country, a country whose government used to get out of our way and let us “become what we could become”. Under these conditions we will beat all and have proven so.

Of course, the government has to stay out of our way, but even though, for the last century, it has been straining to do otherwise, America still holds hope for anyone with a great idea, the willingness to work hard on it, and the disposition to risk failure.

Because of these people it was America that broke the bonds of space – we invented travel – the steam engine, mass production of the automobile, paved roads, air travel. It was America that broke the bonds of time with electricity, telephones, computers, — I needn’t go on. We have made it possible to feed the world. We have made it possible through mass production to make goods available to everyone. Our poor live better than kings used to live. They live in homes with hot and cold running water, heat and air conditioning, cell phones, clean clothes, televisions, microwaves, refrigerators.

We try to take care of our poor and disaster-devastated, and we try to take care of the unfortunates in other nations, as well. No nation has ever done that to the extent that we have, and we do it partially through our government, but even more effectively with private effort. America has a code she lives by – I’m not referring here to Washinton – that demands that we play fairly, help others, develop solutions and not cause problems. (Though since solutions are occasionally the creating force behind problems, that hasn’t always gone as intended.)

We have been exceptional in that we started our nation with God leading the way. Our code comes out of our need to do as He has asked and we have done so because we know that His direction is for our own good (note the unprecedented prosperity and blessing it produced) and that it would redound to the entire world; we would be a door through which the rest of the world would pass.

None of this is normal. Our national tendency has always been to question the authority that in other places and times caused our ancestors so much pain. Defiance is our natural state – don’t tread on me. But so is kindness, openness, a naïve assumption that all folks are just like us. They aren’t and Putin knows that.

In most countries cow-towing to authority (like Putin’s) is what you do. In Islamic countries this is disastrously true, especially for women. In fact, in Islamic culture, anger is the modus operandi – compassion and concern for the freedom and prosperity of others is not part of the equation. Islam does not mean peace; it meanssubmission. Progressive nations are not much better off, and most Western socialist countries have been so inundated with Islamic immigrants that what little difference exists between them is slowly fading.

The United States of America, even in its current troubled state, is still way ahead of what ever is in second place. Yes, we must fix our economy, de-corrupt our government, clean up our culture, and rebuild our educational system and the Christian church. Lots of challenges await us. But we are America. Challenge is what makes us tick. Freedom and determination is what keeps us ticking, and most of us still know that God is on our side. Vlad made the mistake of thinking that Obama correctly represents this great country. He doesn’t. He’s not exceptional, but we are.

*(We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certainunalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.)
Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com. • (1273 views)

Deana Chadwell

About Deana Chadwell

I have spent my life teaching young people how to read and write and appreciate the wonder of words. I have worked with high school students and currently teach writing at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. I have spent more than forty years studying the Bible, theology, and apologetics and that finds its way into my writing whether I'm blogging about my experiences or my opinions. I have two and a half moldering novels, stacks of essays, hundreds of poems, some which have won state and national prizes. All that writing -- and more keeps popping up -- needs a home with a big plate glass window; it needs air; it needs a conversation. I am also an artist who works with cloth, yarn, beads, gourds, polymer clay, paint, and photography. And I make soap.
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5 Responses to We are the Exception

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    A friend of mine once mentioned a teacher of his (from Hong Kong) who said that the US was the only country in which people were more concerned about liberty than security. I think that’s the perfect definition of US exceptionalism. Unfortunately, there certainly are increasingly large numbers of people who prefer security to liberty (not to mention leftist ideologues who actively oppose any liberty other than their own). I don’t know if they’re yet a majority, but they’re certainly getting close to it.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I agree. Let me tell you what I think the reasons are that people have moved more toward security and away from liberty:

      1) We are becoming an urban country. Those who are packed into the artificial constructs of a city are going to quite naturally see government as entirely central to the way they live their lives. And inside the bubble of a city, it is easier for people to believe nonsense. Your average farmer who is more grounded in the reality of living is far less likely to belief some of the big whopper that come out of Chris Matthews’ mouth every evening.

      2) Feminism has successfully emasculated men. Men tend to be the risk-takers. When they are neutered, we’re naturally left with more of a nanny impulse toward security.

      3) The Left is a powerful and artificial poison that has been injected into our system. It is likely that the very prosperity of the West has made their stupid notions look good, or at least the ill effects from them could be masked by our relative prosperity. And this group of statist hooligans of the Left are about supremacy (as you have noted) and their own power. This is not a recipe for more freedom but an ever-enlarging state. It won’t be a “secure” one but it will be a controlled one, although this fact can easily-enough be spun. And you’ll surely note the legions of useful idiots these days, primed by the press and dumbed down by the education system and culture, who readily believe the BS they are told by the mainstream media and others.

      4) And maybe it is a genetic effect, as others have written about and about which Deana alludes. We are indeed a country that is made up of those who left everything behind, who had the courage and sense of adventure (and faith and determination) to not just suffer the slings and arrows of the status quo but had the gumption to take a major risk and chart their own course. If this trait is a heritable trait, then America was inordinately infused with this trait…and since then it has obviously been watered-down. From mama grizzlies we are morphing into compliant and narcissistic sheep.

      • Glenn Fairman says:

        Perhaps the Idea of America occurred in a window of history, like the formation of modern Israel, that could have happened at no other period in the modern world. America alone is based on a creed. The entire idea of a limited government is based upon a Judeo-Christian understanding of the inherent depravity of man when alloyed with unmixed power. This is why we have balance of powers and checks, separations of powers, term limits, a bill of rights, Federalism, impeachment and recall, Congress’ 18 enumerated powers, the 1st, 2nd, and 10th Amendment….yea, all the amendments. In contradistinction, look at the Old Soviet Constitution—a wonderland of hopes and utopian architecture—–but no provision for the limitation of human grasp and avarice—-no limitation on the ambition and encroachment of the state. Our Exceptionalism—the legacy of Athens and Jerusalem, seems to be winding down because we have traded hubris and technical ambition for our Founding’s First Principles—-When we cease to remain good—we will cease to remain great.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Exactly. We have forgotten who we our. And the Left has worked overtime to erase that memory of who we are. Part of this site’s naive and optimistic purpose is to maintain a place where that memory lives.

  2. Kurt NY says:

    What makes this country exceptional is that, from the beginning, our governing system was designed in the negative – it’s primary function was not to specifically do much of anything beyond the de minimus governmental functions, but rather to stay out of the individual’s way (ie”Congress shall pass no law…”). In other words, the nation consists of individuals exercising God given rights beyond the proper role of government to create or dismiss. The individual is primary, while the state exists to protect the rights of its citizenry. Such was a revolutionary concept for its time and remains so today.

    Americans are no more exceptional than any other people. The proof for which is those who come to join us. Back in their places of origins such as the Balkans, the Middle East, etc, the same individuals could be locked in the age-old patterns of internecine strife and group hatreds, but here they shed those and assimilate into the rest of us. Our nationhood is not based on ethnicity or territoriality but rather on an idea, our civil religion as laid out in our sacred books, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers.

    As people we are as foolish or wise, fallible or effective, righteous or immoral as any other people on earth. But our constitutional order, our civil religion is what makes us special, exceptional. Infused with the best aspects of our European heritage as interpreted through the Enlightenment, American ideas are what is driving the best of the world even today – the simple humanity of Abraham Lincoln, the idealistic self determination of Woodrow Wilson, the industrial savvy of Henry Ford, the managerial techniques of our business schools, the inventiveness of Thomas Edison, all encouraged by a stable governmental and legal order.

    That is why America is exceptional. And that is why people like Vladimir Putin just don’t get it, because, like the trajectory of the modern American left, they cannot see how the myriad actions of the great unwashed hordes, unguided by the rational expertise of their betters, can possibly produce better results.

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