AN ESSAYISTIC OBSERVANCE OF MODERN AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM
America is in decline. Wait. What? That’s not very nice. Why would you say that? How dare you. Are you unpatriotic? Actually, quite the opposite. It is my patriotism that compels me to state this rather unfortunate, yet undeniable and overwhelming fact.
Remember the 90’s? I do. While I was busy playing little league basketball, obsessing over Saturday morning cartoons and plotting how to best annoy my sister, America was thriving. In fact, things were so great that the press had little to report on (a problem they certainly do not face today). Unemployment was the lowest it had been in over 20 years. Americans weren’t worried about losing their health insurance, their jobs and their homes. And the term terrorist attack didn’t have nearly the ghastly connotations that it does today.
Ah, to return to the 90’s. A time when the most gripping of headlines consisted of events like the first McDonald’s to open in Moscow, the inexplicable return of the miniskirt and Nolan Ryan’s record 6th no-hitter pitch. America was prospering. And, to borrow a phrase from McDonald's, we were “lovin’ it.”
Then, in 2001, 9/11 happened and everything came to a screeching halt. America’s greatness was, albeit temporarily, no longer defined by our wealth or prosperity, but by our resolve. On the evening of that infamous day, President Bush addressed the nation and promised to “find those responsible and bring them to justice.”
As liberals so enjoy reminding us, that promise came with a price. Literally. Almost $6 trillion to be exact (taking into account the continued medical care of wounded soldiers, according to one Harvard study). Since that time, the U.S. economy has, with the occasional exception, been caught in an extreme downward spiral.
At this point, Bush can no longer be blamed. I’m fed up with that argument and I think most conservatives (and even some independents and liberals) share my sentiments. President Obama has been in office for six years. He owns the condition of the economy. It’s his and he needs to come to terms with that. Unfortunately, and somewhat astonishingly, Obama is able to speak about the problems facing our nation as if he is somehow removed from the situation. It’s all someone else’s fault -- the Republicans, Congress, Bush, the wealthy, FOX NEWS -- and he’s just the guy in the middle trying to fight for the everyday American, “level the playing field” and make things “fair for everyone,” (terrifying phrases when you realize their ideological context).
This is where I have a problem with the president and the view of America that, I believe, has become so emblazoned on his consciousness, so deeply ingrained in his psyche, that he knows no other alternative. It is a view that he has held his whole life, particularly since his college days (I’ll probably deal with that history in a later post. It’s quite fascinating actually).
Shortly after taking office, Obama sought to introduce himself to the world by traveling to several countries to do what he does best: give speeches. Many Republicans and conservative radio and TV pundits refer to this as the president’s so-called “apology tour” (Romney, if you remember, even ran on this for much of his presidential campaign; the Washington Post gave him four Pinocchios). As Obama did not actually use the word apologize or the phrases I’m sorry or America is sorry, I can’t quite agree with the accuracy and subsequent implementation of the “apology tour" term.
That being said, the president’s overseas rhetoric was no less quite disconcerting and, honestly, extremely unnerving. At a press conference in Strasbourg, Obama was asked about his view of American exceptionalism (i.e. America being different from the norm, in contrast to other nations). Obama responded by saying, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Wow. What a copout. To the president’s credit, he did eventually add: “I am enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world…the U.S. remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality that, though imperfect, are exceptional.”
But being proud of America doesn’t amount to much, Mr. President, if you are unwilling to concede that America is the exceptional nation, more so than any other. After all, if everyone (Brits, Greeks, etc.) is exceptional, then no one is. It’s a contradiction in terms. Obama’s worldview and, particularly his view of America, was revealed further when, still in Strasbourg, he declared that America has “failed to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world” and has “shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive” toward its allies. Really?
Again, to the president’s credit, he attempted to balance this shocking admission by suggesting to Europeans that they should stop blaming their problems on America and should go after radical Islamists themselves.
I could care less about his message to Europe. I don’t live there. What I do take issue with is this self-pronounced, socially-damaging, Obamian mea culpa; yea this description of America as “arrogant and dismissive, even derisive", which I believe, based on his continued rhetoric and policies, reflects his view of America, her place in the world and the direction she should go in the future. This press conference was in 2009. If Obama truly believes that America has a “core set of values enshrined in our Constitution” and that we are indeed exceptional, why now, in 2014, is he enacting policies and taking actions that sidestep the Constitution and Congress? For example, he has unilaterally changed, altered, adjusted and/or delayed the Affordable Care Act, which is now law, 28 times without approval from Congress. That is unconstitutional. That is illegal. That is impeachable.
Today, Obama’s vision for America is not one of exceptionalism. It is one of, shall we say, equal cohabitation: America should know her place and should be able to live and operate on the same playing field as the rest of world without tension or strife. This is nothing short of deadly political naivety or, as I prefer to say, utter asinine stupidity.
Almost every major political agenda the president has embarked upon on a global level reflects this view. From cutting back on military funding to reducing our nuclear warhead arsenal. Even his attempt to enact universal healthcare within the U.S. reflects his “equality” ideology (I say attempt because he hasn’t quite succeeded yet) and the fact that it is bankrupting our economy, not to mention our citizens, surely puts us on a path to be on equal financial footing with other countries.
When this ideology first crept into the Democratic Party, many politely termed it New Liberalism. That was fair enough. No one even so much as batted an eyelash. Today, however, it has become a much more radical liberalism. It is an ideology that very simply posits, among smaller notions, that the government can solve all of our problems. Screw the individual. You guys can’t take care of yourselves, so we’ll do it for you. Trace it back to Marcus Aurelius of Rome, then take a left turn (see what I did there?) and head towards 18th Century Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who passionately believed that humans would continually fail at improving themselves and their societies. Enter: the government as Savior.
America. We are still the leading superpower of the world. We still have an unmatched military (for now). We still have the largest economy (a somewhat moot point considering it is quickly unraveling). But we are one of the few nations that was built upon the principles of hard work, capitalism and freedom. We have lifted more people from poverty, slavery and sickness than any other nation in history. There is nowhere else I would rather live. As a superpower nation, America is not arrogant. We are proud, we are mighty, we are in control and at no point should we be ashamed to admit that or act like it. If you mess with us, our people or our allies, we should have no qualms about raining down severe and life-terminating punishment and justice upon you.
But it is because of the power, the creativity, yea even the sheer social force of the individual that we have succeeded as a nation. I believe, however, that our country is on the brink of a major shift, an upheaval, both culturally and politically, perhaps even eschatologically. And whether this upheaval will occur in my lifetime or that of my children or grandchildren, it is a certainty.
What happens when the government becomes so powerful that it begins to squelch the abilities and the voice of the individual? What happens when political leaders intentionally and self-deceievingly create a society in which everyone is dependent upon the government in some capacity? When a nation is no longer confident in its ability to defend itself from its enemies? When self-reliance and self-achievement are no longer necessary or even desired? When our greatness is associated only with our history, not our present?
America. In decline? You decide.