I spent the first 25 years of my life looking through the rose tinted glasses of American Exceptionalism. The entire idea was woven into my identity as an American and my understanding of the United States, patriotism and good old fashioned American values. American exceptionalism was a state of being that our nation possessed that made us greater than any other nation this planet has seen. Perhaps it age or cynicism but the idea that exceptionalism is a default trait of the American character strikes me as rather empty. Being exceptional is not an inherent characteristic but a descriptor that is earned through accomplishment. What have we done recently to earn this status?
While the political conversation on this subject tends to be led by either anti-american pessimism or blind patriotic nationalism I think we need to have some deep reflection and self examination in this country on the subject. I think we can be exceptional. I think it should always be our goal. I don’t think we are exceptional right now and it goes beyond what party holds the presidency.
We have some very serious intrinsic structural problems in the United States that will have devastating long term consequences. Entitlements from Social Security to Medicare, to Medicaid and Welfare are pouring on debt. Our nation is in debt. Our states are in debt. Our cities are in debt. Our people are in debt. Our future generations are in debt. Is this American Exceptionalism?
American politics has become synonymous with kicking the can down the road. It doesn’t matter who is in the Whitehouse or who controls congress. It’s what we do. We’ve become a nation of inaction obsessed with the short term battles of the 24 hours news cycle. We colonized a new world, helped end two world wars, and put a man on the moon but when it comes to the finances of a nation we are impotent.
I want to be exceptional again. I want to be a nation that addresses tough problems. I want to be a nation that can sacrifice in the here and now for the future. I want my kids to inherit an exceptional America. Are we Americans or are we American’ts?