David Hines
Exceptionally speaking
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By David Hines
February 27, 2011

There's nothing wrong with taking pride in one's accomplishments, nor with being proud of one's family, friends, and associations. There is something amiss, however, with an uncritical attitude of exceptionalism.

Many believe in American exceptionalism. There is some historical foundation for the belief. The nation developed an innovative system of limited government, unique in its time, that sought to balance the natural human tendencies toward the extremes of oligarchy and ochlocracy. For a while it did pretty well. Business prospered; innovation became almost commonplace. Other nations modeled their own constitutions after ours.

All too many believe, however, that because our ancestors accomplished great things we are somehow immune from natural law, economic necessity, and universal human foibles. Because we're Amurkens we can print money with no economic repercussions. We know how other people, whose language we don't speak and whose terrain we've never walked, ought to live their lives. And we don't mind killing them to make them live properly. We're Amurkens, so even if it's bad it's all good.

People came here to get away from hereditary aristocracy — those who believed that, because their ancestors gained ascendancy over others, they themselves were a different species from the commoners. We eventually had a revolution to confirm the disbelief in that conceit. To be sure, it was an incomplete disbelief; at first white males asserted their supremacy over women and blacks. It took some time to rectify those deficiencies, but eventually suffrage became universal.

People may be proud of family wealth, accumulated by their grandparents, who worked hard and saved by deferring spending. Today the same people are probably deep in debt to maintain the accustomed lifestyle, fond of instant gratification, and politically inclined to urge government to follow their habits rather than their ancestors'. In effect, this betrays a belief, unconscious or not, that Grandpa and Grandma were fools for not spending it all immediately.

Our forebears wanted only the opportunity to create and keep what they could. The current generation, by and large, think they should have instead urged government to give them free stuff; saving for the future is such a drag. Former generations had a healthy suspicion of politicians. Many people today deem those politicians the highest nobility; one politician being shot is more traumatic than thousands of auto accidents or drive-by shootings of commoners.

We have a bunch of Amurkens who see themselves as an hereditary nobility — a species apart from the commoners in the rest of the world. Three hundred million nobles, dictating to others how they must live. Well, not quite. Maybe a hundred million, since one must discount members of the other party and the independents, relegating them to the ordered-about hoi polloi. But many of "our side" are not true believers either; they may be ignoramuses who have been convinced by propaganda and could easily be unconvinced by better propaganda. Maybe they could be made Knights and Baronets so they believe themselves part of the nobility and continue to support their betters, but Dukes and Counts? Never! True nobility is, like the Habsburgs, an inbred, nepotistic affair.

American exceptionalism cannot be reasonably seen as a birthright. Rather, if we are to be exceptional it would depend upon continuing good decisions and taking appropriate action. Should we instead demand obeisance as hereditary nobility, we shall get a reception similar to that our ancestors gave to King George's minions.

The CIA calls this "blowback" and recognizes it as a real phenomenon. American exceptionalists, however, dismiss the idea. We're Amurkens, so our actions could not possibly have such an effect! Since Amurkens are the hereditary nobility of the world, how dare the commoners elsewhere question our orders!

Exceptional is as exceptional does. An inheritance is of benefit only until the last bit of it has been expended. We're long past that point. Our exceptionalism depends upon how we comport ourselves now. It's time we realize that fact of life

© David Hines

 

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David Hines

Born in a mill town, David Hines has seen work as a furniture mover, computer programmer/analyst, and professional musician... (more)

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