Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to All My American Friends

Today, our American friends celebrate Thanksgiving 2010. As we Canadians like to say: better late than never.

This post on American exceptionalism caught my eye recently and I thought it would be appropriate as Thanksgiving reading. Mark Tooley writes in The American Spectator:

The left-of-center Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Brookings Institution have released a post-election survey showing nearly 60 percent of Americans believe God has assigned America a "special role" in human history. Over 80 percent of white evangelicals believe in this special role for America, as do two thirds of minority Christians. Majorities of white Mainline Protestants and Catholics also agree. Two thirds of the religiously unaffiliated disbelieve in any special role for America.

Probably the surveyors were discomfited by the results, especially that the devotees of American exceptionalism were not confined to white evangelicals but were nearly as numerous among minority Christians, which presumably mostly means blacks and Hispanics.
As usual, Sojourners doesn't get it:

A columnist for the Evangelical Left Sojourners group was also disturbed by the survey. "As a Christian, I tend to believe that God has a 'special role' for every person and every nation," noted Evan Trowbridge, a Sojournerscommunications staffer. "Too often, however, we confuse 'special' with 'exceptional.' If we agree that God has granted the United States a special role in history, then shouldn't we also agree that God has granted Thailand and Kenya a special role? Unfortunately, I don't think that's what most of the respondents in the study had in mind…"

No, it almost certainly is not what most American exceptionalists have in mind. Even non-believers in American exceptionalism must grant that America's story has an outsized influence on the world that exceeds Thailand's and Kenya's. Many on the Left fret that American exceptionalism is synonymous with superiority, imperialism, and exploitation. But the original Calvinist theorists, from the first Thanksgiving onward, envisioned American civilization having special duties, not special privileges. Failure to comply with these duties risked divine wrath. Later, more generic versions of American exceptionalism, at least at its best, cited America's special role as exemplar of democracy and justice. American exceptionalists were never exclusively property owning, patriarchal, Anglo-Saxon Protestant white males. Social reformers of all races and both genders, especially religious ones, successfully cited exceptionalism to justify their appeals for a more just America.

The USSR certainly did have a "special role in history" but if anyone thinks that the influence of the USA has not been more positive, far-reaching and long-lasting, then words just fail one at that point. As a Canadian, I thank God for the United States of America and for the liberty and justice for which it stands. Like Alexander Solzhensitsyn, I am a non-American who cannot deny that the American Experiment has yielded more freedom, more justice, more opportunity and more hope for mankind than any other nation in history. That is not American pride or jingoism; it is just a fact.

And it is something to think about on Thanksgiving Day 2010.

1 comment:

Peter W. Dunn said...

The USA is financially insolvent thanks to liberals and socialists. So American exceptionalism is about to end very soon, at least until the US can get back on its feet economically. Once the dollar is fully debased, I expect it will take a minimum of two years before the US can get back on its feet--if it ever does. At that point, the US will no longer be able to influence the world with economic and military might. That will be a sad day in my opinion. But Sojourners will get their wish: the US will become like every other non-influential country in the world because Americans won't be able to afford anything outside of the borders of the US. That's why I'm moving everything I have into Canadian companies and I'm shorting the US dollar.